Nyree Williams began playing youth basketball when she was about 10 years old.
But it was not her idea.
"I had a friend who asked me to play. I did not want to. I was a swimmer," the Ellicott City native told Patch in a phone interview.
Williams worked her way up the youth ranks and eventually was a basketball standout at Howard High. As a junior she committed to attend Division I North Carolina of the high-powered Atlantic Coast Conference.
She graduated in 2009 from Howard after scoring more than 1,500 points and grabbing more than 1,000 rebounds as an all-Howard County player.
But after her freshman season with the Tar Heels in 2009-10, after scoring 17 points in 20 games, Williams decided to leave Chapel Hill. "It just did not work out for multiple reasons. It was just not the right fit for me," said Williams, who declined to elaborate. "It was hard to leave my team. It was a tough decision."
Williams, who attended Harper's Choice Middle School in Columbia, even considered not playing college basketball at all. But at the end of her freshman year at UNC she ran into Towson head women's coach Joe Mathews at a youth basketball tourney in North Carolina.
Mathews, the Towson coach since 2001, had recruited Williams when she was at Howard High and she always felt comfortable with his staff.
"I had my release papers (from UNC). He was the last coach I saw as I left the gym that night," said Williams, who added that it was fate she ran into Mathews.
So she decided to transfer to Towson, and after sitting out last season as per NCAA rules Williams has averaged a team-high 9.6 rebounds and 8.6 points per contest in her first 10 games (all starts) this season.
The arrival of Williams at Towson could not have come at better time.
The Tigers, after going 9-21 last season, won eight of their first 10 games this season and knocked off James Madison, one of the top programs in the Colonial Athletic Association, in the league opener for both teams Dec. 4 at Towson.
Williams, a 6-foot-1 redshirt sophomore forward, had 14 rebounds and 11 points in the 65-58 win over JMU. "She did have a couple of baskets on the inside," said JMU head coach Kenny Brooks, who added Williams attended his summer camp when she was at Howard.
In a game against nationally-ranked ACC foe Maryland in November, she had eight points and nine rebounds in an 82-46 loss in College Park.
Williams, 20, is not one to play up her ACC credentials. She said students on campus, when they hear she on the basketball team, will tell her they have heard the team has a player from UNC on the roster - not knowing Williams is that player.
"I don’t want to talk about where I came from," she said matter-of-factly. "People on campus don’t know what school I went to because I don’t tell them. It is not about where I came from. I really don’t talk about it. To me, it is not relevant.”
The daughter of Raymond and Adonaca Barrett, Williams was a nursing major when she arrived at Towson. She planned to follow in the path of her mother, who is a nurse.
"I change my major every month," she said with a laugh. Now she plans to focus on psychology and perhaps combine that with nursing.
She also has two more years of eligibility to play basketball after this season, which she plans to fulfill.
"It worked out the best for me," she said of leaving UNC. "I have more responsibilities here and can be more of a leader."