Don't let Kacy Williams' slight build or soft-spoken manner fool you. On the basketball court, she plays only one way -- rough-and-tumblewith the volume turned way up.
"She (Williams) can shoot, she canrebound, she can pass, she can play defense," said Hammond girls basketball coach Joe Russo. "She's a coach on the floor, a natural leader. She's a pretty amazing little girl, isn't she?"
Williams is a 15-year-old of many facets. A 4.0 student, she excels in whatever athletic endeavor she attempts. A first team, All-County halfback in soccer, she helped Hammond win the 2A championship last fall. Last spring as a freshman, she stepped onto Russo's track team and finished second in the regionals in the 400- and 800-meter runs.
This week, Williams finds herself leading Hammond again in the playoffs, but now from her familiar point guard position.
"I like being a leader," Williams said. "I feel if I'm in control of the game,I know what needs to be done. It's easier for me to make the game fun for everyone else."
Williams and the Bears enjoyed themselves Monday night during their 70-16 drubbing of Pikesville in the Region IIquarterfinals. Williams' eight-point, eight-assist, seven-steal, six-rebound performance -- in little more than two quarters -- was typical.
With a victory at Towson tonight, the 18-4 Bears will advance to a likely regional final showdown Friday night at Mount Hebron. They would roll into Hebron having won eight of their last nine games.
It's hard to imagine the Bears riding such momentum without Williams, their 5-foot-6, all-purpose package.
Williams wound up the regular season as the team leader in scoring (15.8), assists (4.0) and steals (5.0), while finishing second in rebounding (6.9) and shooting percentage (55.6). She has set the tone nightly for the Bears' physical, man-to-man defense, and has created good shots for teammates with her ability to penetrate opposing defenses and attract double- and triple-teams.
"She's so intense, her eyes just pop open," Russo said. "In two years, I've never seen her dog it in a game or in practice."
Williams has been most responsible for Hammond's recent 7-1 streak. Three times in the last seven games she has broken the 20-point mark, her most notable effort coming in Hammond's only loss during thestretch, a 52-48 decision to Hebron. Williams scored a career-high 27 that night, 19 in the second half.
"If we didn't have her, we wouldn't be doing this well. She's really been taking over," said sophomore forward Sonia Keiner, Hammond's second-leading scorer (13.2) whohas benefited from numerous Williams passes this season.
"There'sa lot of pressure on her, but she handles it well. She's a great leader."
Williams' compensates for her small size with darting quickness, great leaping ability and tireless energy -- all of which account for her ability to battle much taller people successfully for rebounds. And she complements her athletic gifts with a studious approach to the game.
"I'm always replaying games in my head. I like watching our games on tape, or even college games to give me more ideas," said Williams, who often writes slogans on the palm of her hand beforegames to give her added inspiration. Monday night's message was "Mind is the Master."
Although she has played both soccer and basketball since she was 9 and devotes more playing time to soccer, Williams has shifted more of her focus to basketball in the past year.
Her experience with a local 15-and-under, AAU Junior Olympics team last summer left a big impression on her. The team, which won the state tournament, included teammates Keiner and Kristen Moraz and Mount Hebron's Erica McCauley, Kris Bryant and Emily Yanero.
"The competition was phenomenal. I came back home frustrated. I knew how much work hadto be done, because there were a lot of things I wanted to accomplish," said Williams, who also attended a shooting camp last summer run by Philadelphia 76ers shooting coach Buzz Braman. "Soccer and basketball have a lot of parallels," she added.
"You have to take care ofthe ball in each sport, you have to pass the ball, you have to be aggressive. I've improved in a lot of areas. I'm a better driver and a better shooter. I'll do whatever helps the team."
Russo recognizedWilliams' many qualities quickly in practice last year. As a freshman, she took the ball as the starter from day one and averaged 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals, as Hammond advanced to the regional semifinals before losing to Hebron.
"Some of the girls had told me about her, and I saw her play in the eighth grade for the (Columbia Association) traveling team. "I knew the minute she came here that I had myself a point guard," Russo said. "I wish I had a quarterback on my football team who played like her."