The Summer of Mikaylah Williams: It’s her world (and we are all just walking through)

I remember what it was like to be a teenager during these hot summers in Shreveport-Bossier. It was all about hanging out. Going to summer school (for the fun of it), summer league games, and hanging out at McDonald’s. Average teen stuff.

For Mikaylah Williams, nothing is average about her summer.

Don’t get me wrong, Mikaylah does average teenage stuff. She always has her phone. She hangs out with her teammates and friends and she spends time hitting I-20 to watch her little brother Kaleb (an incoming Parkway freshman) play basketball. That’s about as normal as it gets though.

Williams, a soon-to-be Parkway senior, has not had a “typical” teenage summer in a while. As a matter of fact, her summers are ones that we mere mortals dream about.

Last summer, Mikaylah was part of the USA, U18, 3×3 team that brought home a gold medal from the FIBA World Cup. This summer, she is spending time with USA Basketball again as a part of the U17 National team that is vying for the FIBA Women’s World Cup. That’s right! Williams is attempting to win her second gold medal in as many summers.

She and her teammates are off to a good start as they are 3-0 in group play thus far. In those two games, Williams is averaging 8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in roughly 18 minutes of play. Team USA will look to be the last team standing July 17 when the tournament concludes, equaling the feat of the U17 men as they captured gold this past week. 

For many players, that would be the highlight of the summer. Playing for the United States is considered one of the highest honors imaginable for any athlete.

Again though, we are not talking about an average teenager.

We are talking about the nation’s No. 1 high school female basketball player in the Class of 2023. So, anything she does is newsworthy. Case in point, on June 24 when she dropped a subtle bomb on the prep basketball world, her summer became A-typical again.

With a video featuring childhood pics, clips of her training, and moments with her family, Williams announced to the world that she was committing to LSU.

Not since the early to mid-’90s when Randy Livingston out of Newman in New Orleans committed to play for LSU has a player had as much fanfare. Honestly, Livingston is probably the only state player to equal Williams in accomplishments BEFORE playing for the Tigers.

So, when I say it is Mikaylah Williams’ world, it truly is. When school begins in the fall, she will graduate in the top 10 percent of her class (ranked 20th out of 316) while working to bring Parkway that elusive state championship. Honestly, we better pay attention as we walk through Mikaylah’s world. We may never see the likes of her in Shreveport-Bossier ever again.

Contact Preston at Preston9360@gmail.com


Grassroots hoops and Shreveport-Bossier should be the perfect couple

Before Bossier High’s rise and the Bearkats’ return to greatness, or Mikaylah Williams being justifiably heralded as the No. 1 girls’ prep player in the nation, Shreveport-Bossier was one of the pinnacles for high school hoops in the South.

Back in the days of the CNB Times Classic, teams from all over the state, and various parts of the country, came here to play. The competition here was some of the best anywhere. But hey, the high school historians in the area can tell you that.

The same thing should be said about grassroots or AAU or summer travel basketball. Whatever you call it, Shreveport-Bossier should be a hotbed for it.

There has been only one thing stopping Shreveport-Bossier from being a hub for grassroots hoops, however— a facility worthy of holding these contests.

Well, that was a problem. Last week’s report in The Journal about the renovation project to convert Expo Hall into a multi-sport, public facility is the game changer that Shreveport has needed for grassroots.

This indoor sports facility will bring teams, competition, and tourism dollars to the area. You want the high school basketball players to get better in the area and gain more exposure? Hosting regional and national grassroots tournaments for them to participate in has now become a tangible goal.

Those who believe the concept is far-fetched obviously do not know or have yet to see what Shreveport-Bossier can offer the grassroots basketball community. It’s not hard to see. Just open your eyes.

We have Interstate 20 which is one of the main interstate exchanges in America. Shreveport Regional Airport is highly serviceable and numerous teams can fly in from different areas. We actually have teen-friendly entertainment venues, if people are worried about something for the kids to do when they’re not on the court.

Mix all of these assets with the high number of quality basketball players and teams in the Ark-La-Tex, add the short distance that teams from Oklahoma and Mississippi would have to travel, and Shreveport-Bossier has the makings of one of the best places to play grassroots basketball, period.

