Fort Worth has always been more than just the city where Whitney Williams attended college.
It is the city she has called home the past 22 years. It is the city she was homeschooled in. And it is the city she left and immediately came back to.
TCU women’s basketball senior Whitney Williams was deciding between two university offers straight out of high school: Iowa State and TCU.
Williams said it was one of the hardest decisions she has ever had to make. She thought and she prayed. TCU was the easier choice, she said. She had grown up a Horned Frog fan, attending multiple basketball games with her family.
Ultimately, Williams chose to play for the Iowa State Cyclones. That was the first time she left home, as well as the first time she attended public school.
Having grown up being taught, along with her three siblings, by her mother, home was always something she knew better than anything else. She would wake up every morning, go on a run with her siblings and dad, eat breakfast, do her schoolwork, then hurry off to practice.
She had the typical structure of any high school teenager.
“Throughout junior high I tried to convince my parents all the time to let me go to public school," Williams said. "Once I got to high school I stopped trying to convince them as much because I was worried about the transition, having never been in that environment.”
Being homeschooled taught Williams how to learn on her own, she said, which she now values as an important life skill, especially in college.
Whitney started playing basketball when she was eight years old. She found a passion for it immediately. Influenced by her other brother, she began to love the sport.
She played for The Riders of the Texas Home Educators Sports Association (THESA). This basketball organization operated differently than private and public schools. Whitney and her team were able to play against anyone who was willing. They averaged about 50 games per year, she said, compared to other programs that usually play 20.
TCU head coach Jeff Mittie said he met Williams during junior high when she would come watch the TCU women’s basketball games with her family.
“She would come to camps and always come into the office to say hello,” Mittie said. “I got to know her on a personal level and also on a player level. I would go and watch a lot of her homeschool games.”
When Williams decided to turn down TCU’s offer out of high school, Mittie said he was disappointed.
“We always left the door open for her if she had wanted to play for us, though,” Mittie said.
When Williams began playing for Iowa State, she was dealing with leaving home and adjusting to a new team. Williams said she did not like her role on the team and did not want to live with the uncertainty of that change.
“I decided I had to leave, without having any idea where I would go, I just wanted to leave there,” she said.
“I was almost about to dump basketball altogether when I decided to leave Iowa. Once TCU contacted me I knew it was meant to be to play for them, even though I knew I would have to sit out for a year,” Williams said.
Williams' father had sent out letters to multiple universities announcing William’s decision to transfer. Williams went on a few official visits to different universities, TCU being the first.
Williams said she also visited Columbia University and Marist College.
“I was supposed to take two more visits [after Columbia and Marist] but I didn’t need to," she said. "I knew TCU was the right choice.”
As Mittie had promised, he left the door open for Williams and she became a Horned Frog in 2011.
“I wanted to be close to home again, all of my family is from Fort Worth, even my extended family both on my mom's and dad's side,” Williams said.
She spent every day of her first summer back in Fort Worth at home, even though TCU offered her a spot in a residence hall on campus. She said she needed to make up for lost time, and moved onto campus in the fall.
The downside of Williams transferring was the NCAA rule, she said. Williams had to sit out for one season.
“Looking back at it, sitting out was a blessing," Williams said. "I was not ready to go into a whole new team. I needed time to think and adjust and get my mind clear again.”
It was difficult for Williams to adjust her mindset of sitting out to playing last year. She said she had to switch her mentality and get into game mode.
“She had to shake some of that rust off from the year before,” Mittie said.
This season Williams will get a second chance to play in the Big 12. She said she is excited to be back in the conference and feels a bit of comfort.
Williams is one of only two seniors on the team this year. She has been a mentor for the five new freshmen on the roster, Mittie said.
“You have to pay attention to her leadership, she is subtle and quiet about it. But if you pay attention she is constantly talking to the new players," Mittie said. "When she is huddling the team up on the floor I can almost know she is saying the same things I would be saying."
Williams said she looks forward to her last year playing college basketball, but this will not be her last year with the sport.
“I want to keep basketball in my life,” Williams said.
She said she hopes to be a basketball coach after graduating, hopefully still in the Fort Worth area, where her heart and home lie.