Big Name On Campus
Jada Williams shares what it's like playing college basketball at the University of Arizona.

This College Freshman Has Her Eyes On The Prize (Aka March Madness)

How Arizona basketball star Jada Williams is juggling school and prepping for “the big dance.”

Basketball has always been a part of Jada Williams’ life. “I’ve been playing since I could walk,” the 19-year-old tells Elite Daily. So it makes sense the two-time U.S. junior national gold medalist would choose to continue playing ball in college.

Now a freshman at the University of Arizona, Williams recently competed with her team in Pac-12’s NCAA women's basketball tournament, but her season isn’t over yet. “We’ve still got the big dance,” she says, referring to March Madness. Selections begin on March 17, so the Arizona Wildcats are waiting to see who they’ll be up against.

Competing in March Madness has been the one thing Williams has been looking forward to the most this semester, but in between practices, the Kansas City native has also committed herself to classes and even some brand deals. Her most recent partnership is with Bumble.

Last year, the dating and friendship app launched its 50for50 campaign, spotlighting 50 college women in sports; Williams was one of the chosen few for the brand’s class of 2024 roster. “I remember seeing a lot of players that I've played with and against post the 50for50 campaign last year,” she says, adding that it’s “super cool” to be working with the women-first app.

It’s important for women to feel comfortable in relationships and friendships.

The point guard — who served as the captain of her basketball team for all four years of high school — especially loves what Bumble stands for: “It’s important for women to feel comfortable in relationships and friendships, so our views line up.” She has an outgoing personality and really appreciates when she’s able to just be herself, on and off the court.

Below, Williams shares how she balances her schoolwork, athletic pursuits, and celeb status (psst, Travis Kelce even follows her on Instagram!), her fave things to do with her team after a big win, and how she really feels about TikTok trends.

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Elite Daily: You’re currently making waves at the University of Arizona, but you were originally committed to UCLA. What made you choose U of A over other colleges?

Jada Williams: I'm a really passionate player, so it was really important to choose a coach who matches that mentality. Adia [Barnes] is a super passionate coach; she really understands what we go through. She played at Arizona, and was in the WNBA. We also have a super cool coaching staff, and everyone — including the weight coaches and trainers — is on the same page.

Tucson is also an awesome place. We pack out the gym every single time we play here. They love women's basketball, so it's a cool environment for me as a player. I'm super glad I made the decision to go to the University of Arizona. It was about personnel, how I fit into the system, and how they would back me as a player.

ED: Pac-12 is now over. How did it feel to compete in it for the first time?

JW: It was awesome. We had a lot of Arizona fans there and it was in Las Vegas, so the atmosphere was out of this world. We learned a lot. We had a lot of fun, and now, we're just trying to bounce back for the big tournament [aka March Madness].

College basketball is more of a mental game.

ED: How is playing college basketball compared to playing in high school?

JW: College basketball is more of a mental game. Everyone's stronger and faster, and every possession of the ball matters. The big jump for me was the speed and the physical part of the game. I've grown a lot this year.

Jada Williams/Instagram

ED: How do you hype yourself up before a big game?

JW: I'm already a hype person, so game day is just super exciting for me. I have a lot of energy and adrenaline going. I listen to music, so it doesn't really take a lot to hype me up. If I feel too hyped up for the game, though, I listen to country music. It calms me down, and lets me get into a peaceful space.

ED: What's currently on your playlist?

JW: I got some Lil Baby, M Huncho, Luke Combs, and Morgan Wallen. A little bit of everything.

ED: On the flip side, how do you wind down after a big game?

JW: We live across the street from the arena, so home games are a lot better. We just come home. Usually, all our families come to the game, so we go to a restaurant downstairs from our apartment. We go there, hang out, and I get to spend time with my family. Then, I come home, shower, hang out with my girlfriend, and just relax.

I'm not a big ‘following a trend’ type of girl.

ED: Do you participate in any TikTok wellness trends?

