Editor’s note: This article is part of a 4-part series, “Launch Mode,” in which the Saturday Down South team explains how, in just 20 years, the game of college softball has forever changed. You can see the entire series here.

Her dad is Jason Williams, aka White Chocolate. Her mom was a track star. Mia Williams is the best softball recruit in the country with skills compared to Alex Rodriguez. “When you see the kid play and you talk to her … she’s not just a celebrity’s child. This is a phenom.” In a sport that continues to evolve, she is the Next Big Thing …

At this point of her life, Mia Williams is familiar with people connecting the dots about her family lineage. Her last name “Williams,” is plenty common, but that’s about the only way Mia blends in with the rest. She’s 1 of 3 kids raised by Denika and Jason Williams in the Orlando area. Denika was a 2-time All-American on Florida’s track and field team and she was an Olympic qualifier as a javelin thrower. Jason, AKA “White Chocolate,” was a flashy, must-see-TV point guard who was drafted No. 7 overall out of Florida and had a 13-year NBA career.

Sometimes, people connect Mia’s family dots with skepticism because of how common her last name is. One time, an unconvinced classmate quizzed her on her dad’s birthday and where he went to college (she passed the test). A more common occurrence is one of her Windermere Prep (Fla.) classmates will say that an old highlight reel of her dad showed up on their TikTok feed.

But after that connection is made, another question often follows.

“To this day,” Mia told SDS, “people will find out who my dad is and they’ll ask me, ‘Why don’t you play basketball?’ I’m not him. I’m someone else. I get to do whatever I want, you know?”

What Mia wants to do is totally different from what her mom and dad did as superstar athletes at Florida (she stopped playing basketball when she was a little kid and her track career ended in 8th grade). Mia’s passion is softball. As crazy as it sounds, she might be on an even faster track in her sport than either of her parents.

In one sense, she is following in their footsteps. She has committed to Florida, where she’s set to enroll in 2023.

Let’s back up a second. One might’ve read that and assumed that Mia was just another legacy recruit with a unique family background. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only is Mia the No. 1 player in her 2023 class on Extra Inning Softball, she’s also been committed to Florida since she was 12 years old (more on that later).

“You put those things together, and you have that interesting DNA right there,” said Extra Inning Softball’s Brentt Eads. “But when you see the kid play and you talk to her … she’s not just a celebrity’s child. This is a phenom.”

Having covered LeBron James in high school before his high school games were on ESPN, Eads typically tries to pump the breaks on dubbing anyone “the next big thing.” But with Mia, he said, those boxes are all checked. Even dating to when he first saw her play in middle school, that off-the-charts potential was there.

At an early age, Mia had coaches who wanted to turn her into Babe Ruth. Mia, however, wanted more. “She didn’t want to just be the big, slow home-run hitter,” Denika said of Mia, who was 5-8, 140 pounds in 6th grade. Mia set out to be as fast as a slapper to first, she wanted to hit for power and she worked to be as sure-handed as they come as a defensive shortstop.

In Mia’s last full season of high school ball as a sophomore at Windermere Prep — she has since shifted her focus to playing exclusively with the Georgia Impact-Lewis 18U team — she belted 8 home runs with 27 RBIs and hit for a .558 average (and 1.645 OPS) in 27 games. In case that wasn’t enough, she had a team-high 18 stolen bases and didn’t make a single error in the field.

On one occurrence, Eads was chatting with Georgia Impact coach, Lincoln Martin, who offered up quite the comp for her unique skill set.

“She’s the female version of Alex Rodriguez.”

* * * *

In 2004, Denika and Jason had another name picked out for their first daughter, but they ultimately pivoted to “Mia.” Denika admired the quiet confidence of U.S. women’s national team star Mia Hamm and hoped that her daughter would embody those traits in whatever she chose to do.

Mia is more reserved like her dad. When Mia hit a no-doubter home run in the PGF Championship in California, Denika called for her daughter to bust out a rare bat flip, but Mia refused. She’s more comfortable putting her head down and moving on to the next at-bat. When asked about her favorite softball moment, the first thing Mia said was winning the PGF Premier U14 National Championship with her Tennessee Mojo-Fisher squad in 2019.

While she also did track, soccer, basketball, volleyball and tennis growing up — Mia wasn’t a fan of kids cheating in tennis and she promptly gave up the sport when she was 11 — softball hit differently from an early age. Once she joined the Georgia Impact team as a 12-year old, Mia recognized that she had a special opportunity. Softball became priority No. 1. As a result, she went all-in with her training.

