The Coastal Carolina women’s basketball game Wednesday night was, for all intents and purposes, a confidence-building tune-up game for the Chanticleers.
And on the court they handled business as expected by rolling past a non-NCAA program in Warren Wilson College, 100-49, inside The HTC Center.
More significantly, though, the evening was an opportunity to raise awareness for freshman guard Di’janai “DJ” Williams, who is home in California receiving treatment for ovarian teratoma cancer.
While attendance was limited Wednesday night and the game was moved from 4 p.m. to later in the evening after the Coastal Carolina men’s game due to a miscommunication with Warren Wilson on the scheduled start time, the program estimated that it raised a couple hundred dollars from ticket proceeds while a GoFundMe.com account set up for Williams was up to $1,246 by the end of the game.
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Coastal Carolina also played an extended video during halftime allowing coach Jaida Williams (no relation) to speak directly to the Chants’ supporters about DJ Williams’ condition and story.
“It was two days before she had come [to campus], she called me and said she was in the hospital for a pain in her side,” Jaida Williams said, telling the story again after the game. “She thought it was just a cyst, ended up coming to college. ... [Our doctors here thought] it was still a cyst, but said ‘You still need to have surgery, but it has to be done back home because it was before school started.’ DJ goes back home, has it removed, they think it’s a cyst and don’t realize it’s a teratoma. It was a rare form of cancer to grow in such a young lady. Poor kid. She ended up having to go back and go through chemo treatments.”
A promising recruit out of Moreno Valley, Calif., DJ Williams had initially committed to UC-Santa Barbara before the program there underwent a coaching change. She would end up at Coastal Carolina instead as the prize of the Chants’ recruiting class before this significant setback, with the official diagnosis coming about a week before the start of preseason practice.
DJ is the fire that we’re missing. She is the heartbeat of our team. She not only elevates the play of herself; she elevates the play of the people around her. All of our freshmen are very solid players, but she was the one we were expecting big minutes from this year.
CCU women’s basketball coach Jaida Williams
In addition to any money raised Wednesday night and through the GoFundMe.com/bm72mqck website, the Chanticleer Athletic Foundation is also accepting donations for her cause as well. Per NCAA regulations, the CAF can only use money donated specifically on her behalf and all such contributions would be to pay actual bills that are monitored by the school’s NCAA compliance office.
But every bit helps.
“I’m grateful for [athletic director] Matt Hogue, who put together a CAF fund for us to be able to [help with] her medical expenses,” Jaida Williams said. “Her GoFundMe and stuff is set up for a lot of those expenses, as well as the CAF. So I’m so grateful for Matt and for Coastal for looking out for our student-athletes.”
She said DJ Williams is still very connected with the team and is expected to complete her chemotherapy treatments this week.
“She even FaceTime’s into practice, which is crazy because we practice at 7:15 [a.m.], which is like 4 o’clock in the morning her time,” the coach said. “We talk often. She’s still on our leadership council. It’s really good for her, anything to not talk about cancer and talk about her importance to our team.”
On the court Wednesday night, Coastal Carolina improved to 4-4 as Nicole Isaacs scored a game-high 18 points while making all seven of her shots from the field (including three 3-pointers).
In the future, Williams looks forward to the day next season when DJ Williams can focus simply on basketball and make her own impact on the program.
“DJ is the fire that we’re missing. She is the heartbeat of our team. She not only elevates the play of herself; she elevates the play of the people around her,” she said. “All of our freshmen are very solid players, but she was the one we were expecting big minutes from this year.”