Tips for 5'5" MSU Star Morgan William, from One of the WNBA's Shortest Players

Natalie Weiner@natalieweinerStaff WriterApril 2, 2017

Mississippi State guard Morgan William (2) celebrates with teammates after hitting a buzzer basket to defeat Connecticut in an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the women's Final Four, Friday, March 31, 2017, Friday, March 31, 2017, in Dallas. Mississippi State won 66-64. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
LM Otero/Associated Press

"Itty-bitty" is not a phrase typically used to describe basketball players, yet it's the new nickname for unlikely Final Four star Morgan William.

Listed at only 5'5", the Mississippi State guard didn't let being the smallest player on the court stop her from hitting the game-winning shot over Connecticut's 5'11" Gabby Williams on Friday night, which snapped the powerhouse's 111-game winning streak and cemented the underdog's spot in college basketball lore.

The day before, the 20-year-old Alabama native had written an evocative essay for the Players' Tribune, explaining why she dedicated her 41-point performance in the Elite Eight to her father, who died three years ago: "For never even once letting me complain about my height (I'm 5'5") or telling me I needed to be taller to play Division I basketball, even though it was something I kept hearing from college recruiters. It never mattered to him, so it never mattered to me."

With those 41 points, William led the No. 2-seeded Bulldogs to an overtime victory over No. 1-seeded Baylor.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

"People have always underestimated my play because of my height," says Chicago Sky point guard Jamierra Faulkner, who at 5'6" is one of the shortest active WNBA players (at 5'5", the Phoenix Mercury's Leilani Mitchell and Seattle Storm's Jennifer O'Neill share that title).

"But there are pros to being small," Faulkner says. "Most of the time being short means you're fast—I may be the fastest player in the WNBA. You can weave through defenders in transition and get a lot of steals from post players when they bring the ball down."

Faulkner acknowledges playing in the WNBA without size on her side has its challenges.

"Once you've reached the pro level, the players get taller and stronger," she says. "Us vertically challenged players have to think through the game even more, using shot fakes, pace, and keeping our dribble while trapped."

Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

The shortest woman to ever go pro was Shannon Bobbitt, who at 5'2" spent four years in the WNBA. Debbie Black (5'3") and Temeka Johnson (5'3") also had long WNBA careers.

In the NBA, the most diminutive player ever was the 5'3" Muggsy Bogues, who memorably played alongside one of the tallest players ever, the 7'7" Manute Bol, during the Washington Bullets' 1987-88 season.

At 5'9", Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas, of course, is among the shortest active NBA players, something he reminded fans of on Instagram just a day ago.

"My advice for Morgan would be to keep doing what you're doing—obviously it's getting you places and earning you outstanding accomplishments," Faulkner says. "When people tell you you're too short, just laugh at them and show them on the court."

A sign held by a jubilant MSU fan at Friday's game summed it up: "Big things, small packages."

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