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Williams headed to the Big Apple

A small-town girl with big-city game, Ashland High School girls basketball star Georgia Williams has decided to take that game to the Big Apple.

Williams, a senior at AHS, has verbally committed to play basketball for Columbia University in New York City, where she plans on studying engineering at the Ivy League school and, she hopes, lead the Lions back to prominence.

“I’ve always wanted to get out and see a bigger city and be somewhere completely different,” Williams said, “and I found that with New York. I loved being there, being around the people, the huge lights. It’s such a fun city and just an amazing place to be to create a new chapter in my life.”

Williams toured the campus and met head coach Stephanie Glance on an official visit Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 and committed almost immediately upon arriving back in Ashland. Williams also received full-ride offers from Portland State, Montana State and Sacramento State, among others, and drew strong interest from Gonzaga, Hawaii, Montana and Long Beach State.

Ultimately, Williams said, Columbia’s combination of a world renowned engineering program, Division I basketball and stellar location was too good to pass up.

“I knew once I got there — along with meeting the coaching staff — that that was where I wanted to be,” she said. “The team and the university, it seemed to be the perfect fit for me. The academics are above all else, and it’s a dream school for academics.”

A 6-foot combo guard with a smooth shooting stroke, Williams led the Grizzlies last season in virtually every statistical category, averaging 16 points and three assists a game. She also carries a 3.65 grade point average despite a heavy load of advanced placement classes.

Williams said the Columbia coaching staff projects her as a shooting guard/small forward at the next level, and hopes that she will eventually help the Lions contend for an Ivy League championship. Columbia hasn’t had a winning season since 2009-10. Glance, who was previously an assistant under legendary coach Pat Summitt at University of Tennessee, is entering her second season as head coach following a successful stint at Illinois State.

“They just brought in a class of six, then another class of six, so basically they’re trying to turn their whole program around,” Williams said. “They’re going to carrying a pretty big roster the next couple years. However, they’re trying to change it to a championship program.

“I was their top recruit and they’re anxious to see how I can do in their program and see how I fit into things. From what they tell me, I can be better than I ever thought I could be. I’m so excited.”

Williams is also excited about moving past one of life’s major decisions and enjoying, minus at least one huge distraction, her final season at Ashland High. The Grizzlies’ 2014-15 season begins with a nonleague game against Phoenix on Dec. 12.

“It was putting a huge stress on my life,” she said of her college search. “But at the same time I’m going to miss it. It got to be a part of my life, and it created relationships. But I’m so excited to begin my college experience, especially at Columbia. It’s just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders now.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 or jzavala@dailytidings.com.