GREENSBORO, N.C. – University of Miami freshman guard Ja’Leah Williams is the recipient of the 17th annual Bob Bradley Spirit and Courage Award from the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACSMA) and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Before her junior year at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Florida, Williams was diagnosed with scoliosis so severe she underwent surgery at Miami’s Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to correct the 67-degree curvature in her spine.
Despite six months of painful rehab and recovery, Williams was back on the floor for her junior season. She scored 27 points in a win over her school’s biggest rival and was named her high school conference player of the year. She followed up in her senior season by leading her school to its first state championship in 30 years.
In her first year with the Hurricanes, Williams has made quite an impact. She has consistently been in the top five ACC freshmen in points, rebounds, steals, and assists. She hit the game-winning shot in Miami’s 46-45 win over Georgia Tech on January 16, and she scored a career-high 16 points in a close loss to Louisville on February 1.
Williams enters the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament with 22 starts in 28 games, averaging 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest. She was named to the All-ACC Freshman Team on Tuesday.
Williams has also made her mark in the classroom, where a first-semester GPA that exceeded 3.0 landed her on Miami’s Bookbusters Honor Roll.
“Ja’Leah has so much brightness and resilience,” said Miami head coach Katie Meier. “On the inside, she has so much faith and perseverance and courage in everything she does. Through the whole recruiting process, I never truly understood how severe the scoliosis actually was because she never expressed that she was feeling down or had any uncertainty about if she would ever play basketball again. I thought it was just an orthoscopic surgery the way she handled it.
“She had such faith that the scoliosis wasn’t going to beat her. So, when I saw the x-rays, I was shocked because it was a huge surgery. But that is Ja’Leah. She is always going to come back, she is always going to have a smile on her face and she is always going to believe that the next thing that happens is going to be positive.”
The Bradley Award will be presented to Williams on Thursday night prior to the Hurricanes’ 6 p.m. ACC Women’s Tournament second-round game versus Duke at Greensboro Coliseum.
A joint venture of ACC and ACSMA, the Bradley Award is given annually in memory of Bob Bradley, the Hall of Fame sports information director at Clemson University whose positive attitude inspired all who knew him as he battled cancer. Chosen by a select media panel, the award honors an ACC student-athlete, coach, administrator, or other personnel in men’s or women’s basketball who has overcome significant hardship to contribute to his or her team, or society as a whole.
BOB BRADLEY AWARD RECIPIENTS
2022 Ja’Leah Williams, Miami
2021 Tiana Mangakahia, Syracuse
2020 Howard Washington, Syracuse
2019 Ty Outlaw, Virginia Tech
2018 Woody Durham, North Carolina
2017 The Capel Family, Duke, UNC, Wake Forest
2016 Rob Moxley, North Carolina State
2015 Sylvia Hatchell, North Carolina
2014 Jim Weaver, Virginia Tech
2013 Dick Kelley, Boston College
2012 Bernard James, Florida State
2011 Jessica Breland, North Carolina
2010 D’Andre Bell, Georgia Tech
2009 Adrian Thomas, Miami
2008 Matt Zitani, Florida State
2007 Debbie Ryan, Virginia; Kay Yow, NC State
2006 Tony Bethel, NC State