WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Basketball provided one link in the chain that bonded former Woodlands High standouts Nicole Brooks and Reece Williams. There were many others that helped them forge a friendship that began when they were toddlers.
Now, they both get to share in the success of their teams on the basketball court. Brooks, a junior from Greenbugh at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., has helped her team reached the NCAA Division III Final Four. Williams, a junior from White Plains at Albany, will take the floor with the Great Danes when they play an NCAA second-round game Friday against the University of Oklahoma.
Brooks and Williams will be separated by about 300 miles when their teams play on Friday in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Columbus, Ohio, respectively. But they will be joined mentally, pulling for each other as only best friends can do.
“I don’t think either of us imagined we’d be on such good teams,’’ Brooks said in a phone interview from Massachusetts. “We’re so fortunate to be successful and have this good friendship. A lot of times after high school people don’t remain friends. We’ve stayed friends, and we’re fortunate to be on good teams.”
Brooks remembered when her family moved to Greenburgh when she was 2 years old. Her parents enrolled her in day care at the YWCA and met Williams.
“After that we were in kindergarten together, then went to the YWCA after school,’’ she said. “I went to his house every day.”
Later, Williams and Brooks attended the same basketball camps. They only split when they became older and camps became gender specific. “When we were at recess we played a lot of basketball,’’ Brooks said. “I was a bit of a tomboy. I was playing basketball with him and his friends when we had co-ed camps.”
Brooks and Williams were so close they told some people they were cousins. “We laughed about that,’’ she said. “People really used to think that. That’s how much time we spent together.”
When it came time to choose colleges, they decided on different paths. They still communicate frequently, however, and check out how their teams are doing. “Last year I would text him when I saw him on television during the tournament,’’ Brooks said. “I was watching him play while we were at the Final Four.”
Brooks and Williams still see each other during the summer and sometimes during winter break. “I was a lifeguard at the same camp when he was working as a counselor,’’ Brooks said. “I’d see him every day. It was just like old times.”
Albany has reached the tournament for the third straight year. Williams has played in seven games for the Great Danes, 24-8, who are seeded 14th in the East Regional after winning the America East championship. Max Twyman of Rye also plays for Albany.
Tufts, 30-1, reached the Final Four last year and lost to eventual champion FDU-Florham in the semifinals. Tufts beat FDU-Florham in quarterfinals to advance to the Final Four. Hayley Kanner, a senior from Scarsdale and a former AAU teammate of Brooks, is Tufts' leading scorer.
“We remembered how it felt to lose last year and that pushed us through all season,’’ said Brooks, who averaged 2.1 points and played in 16 games for Tufts. “We want to do better than we did last season. We feel really confident with all of our experience.”
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