The hidden gem inside NMSU’s advising center; Belmont University athletics Hall of Famer Jana Williams


Mitchell Allred

Belmont athletics Hall of Famer and NMSU student adviser Jana WIlliams.

Success doesn’t come easy; it takes hard work, dedication and a whole lot of faith.

These are traits Jana Williams learned over the years which led to her induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame at Belmont University in 1999.

Twenty years later she is an academic adviser for New Mexico State University.

Her path to success began shortly after she was born in Nashville, Tennessee.  Williams started playing basketball, believe it or not, at the ripe age of two. Her dad and first coach took a piece of wood and put a goal up, her height when she was two years old against the gutter of the house and taught her how to shoot a basketball. This ignited a fire of passion and love for the game in Williams.

During Williams’ childhood, there weren’t any opportunities for young girls to play organized, structured basketball. In fact, she didn’t play an organized game until she was in junior high school, and back then it was just half-court basketball with no three-pointers.

Until then, her dad would take her to the park and play with her, and according to Williams, he didn’t show her any slack whatsoever. However, she explains that she is extremely grateful for this because it taught her ball handling skills and how to take smart shots, which would later come in handy.

Williams first organized basketball game was in junior high school under coach Judy Cothran at a private Christian academy. Back then, Williams was a tall, lanky girl with long, red hair determined to be the best at the sport that she fell in love with at such a young age. Cothran said she vividly remembers her hardworking spirit as a leader to her teammates.

“Jana led by example, on and off the court. When the team looked to Jana for that extra spark, she provided,” Cothran said. “We weren’t just a basketball team but a family that could look to one another.”

Williams still keeps in contact with Coach Cothran and attributes this life lesson to her – “You don’t win in life or in a game without good people around.”

Kim Kendrick, an All-American at Tennessee Tech, coached Williams during her high school career at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville. She explained that even after 37 years of coaching, Williams is one the best players she has coached.

“Jana is one of the five all-time players I’ve had the pleasure to coach,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick explained that Williams always wanted to do the right thing, she was compassionate, and kind-hearted.

“Williams could have scored and taken over the game at any moment but always made it a point to include her fellow teammates in the game, being the selfless teammate everyone wanted on their team,” Kendrick said. Kendrick recalls a night where Williams played with a broken pinky and still was able to score 40 points. She said this just one example of the loyalty she showed her teammates as well as the game of basketball.

Williams career at Franklin Road Academy was a pivotal point in her basketball career as it opened many opportunities, an important one being that she was recruited to play for the Belmont Bruins.

As fate would have it, Williams’ sophomore year, the district tournament was hosted by Belmont University. After the games, Williams explained that her mom was walking out of the gym when she heard Belmont women’s bsketball head coach Betty Wiseman talking amongst coaching staff about how she wanted to keep an eye on number 24 from Franklin Road Academy – Williams.  

Williams was offered a full scholarship, which was very rare back then, to Belmont University.

Williams took the offer to play at the Division I program for Coach Wiseman. Williams explained that this is one of the best decisions she’s made.

Coach Wiseman said that she remembers the love that Williams had for the game– one of the reasons (along with her talent) that she was recruited to play for the Bruins.

“[Jana] had such a love and respect for the game. She would sacrifice herself for the good of the game and her team,” Wiseman said. “I knew she would fit in perfectly with our culture at Belmont.”

Williams remembers the day that Coach Wiseman called her to let her know that she would be recognized in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She remembers this day as if it were yesterday.

“I was speechless, all I remember saying was ‘wow,’” Williams said.

The night of the induction, Williams said it was a “humbling and overwhelming” experience of a night.

Wiseman explained that Williams was very deserving of the distinct honor to be inducted in the Hall of Fame as she is still in the record books at Belmont University.

Williams credits all the coaches that she has played for in the past along with her parents. Through their endless support for her passion, she was able to become the player and person she is today.

Though many students are unaware of William’s past, she translates much of her experience into her current job.

Williams’ touts a passion for helping others and making a difference in their lives. She loves her work at NMSU, as she is able to help students make decisions for their future.

“It’s not about the wins and the losses — it’s about the life lessons along the way.”

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