By John Clayton | June 18, 2004
Natalie Williams is the most prolific rebounder in the short history of women’s professional basketball in the United States, but has her eyes set on other prizes.
Williams became the first player in American women’s professional basketball history to surpass the 2,500-rebound plateau Saturday at Detroit. After seven rebounds in Wednesday’s Fever victory over Sacramento, Williams' total sits at 2,512.
“I created my own club,” said Williams, who is in her ninth U.S. professional season having played in the defunct ABL, with Utah of the WNBA and now in her second season with the Fever.
“Rebounding is just something I love to do and took pride in and I’ve been doing it for nine years now. It’s something I’m proud of. I know I’ve got people coming right up my back (toward 2,500), but I’m proud to be the first one.”
But Williams’ latest milestone and her club-of-one take a backseat to her ultimate goal of winning a WNBA Championship.
“I’ve done a lot of things that I’m proud of, and that’s showing hard work in game situations, but to me the bottom line and the only thing I’m working on for now is a championship,” she said. “That’s the only thing that matters to me at this point.”
Indiana (5-4) won the first of its June four-game home stand Wednesday, 63-50 over Sacramento, but is only 3-2 at home and has yet to win consecutive games this season. If the Fever can take care of its home court over the next three games, it can assert itself in the conference race. Only one game separates the top three teams – Detroit (6-3), New York and Indiana – in the conference standings.
Two of Indiana’s victories this season have come at the expense of the Liberty. The Fever won the season opener for both teams 69-67 at the Fieldhouse and defeated New York again 72-68 at Madison Square Garden on June 11. After a 6-1 start, the Liberty has lost three straight games.
“They’re going to come in here an unhappy team ready to play,” said Coach Brian Winters. “Not only because we beat them twice, but after we beat them, they lost two more games this week. . . . I’m sure they’re going to be able to play at a high level and we’re going to have to be able to meet their intensity level here.”
Winters also noted that having the home court has not necessarily been an advantage this season in the WNBA, noting all three of Detroit’s losses at home and the Fever’s two disappointments already at the Fieldhouse. Even so, he is hopeful that his team can put the advantage back in home court.
“You’d like to say, ‘Yeah, we have three home games and we’d like to separate ourselves,’ but the way it’s gone in the East this year, it’s been the opposite trend. I think it’s happening around the league and we have to make our players aware of that. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’re going to show up and win. That doesn’t happen. You’ve got to come to play and you’ve got to perform well between the lines.”
Notes: All-Star Tamika Catchings sat out part of Friday’s practice with a right hip contusion. She is expected to play Saturday against New York. . . . Williams has recorded double-doubles in both her games against the Liberty this season.