COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Gabby Williams' answer was short and sweet when asked if she could get the three rebounds she needs for 1,000 in her career with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's during Friday night's NCAA Final Four semifinal game with Notre Dame at Nationwide Arena.
"I'll try," she said with a smile.
To Williams, rebounding is all about effort and there's little short or sweet about it. The only short part would be her height. If she gets the three rebounds, the 5-foot-11 All-American senior forward would become the seventh UConn player with 1,000 but, the first to be listed at under 6-feet tall.
Tina Charles, who visited the Huskies' locker room following their 94-65 rout of South Carolina in the Albany Regional final Monday night, is UConn's all-time leader with 1,367 rebounds. She is followed by Maya Moore (1,276), Rebecca Lobo (1,268), Breanna Stewart -- who was also in Albany to cheer on her alma mater (1,179), Stefanie Dolson (1,101), and Jamelle Elliott (1,054).
"It just shows her toughness, especially because she is so much shorter," UConn forward Napheesa Collier said. "I know she can jump really high, but she is so tough she will go get it, she will box you out to get it. She is obviously athletic, but she is really skilled, as well."
In 35 games this season -- she missed one with a left hip injury, Williams is averaging 11.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.2, and 2.5 steals. She ranks ninth in rebounds, second in assists, fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio, and third in steals among American Athletic Conference players. She was named to the AAC all-tournament team and was the Most Outstanding Player of the Albany Regional as the Huskies (36-0) remained unbeaten. That follows a 2017 postseason that saw her placed on the AAC, Bridgeport Regional, and Final Four all-tournament teams.
Williams' athleticism was well known well before she arrived in Storrs. Before suffering two tears to the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee at Reed High in Sparks, Nevada, she was an Olympic-level high jumper. She was a two-time state champion in the event and at age 15 finished fifth with a leap of 6'2.25" -- tying the United States record for a high school sophomore -- at the 2012 USA Olympic Track & Field trials in Eugene, Oregon.
She was also a guard at Reed High before moving to the frontcourt with the Huskies.
Of course, I was a rebounder in high school," Williams said. "That was nothing new when I came here. Even though I was a guard, I've always thought you could rebound from any position and I've always taken pride in rebounding.
"Guards can rebound, too. Anyone can rebound. It doesn't take a talent. You just go and get the ball. It's effort. It's working hard at it. That's why anyone can be a good rebounder. You have to be in the right place at the right time and you need to be aggressive."
She may have been a rebounding guard in high school, but Williams wasn't going against 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4, or 6-foot-5 post players very often like she sees on most nights at UConn.
Against South Carolina, the 2017 AAC and WBCA national Defensive Player of the Year matched up with 6-foot-5 Gamecocks' All-American A'ja Wilson. She could see Notre Dame's 6-foot-2 Kathryn Westbeld or 6-foot-4 Jessica Shepard. In last year's national semifinal, Williams spent a good portion of time guarding 6-foot-7 Mississippi State center Teaira McCowan. The Bulldogs are back in the Final Four and take on Louisville in Friday's first national semifinal.
"When I came here freshman year I came in with the mindset that I could play all positions, and I think I told the coaches they could put me wherever they needed me pretty much," Williams said. "It was more of me wanting to be a versatile player and wanting to get playing time. I wanted to find the best way that I could mold myself into the team. I embraced it because it was an opportunity for me to actually contribute.
"It wasn't that big of a transition at all. The coaches put me there, because I was able to do everything I was good at. I was able to get those rebounds. I was able to set those screens. And defensively, I was still doing kind of the same thing anyway. So it wasn't that bad. Them doing that actually made the transition for me easier."
Williams' has recorded 24 double-doubles in her career, 23 via points/rebounds. On Jan. 24, 2017, she recorded the fifth triple-double in UConn history with 16 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists in a win over East Carolina at Minges Coliseum.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma compared Williams' efforts on the boards to that of Elliott, who was generously listed at 6-foot when she became the second Huskies' player with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
"There are just some people who go get the ball," Auriemma said. "Some people get rebounds that come to them. Gabby goes and gets rebounds. That's a big difference, and that is probably why she has so many.
"You don't teach somebody how to be great rebounders. You can teach somebody how to box out. You can't teach somebody how to be a great rebounder. That is a mindset. That is when a shot does up and a kid goes, 'I want that shot. I want that ball.' You become a great offensive rebound and a great defensive rebounder."
Williams' breakdown is 690 defensive rebounds and 307 offensive rebounds.
All six 1,000 rebounders at UConn also scored at least 1,000 points. Williams enters Friday night's contest with 1,570 points, 22nd on the Huskies' all-time list. She is in UConn's Top 20 in assists (475, 14th), steals (304, fifth), and blocked shots (100, 17th). Only Moore has 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists, 300 steals, and 100 blocks.
"That just speaks to Gabby's effort and hard work," UConn forward Azura Stevens said. "She is practically a guard, but she really goes after the boards hard. It's fun to watch her sky in the air or battle to get those rebounds. There are different times when me, her and Phee are all rebounding and going against each other. Gabby is really high energy on the boards, and it speaks to how complete her game is."
Friday night's game will be No. 149 for Williams. She could join an exclusive list in the 1,000/1,000 club, but she would rather be remembered as a three-time national champion.
"Once I leave here and look back on it I will appreciate it a lot more, but we don't really focus on milestones or individual accomplishments here," Williams said. "We try to stay in our zone and focus on what is ahead of us to our next challenge."
And that's not getting three rebounds, but beating Notre Dame.
CHRISTYN WILLIAMS NAMED MVP OF McDONALD'S GAME
Consensus national high school Player of the Year an UConn-bound Christyn Williams had 22 points and 12 rebounds Wednesday to lead the West to an 82-79 win over the East in the McDonald's All-American Game at Phillips Arena in Atlanta.
Williams, a 5-foot-11 guard from Little Rock, Arkansas, matched the third-highest point total in the game's history. Sabrina Ionescu, now a sophomore at Oregon, had 25 points two years ago. Williams is the second Huskies' recruit to be named the MVP of the McDonald's Game. The first was Ann Strother, who was co-MVP with Tennessee recruit Shanna Zolman, at the first McDonald's girls game in 2002 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
UConn-bound Olivia Nelson-Ododa had eight points and eight rebounds for the East. The 6-foot-4 forward from Winder, Georgia, was a finalist in the Powerade Jam Fest slam dunk competition.
Williams and Nelson-Ododa will play in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 8 at the Barclays Center in New York.