THUNDER BAY – Jylisa Williams was only at Lakehead University for a season-and-a-half, but her legacy will live on for decades to come.
The Altanta native was back on campus on Saturday, celebrating her induction into the Lakehead University Wall of Fame, just four years after capturing national player of the year honours and taking the Thunderwolves to the OUA semifinal.
Williams, who spent a year overseas playing before hanging up her basketball shoes, said despite her success, she was still surprised to get the call so soon after leaving Lakehead.
“It’s still hitting me,” she said, her family traveling with her from the southern U.S..
“Just walking through the doors and taking it in, it’s amazing. It’s a feeling I just can’t put into words, to be blessed and so humbled to have this experience. It’s part of the reason I came to Lakehead, for the community. So just to see everybody out here right now is amazing. I’m just beyond grateful.”
Williams arrived in Thunder Bay in 2014, fresh off a season of college ball in Alberta, two years in the U.S. military in Alaska and two seasons at Georgia State.
Arguably the best female basketball player in LU history, Williams was an easy choice for OUA and CIS most valuable player in her second and final season with the Wolves, putting up 49 points in an exhibition game in Halifax and then setting the league standard with a 50-point game against the Toronto Varsity Blues.
She set a single-season record for points and led the league in field goals, free throws and steals.
Athletic director Tom Warden said normally players have to wait a little longer to earn induction onto the wall of fame.
Williams deserved the exception.
“I think she was completely dominant and she was such a good person for that program and what she meant to this community,” Warden said.
“I think there are some abilities to make exceptions when it comes to inductees, and I think the induction committee thought it was the right time.”
Wrestler’s Justin BeauParlant and 1976 Olympic swimmer Andrew Ritchie and volleyball’s Kelly Williams were also inducted to the wall of fame during Saturday’s biennial ceremony, alongside the 2001-02 wrestling team and builder Ron Lappage.
Francis Clayton, who coached the wrestling squad, said the recognition was due for a team that had nine wrestlers reach the CIS championship, including gold medalist Devin Kirk and Steve Raine, named outstanding wrestler. All told, they took home a gold, two silver and two bronze.
“They were a strong team. One of the neat things about it was it was almost a Northern Ontario team. We had w whole bunch of guys from Thunder Bay and a whole bunch of guys from Sault Ste. Marie. It was a neat group of guys that were all friends and it was good to work with them,” Clayton recalled. “They came second at nationals by one point.”
Kelly Williams was a member of the Nor’Westers volleyball team from 1988 to 1991, earned rookie of the year and in 1989 earned female athlete of the year honours and also named captain of Ontario’s Canada Summer Games team.
“Even after all these years, Thunder Bay still feels like home,” she said, after accepting her wall of fame ring from Warden.
“It holds a very special place in my heart, as I’m sure it does for all of you as well.”
Lappage started at Lakehead as physical education lecturer in 1972, helped found a judo club and the wall of fame itself.
“I’ve had the opportunity to grow with the university,” he said, thanking the committed for his induction.