Freshman adjusting to life on MU women's basketball team

Monday, December 20, 2010 | 9:17 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Five years ago this month, the holiday season became a nightmare for Kishaun Williams and her family. The family was in its hometown, Baton Rouge, La., when Hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast.  Although New Orleans received more national coverage when its levees broke, heavy wind and rainfall also hit the Louisiana capital.

"We didn't have electricity for a good two or three months," Williams said. "For the two weeks that we didn't have a generator, it was bad."

This year Williams, a freshman guard for the Missouri women's basketball team, won't be home in Baton Rouge for the holidays until Wednesday. The Tigers (6-4) host California-Riverside (6-3) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mizzou Arena.

Williams said she wasn't ready to be away from her family when she first arrived at MU, and staying in touch with her mother has been important, because she has not made the 700-mile journey home since June.

"Every day I talk to my mom, every chance I get because my family is my biggest support," Williams said. "If it wasn't for my family, I'd be depressed, miserable."

Williams said she has looked to senior forward and Missouri native Shakara Jones for guidance. Williams described Jones as being "a mom" to her, helping her keep her head on straight. It's helped Williams realize she has another family with the Tigers.

The team's seven-game road trip at the start of the season was one thing that didn't require much adjustment, though. 

"I'm used to traveling because my family takes a lot of vacations, and with AAU, we were always playing out of state," Williams said. "Up here, everything is so slow. It's much more fast-paced back home."

But, she said her first time on the court for the Tigers on Dec. 1 at Ball State was something new.

"I was shocked to hear my name called. I just ran on the court," Williams said. "The team was like, 'Kishaun, you gotta go check in.'"

Tigers coach Robin Pingeton has given Williams more playing time as the season has progressed. Williams has played in four out of Missouri's past five games, and she recorded her first career steal Sunday against the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

"She's probably the quickest player on out team. She really gets after it defensively," Pingeton said. "But she's also a player who is very raw in regards to her fundamentals and basketball IQ."

Williams will look for more playing time against California-Riverside. Her mentor, Jones, is eight points away from becoming the 28th Tiger to score 1,000 career points. Missouri will also rely on senior point guard RaeShara Brown, who scored 18 points, grabbed nine rebounds and accumulated seven steals against New Jersey on Sunday.

The Tigers will have to contain two Riverside guards, sophomore Tra'Shonti Nottingham and senior Alyssa Morris. Nottingham scored 13 points in the Highlanders' loss to Miami on Saturday, while Morris added eight points and snagged four rebounds.

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