I know, I know. We will always have pushback from the “too much crime” crowd. However, we find a way to host baseball and softball tournaments all summer, the largest slow-pitch softball event in the south, and even the nationally-televised Independence Bowl. So, you’d have to come up with a bigger argument than that.

In reality, I am aware that we will continue to send our teams and our money to Fort Worth, Dallas, Ruston, and other places. The athletes in the area need to be exposed to other areas and have other life experiences. However, there is no place like home! Getting to compete with other high profile basketball players from around the country, at home, would be a major plus for our local athletes.

Now, let’s welcome influential entities like Prep Hoops, the Under Armour circuit, Adidas, and even Nike to northwest Louisiana.

The recently restructured Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission should be making plans to gain the ear of these grassroots entities with target dates in tow. Once the renovated Expo Hall opens, the benefits to the athletes and the area will be boundless.

Grassroots basketball and Shreveport-Bossier are a couple made in hoops and economic heaven. Now we just need to see if it can be a marriage that can last a lifetime.

After $4.5 million renovation, Expo Hall will be indoor sports venue


Huntington alum Nicholas Smith chasing Texas 5A state title

March 12, 2021 is a day that fits on my personal basketball highlight reel.

It provided two of the best last-second finishes on any level of basketball in my experience. Nick Maryland drained a jumper with 1.5 seconds left to give Simsboro the Class B state title over Anacoco. The other, all of 25 minutes later, was going down 338 miles away in San Antonio.

Former Huntington star-turned-Dallas Kimball head coach Nicholas (Nicke) Smith had coached his troops to a 70-68 lead over Beaumont United in the Texas Class 5A championship game. With 8.4 seconds left in overtime, Smith and the Knights were now one defensive stop away from the program’s first state title since 2014 and Smith’s first as a head coach.

All of a sudden, Terrance Arceneaux happened.

His 3-pointer with 3 seconds left gave Beaumont United its first state title. Smith was denied a state championship as coach, just as he had been denied as a player for talented Raiders teams.

“That loss was heartbreaking,” said Smith. “It is something that none of us have forgotten.”

Fast forward to current day, and the Huntington grad has another chance to take the Kimball Knights to the promised land. Fresh out the gate in San Antonio, they will get a chance to avenge their finals loss by playing Beaumont United on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

This is Smith’s eighth season as head coach at Kimball. He has a very talented squad headed by University of Texas signee Arterio Morris and Clemson signee Chauncey Gibson.

Smith definitely has not forgotten the sting of the loss. He is using that experience, along with ones from his playing days at Huntington, to prepare for this trip to San Antonio.

“In ‘92, we had some dudes (at Huntington). However, we were not the most disciplined bunch,” he said. ”We did take pride in our defense, however. After last year (at Kimball), we know what level of defense it takes to win. Once you have been in that situation, you know what to expect. We have a ‘I might score but I won’t let you score on me’ mentality. It is similar to the defensive pride that the ‘92 squad had.”

While the Kimball faithful may see this as a revenge game, Smith has a different view of what this game means.

“They are the defending state champions. Right now, we have the mentality that they are in our way. We have to go through them to be state champions.”

Kimball is 5-0 right now in the playoffs after defeating Frisco Memorial 80-67 in overtime. Even if his Knights get by Beaumont United, they will have to battle with the winner of the Mansfield Timberview-Boerne Champion game. Needless to say, their championship road is a tough one.

Smith also had some thoughts about this year’s Huntington squad. The Raiders are in a similar situation to the Knights as they must face a nationally-rated team in the semifinals. Huntington encounters Carver Collegiate from New Orleans on Wednesday for the right to play for the 4A state championship.

“I am proud of this Huntington team and what they have accomplished,” said Smith. “I have not spoken with Mack (Jones) as of yet but I plan to. Especially with what has happened recently with Devin (Myers, the Raiders’ guard who was shot to death Thursday), this would be a storybook ending. Coach Jones is a friend, so I want to see him get him one. With losing Devin as a starter, everyone needs to step up to bring a championship home to Huntington.”

If Coach Smith leads the Kimball Knights to two more victories and Huntington finds a way to reach the 4A title game and prevail, the Raider family will indeed be celebrating two titles on Saturday night.

RAIDER TO KNIGHT: Dallas Kimball High basketball coach Nicke Smith, a proud Huntington grad, instructs Power 5 signees Arterio Morris and Chauncey Gibson. (Submitted photo)