UConn’s Christyn Williams, returning from elbow surgery, hoping to end Husky career ‘with a bang’

Photo of Maggie Vanoni

STORRS — Through the final few months of the season last year, Christyn Williams would experience a sharp pain in her left elbow every time she shot.

The pain would come and go, with some days worse than others.

Eventually it became too much to bear so she saw a doctor, who told her she would need an ulnar nerve transposition to remove loose fragments in her elbow.

“It was really weird,” Williams said Friday afternoon ahead of UConn’s first official practice of the 2021-2022 season. “The doctor told me it was usually a baseball injury, so I don’t know how the heck I got it.”

Williams kept the injury on the down-low, telling only those who needed to know. She had the non-invasive surgery on July 8 back home in Arkansas, knowing the summer offseason would make for the least disruptive recovery process.

“I’m not gonna have any other time to really have surgery so I had to do it in the summer but I’m so glad that I did it. It wasn’t a very invasive surgery and I’m back,” she said. “My elbow is great. I’m 100 percent.”

Surgery and all, the senior feels more than ready for her final season in a Husky uniform. As one of the team’s four seniors, Williams spent the summer preparing her body to be able to lead on and off the court and knows the team has all the right pieces for her to leave Storrs with “a bang.”

“I’m great. I feel really good,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming. I finally feel like a leader-leader because I’m a senior. I mean obviously we were leaders last year too but we’re juniors. But now that we’re seniors, it’s just surreal.”

After the surgery in July, Williams spent two months rehabbing back home. She was in good hands with her older sister Timia leading her physical therapy at Ortho Rehab in Little Rock to help Christyn gain strength in her shooting arm. Williams has since created a YouTube series about the surgery — which left her with a long scar on her left elbow — and her recovery process.

“It was really cool being with her every day for two months,” Williams said. “Just to see her daily routines and it’s my sister, she gets to work on me, so I thought that was a pretty cool experience and I loved every minute of it.”

Williams, who started 29 games last year, said she doesn’t use the injury as an excuse for any poor shooting last season. She finished her junior year second on the team with 16.3 points per game and sixth with a 47.9 field goal percentage.

She was the No. 1 recruit in her class and came to UConn as a gifted offensive player, but Williams’ overall game evolved last year. But the postseason, Williams was a defensive stopper and an all-around contributor for the Huskies before UConn lost to Arizona in the Final Four.

To strengthen her shooting game following the surgery, Williams played against guys this summer just as she did in 2020.

“Guys are more physical, stronger, quicker so just playing them really helped me,” she said. “Guys bring a lot of different things to the table. And it’s just more difficult from a physical standpoint to keep them in front of us or to play against them. So, if we can be successful against them then when it comes to girls things will be a lot easier.”

With so much depth on UConn’s roster this year, including talented freshman and a stacked returning core from last season, Williams sees the chance to balance minutes as both a positive and a negative. While most players will want to play as many minutes as possible, she thinks having more balance will help reduce any injury risk or re-aggravation with players.

But that isn’t to say she’s not going to compete for time on the court. Williams said she’s focusing on being more consistent this season and to bring postseason-level energy into every game.

“They need me to be the player that I was during the tournament and then it’s just doing anything that I can do for my team whatever they need I’ll do it. Whether that’s defensively or offensively,” she said. “Just trying to keep my momentum from the tournament last year. And hopefully I’m better now than I was then.”

While there’s already a lot of pressure building behind the scenes for UConn, Williams said all the “lasts” that come with one’s senior year haven’t fully sunk in yet. For now, though, she’s just focused on doing what she can to help the team position itself for a long postseason run.

“It’s kind of bittersweet but at least we have a long season ahead of us so nothing too sad,” she said. “I’m trying to go out with a bang.”