JW: Not really. I'm not a big “following a trend” type of girl. I'm really in tune with myself, so the mental health side of that for me is to do whatever my body needs.

ED: As an athlete, are there certain things you have more access to at your school for self-care?

JW: We have cupping, scraping, dry needling, massages, and cold and hot tubs, and we have really good athletic trainers for our team, so we get whatever we need.

ED: Which of those is your favorite to do?

JW: I wouldn't necessarily call it a favorite, but dry needling really helps my body. It really hurts, but a couple days after, you feel a lot better.

[March Madness is] the only thing that I look forward to — and being done with school.

ED: What are you most looking forward to for the remainder of the semester?

JW: This week, we're preparing for March Madness. We don't know who we're going to be playing against or what the brackets will look like yet, but we're preparing for it. That's the only thing that I look forward to — and being done with school.

I'm ready to just get all my A’s in classes and then go to summer. Balancing school and basketball during the season is really heavy, but we manage.

ED: Do you have any big plans this summer?

JW: Basketball and more basketball.

Courtesy of Bumble

ED: Besides basketball, what do you like to do for fun?

JW: I hang out with my teammates a lot, and my girlfriend is also friends with my team. She plays on the volleyball team, so the volleyball and basketball teams hang out a lot. That's about it. I'm a really chill person. I like to stay home or go to one of my teammates' houses. I don't really go out.

ED: How do you like to celebrate a win?

JW: I usually come back to my place, eat some pizza — depends on what time the game is — and eat ice cream.

ED: You mentioned that it’s hard juggling all of your commitments. How do you maintain that balance?

JW: It took a lot of time to find the right schedule for me, but my mom helps me a lot. She’s my manager.

School and basketball is something I've done since I started playing, and grades are always first. I love being a good student. Basketball is also really important to me, so I have to find that happy medium.

I take online classes right now, so it's easier for me to work ahead. Before we go out of town for games, I have all my work done, so I don't have to worry about that. Overall, time management and writing down all the stuff I have to do in my calendar is how I keep up with everything.

ED: You've been a social media star for quite some time. Do you often get recognized on campus?

JW: I don't go on campus a lot. I had a couple classes first semester, but online was just easier for my schedule. I really liked online school in high school, during [lockdown], because I got to manage my own schedule. I don’t really get recognized a lot on campus. I just see more athletes, and it's normal.

ED: Do you get recognized in other places?

JW: In Tucson, it's usually older people who recognize me because they love women's basketball. They come to all our games, and they usually just say, “Can we take a picture? We love the way you play. We love watching the Arizona basketball team.” Most times, they just ask for a picture or for me to sign something.

It's important to be a positive role model.

ED: How does that make you feel?

JW: It's happened since I was 12 or 13, so I've gotten used to it. I typically don't say no, because I know how it would feel if I met somebody I really looked up to and they said that — especially little kids.

After tough losses, I stay out of the way, but it's important to say hi to fans. A lot of people and young girls look up to me. It's important to be a positive role model for them.

ED: Who would be someone you would really want to take a picture with if you saw them?

JW: Kevin Hart.

ED: Have you thought about what you want to do after you graduate?

JW: No. My major right now is criminal justice, so I don't know if I'm going to use that. It sounded cool, and I like watching crime shows. That's why I chose that major. We learn a lot about drug trafficking and stuff, which I really enjoy, but I don’t know what I want to do after graduation.

ED: Do you want to continue playing basketball professionally?

JW: Oh, yeah. That's definitely my first route. Then, after I retire from playing basketball — whenever that day is, because the ball is going to stop bouncing — I’ll consider something else. I don't stress about that, though. Basketball is my next journey.

Know that it's OK to make a mistake.

ED: What advice would you give to your younger self?

JW: Believe in yourself. If you don't, then no one's going to believe in you for you. My godfather told me that when I was really young. It's easy to say, but when you have a lot of pressure, you have a lot of eyes on you. You're under the microscope.

For every single thing you do at a young age, it's important just to know that it's OK to make a mistake. It's OK to mess up. It's just how you respond to it.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.