The night Gabby became the leader a young gun France need
SYDNEY (France) - When France stunned Australia with their opening day win, Gabby Williams was the main architect, but her headline performance was perhaps the start of something way more important.
Still only 26-years-old herself, it looked and more importantly it felt like France had found the kind of leader they need to take them through these next important chapters.
The anticipation was that the legendary Sandrine Gruda would return. But she couldn't. Then, Marine Johannes picked up the injury on the eve of the tournament and departed. France were potentially in danger of losing their way.
"GABBY PLAYS GREAT DEFENSE... SHE BRINGS STABILITY AND A SERENITY TO OUR TEAM," - Alexia Chartereau
Williams answered the call emphatically with the kind of display and leadership that she has already shown at club level as the EuroLeague Women 2022 Final Four MVP.
Her unassuming but also reassuring style looks to be a perfect fit for a French team with many young players eager to have someone navigate them through some tricky and important waters. Not only here in Sydney, but at next year's FIBA Women's EuroBasket and most importantly for France of course, the Paris 2024 Olympics - now less than two years away.
After the Opals win, Williams spoke like a leader and stated: "To see the majority of such a young team to be able to manage something like that gives me a lot of hope for the future of French basketball.
"It's not an easy thing to do because we just lost our best player in Marine Johannes but everyone stepped up and showed a lot of maturity.
"Everyone contributed. Everyone who stepped onto the court did something really well. That is a really good sign for our progress." she added.
Perhaps most tellingly, knowing whether you are a viable leader or not is perhaps best judged by how those around you speak. And, on the evidence of the first outing for France in this tournament, her teammates are thrilled with the way Williams rose to the fore. Of course helped by the fact that she works tirelessly at both ends of the court.
No one knows what the future brings, but it seemed that under this new leadership, France has found its former identity back - playing great defense. A quality the team did not show at the last World Cup Qualifying tournament.
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"Gabby had a really good game from the start, and she was so good to us by scoring 23 points and also because she plays great defense" enthused Alexia Chartereau.
"More importantly, she brings stability and a serenity to our team. When she plays like that, she can not be stopped.
"A lot of players on our team need now to take on a new role. Our biggest strength is that we know that one can not do it by herself. We are very focused on the team and putting the team first.
"I know that for next game, if Gabby has to play defense, throw some elbows to take rebounds and let somebody else do the scoring, she will without problem."
And there it is...
The respect for Williams can be mostly encapsulated by the fact that she does not feel the need to force anything. She doesn't want or need be the standout baller writing the headlines.
Super smart, she sits back if someone else has the hot-hand. Her empathetic and humble leadership style is just what France needs - not just right now, but maybe for some time to come.