Early commitment:

Lady Rangers' Williams headed to Roane State

By Kim Richardson
STAR Correspondent
krichardson@starhq.com

   It wasn't the only offer she had, but Danielle Williams chose the college that feels right.
   "It's a fit for what I want to do," Williams said. It's a great community, a great environment. I feel comfortable with and have a lot of respect for Coach (Katrina) Goldston, and I see no reason to wait any longer to commit." 
   Williams, the hard-throwing Unaka Ranger pitcher, is set to attend Roane State this fall, choosing to commit early rather that face the distractions of recruiting.
   "I've been contacted by several colleges, but I just knew the minute I met with the people at Roane State that I wanted to be there," she said.
   "Danielle is strong armed and hard working," said Coach Goldston. "We like so many things about her, plus the fact that she is well prepared. We know she can play by watching her. We also know she's been well coached here at Unaka, one of the premier programs in East Tennessee."
   Coach Goldston feels that with continued hard work during this, her senior season, Williams can play early.
   "She will continue to work hard, we're certain of that," the coach said. 
   Unaka head coach Ronnie Hicks reiterated Coach Goldston's appraisal.
   "She's always gone the extra mile," said Coach Hicks. "She is very dedicated; in fact she is truly one of the most dedicated players I've ever coached."
   "She's handled all the routines: the practices, she's played hard in all her games," Coach Hicks continued. "Danielle did all that, then she went to camps, made a tape, and she's made a good impression, not only with her athletic ability but by her amicability, and her obvious dedication to the sport and to advancing."
   One of those "extras" included playing catch with her very proud father, Jim Williams. 
   "Couldn't be more proud of her, Mr. Williams said. "She sure has worked hard and I feel that she deserves the best. She seems really impressed with Coach Goldston, and that's very important."
   But Jim isn't the only family member who played catch with Danielle. Melissa Williams played softball and basketball for Milligan College in the early '80s.
   "She's made so many of us very proud," said Danielle's mom. "She's worked hard in the classroom, and on the diamond. I'm actually even more excited for her than when I signed my own scholarship."
   She's also played catch with probably the best pitcher this area has ever known.
   "Jar Fly (Richard Dugger) means a great deal to so many of us," Danielle said. "He really knows this game, but more importantly he knows how to pitch, and he is very good at demonstrating that to us."
   When we caught up with Dugger, he hesitated to take credit for anything Danielle has accomplished.
   "I know a little, and I can help," he said, "but so much of it is up to them to practice what they learn. Danielle has put so much time into what she's been taught, that's what makes a great player, a great pitcher."
   "She's more than hard working," said freshman teammate Tess Lunsford. "She's downright intimidating."
   Fellow freshman Sallee Taylor agreed.
   "She can really bring it," Taylor said, and we look forward to watching her pitch this season.  Glad she's on our team." 
   Sophomore Brittany Taylor thinks Williams will excel in college.
   "She really puts in the time that's for sure," said Taylor. "I'm sure she'll make all of us very proud."
   Williams will be pitching for an improved Unaka team this season. The Rangers also have a great left-handed talent pitching for them, as Ryan Music is one of the most promising underclassmen in the area.
   "It's great to have Danielle to work with," said Music. "She's a great leader and a very hard thrower. I have very little doubt that Danielle will go to Roane State and succeed. I wish her the very best. But first, we're all looking forward to this season, and having her lead us, I feel is a big plus for Ranger Softball."
   Coach Hicks is happy for Danielle, but glad to have one more opportunity to coach her.
   "Why wouldn't I?" he asked. "All you have to do with Danielle is tell her when practice starts. She'll be there waiting when most of us arrive at the field or batting cage.
   "But she brings so much experience, and that great attitude, and that can be contagious. We have a great talent, with a great attitude, with experience, who signed an early commitment in order to concentrate on the immediate task. She wants to go to college, but first she wants to see to it that Unaka finishes with a great season. That's what Danielle's all about."