By Barney Blakeney
Former Burke High School and South Carolina State University basketball great Roberta Williams June 9 was among about 100 players and coaches from the Women’s Basketball League recognized as “Trailblazers of the Game” during the 20th Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Induction in Knoxville, Tennessee.
A 1976 graduate of Burke High, the downtown Charleston native went on to SCSU to become the school’s all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball. At Burke, Williams was selected Most Valuable Player, named to the All-Tournament team four times and averaged 22 points per game.
Considered talented and disciplined at the shooting guard position, Williams led the SCSU Lady Bulldogs to an Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national Championship runner-up finish in 1978 and in 1979 led her team to become the national champions and was named Most Valuable Player.
Williams, a two-time All-American at SCSU, is the Lady Bulldogs’ all-time leading scorer having scored over 22,000 points. Her accomplishments led to her 1980 second round draft pick by the San Francisco Pioneers of the WBL, the first professional women’s basketball league in the United States. Although the league only lasted three seasons, it gave rise to others that came after – the ABL and the current WNBA. Williams was inducted into the S.C. State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998 and was recognized as a member of the AIAW National Championship team by the prestigious hall in 2000. Williams is also in the MEAC Hall of Fame. She is the only SCSU basketball player – man or woman – to have had a jersey (No. 11) retired.
Williams this week said, “This is my fourth HOF induction, but this one – “Trailblazers Of The Game” – was indeed a special one for me, mainly because of the historical significance. We paved the way for the WNBA. Now the world is informed of that knowledge. Women and young girls now are aware of whose shoulders they stepped on and I am a part of that history! With both of my parents not being here, I know they are pleased and smiling down on me, especially my dad! It’s been 38 years since the league folded, but being recognized on such a huge platform with amazing inductees made the much overdue recognition overwhelmingly well deserved! To see former players, be reunited and to reminisce made it feel like it was only yesterday. I thank God for the opportunity and ability to have been present to experience a momentous occasion!”
Williams has one daughter and currently resides in Charleston.