STORRS, Conn. -- Gabby Williams made it through her first official practice with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team Wednesday looking forward to doing more.
The 5-foot-11 freshman guard from Sparks, Nevada, is still working her way back from her second surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. She did drills and some halfcourt sets during Wednesday's workout at the Champions Center. She does not play 5-on-5.
She hopes to be cleared for full activity sooner than later, though the last thing she wants is to rush it.
"I'm coming to an end with my recovery process but I'm still going to be doing rehab, that's on-going until January," Williams said. "We have things to do to make sure that everything is protected and that everything is OK. That's just precautionary. As far as getting cleared, that should happen anytime now."
Williams' first ACL injury on Jan. 19, 2013, ended her junior year. She had been averaging 30 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, and seven blocked shots.
She sat out the opener of her senior season before leading Reed High to 11 straight wins. In that final win against Spanish Springs on Jan. 21, however, she landed awkwardly on her knee and fell to the gym floor and was helped to the bench. But she didn't miss a game. On Jan. 24, she scored 16 points in a loss to Reno but missed the final 3:30 after aggravating the knee injury. She played the following day and had 19 points in a win over Galena. But an MRI showed the ACL tear that ended her high school career.
Two weeks after being chosen to play in the McDonald's All-America Game, she had her second surgery at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn., Feb. 6. It was performed by Dr. Michael Joyce.
Williams arrived here in June for a summer session and begin working with athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle. UConn coach Geno Auriemma liked what he saw Wednesday.
"Every time I looked over, Rosemary was on her knees with her fingers crossed holding a lucky rabbit's foot or something," Auriemma said with a laugh. "But I kept saying, 'What do you think?' She kept saying, 'Hey, she looks great.' She says she feels great. She worked really hard. She got tired, like you would expect. Her conditioning is going to get better and better, but she looks great."
Williams is thrilled to be out there.
"The second time was harder, not necessarily the rehab process because I would say that process actually went a lot smoother this time," Williams said. "I already knew how to get through it. It was more of trying to adapt to college life, college basketball and all the workouts while coming back from an injury all at the same time."
Considered to be the best athlete in the recruiting Class of 2014 -- as a sophomore, Williams finished fifth in the high jump at the 2012 United States Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, clearing 6'2.25", the sixth-best ever for a high school athlete -- Williams said being sidelined as allowed her to work on specific aspects of her game.
Doing individual workouts has allowed her to keep pace with her teammates.
"The coaches would help me and show me how to work by myself so that when I would be able to play with the others I would be ready to do so," Williams said. "Doing that has made it easier to fit in with the others.
"I've done a lot of work on my shooting. I've always been one that would just drive to the basket and score underneath. Here, I have to be a better shooter. Also, my post game is something that I've never really worked on before I got here and I like the way it's developing on the block with my back to the basket."
Also taking part in their first official practice Wednesday were Williams' classmates Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark, and Kia Nurse. It was the first official practice at UConn for redshirt sophomore Natalie Butler, who is sitting out 2014-15 after transferring from Georgetown.
All players took part in the almost three-hour workout that also featured redshirt sophomore Morgan Tuck, who missed all but eight games last year and had season ending knee surgery, and reigning national Player of the Year junior Breanna Stewart.
"I told them, it's like when a guy goes to a New York restaurant," Auriemma said. "You go, 'Hey, how was the food?’ And they go, 'It didn't suck.' It's hard to say it was great, because it's the first practice of the year. But some players obviously know what is going on because they have been here, and they were really, really good. Moriah Jefferson was really good. Kaleena Lewis was really good. Saniya Chong was really good. Kiah Stokes was really good. Morgan Tuck was really good.
"So the guys that have been here that know what to expect on the first day and everyday really, were really, really good. And the freshmen all had their moments. They looked like they knew what they were doing, and then they looked like they didn't know what they were doing. I've been watching Stewie and Kia Nurse kind of closely because they've had kind of a long stretch where they have been doing a lot. But all in all, the first day is first day. I'm glad to get it out of the way."
For Williams, it's another day closer to getting back to where she wants to be.
"I don't have any fears," she said. "It's something that you always think about when you first have surgery ... 'Oh man, when I come back I'll probably always have it in the back of mind.' But the better you feel, you just go out and play and it's like nothing ever happened."