“(Jason) has that same work ethic as Mia. You have to remind them that there’s other things in life,” Denika said. “Watching her work reminds me of back when I was dating him. I worked hard, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t my whole life. With them, it’s everything they do.”

In addition to fulfilling her high school obligations, Mia essentially trains like a college athlete. A typical week looks like this:


  • Work out at 7 a.m.
  • Practice after school (field, hit off machine)


  • Practice after school


  • Workout at 6 a.m.
  • (No practice)


  • Workout at 7 a.m.
  • Practice after school


  • Practice after school


  • Tournament OR practice Saturday and Sunday

Not even a birthday throws that schedule off.

Sure, Mia might have inherited a certain mindset from her dad, and she believes she got her mom’s relentless competitiveness to win. But without a passion for the sport, those attributes would’ve only taken her so far.

“A lot of people will say that my genes are crazy, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah. But I also worked really hard to get where I am today,’” Mia said. “It’s not just them.”

Ahead of her last school year before college, Mia focused on the details. In addition to maintaining all of her 5-tool skills, she wanted to improve the little things like pitch selection and her pre-at bat approach.

That’s why she never got passed up by her classmates after she burst onto the scene in middle school.

“With Mia, that was the only question I had when she was young. She had plus, plus tools, but had she matured physically, emotionally and psychologically early and is she gonna get any better?” Eads said. “And wow, has she proven it over time. She’s gotten better and better and better.”

Williams continued to make strides in high school, much to the delight of Florida coach Tim Walton, who was all in on Williams from the jump. Or rather, when she was 12.

* * * *

All things considered, Mia said about the best possible thing in an extremely atypical situation.

“Thank you.”

Walton had just offered Mia a scholarship while she was eating breakfast during a visit to Gainesville with her family … when she was 12. At the time, that was perfectly legal. They have since changed the rules. Softball players cannot be offered scholarships until they start their junior seasons of high school (Mia’s name was brought up during a conference to discuss the issue).

Mia’s visit to Florida actually followed their trip to the University of Washington, and the Williams family was also set to visit LSU. Other classmates were with her on the Florida visit, but Mia was the only one who heard the words “I’d love for you to be a Florida Gator” from Walton.

Mia didn’t commit during the visit. Even though she had grown up going to games and camps in Gainesville, Mia wasn’t locked into staying in the Sunshine State, nor did she feel any pressure to follow in her parents’ footsteps. Denika said she actually tried to talk Mia out of making any sort of decision about the scholarship offer.

But soon after that visit, “Thank you” turned into a commitment. It was met with mixed reactions from her parents.

“I was like, ‘She’s so young. This is gonna be so bad. This is gonna cause a lot of problems,’” Denika said. “And Jason was like, ‘Go Gators!’”

Denika said that part of the reason Mia’s early commitment made sense was that she didn’t want to go through the recruiting process. She had coaches calling her every week in 6th grade.

With Walton, though, things clicked. They saw eye to eye. On top of that, Mia knew that she wanted to be a veterinarian, and Florida had a highly regarded College of Medicine and College of Veterinary Medicine.

“I wouldn’t have committed when I was 12 if I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to go there,” Mia said.

Denika said that when Sept. 1, 2021 rolled around and Mia was allowed to be contacted by coaches, some circled the wagons. But Mia never deviated from the decision she made 4 years earlier.

Is there any chance of a potential flip during her senior year of high school?

“Unless Russia invades America and takes over the University of Florida,” Eads said, “she’s going to Florida.”

* * * *

In the summer of 2021, a routine slide into second base changed Mia’s life.

In the same PGF Nationals tournament where she experienced her favorite softball moment a couple of years earlier, Mia suffered an injury unlike anything she, or perhaps any softball player, had ever endured. On a feet-first slide into second base, Mia had everything go wrong. She broke everything below her knee — her fibula, tibia and ankle, which dislocated and then had the bone come through. “(Jason) was like, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve seen really bad things,’” said Denika, who had just arrived at the ballpark at the time of the injury. “It looks like the leg breaks and then it just falls off.”

Games on neighboring fields shut down. Ambulances were called to the scene. Meanwhile, Mia, who held up her injured leg in immense pain, asked the onsite trainer if they could pop the ankle bone back in so that she could keep playing. “That’s the kind of kid this is,” Eads said. Walton was one of several college coaches who was at the field that day, many of whom had been watching Mia play since she was 9 years old.

Mia didn’t get her wish to pop the ankle bone in and keep playing. Instead, she went the the hospital. On Aug. 1, 2019, she underwent a 5-hour surgery in California. The surgeon confirmed what Jason thought. Mia’s injury wasn’t supposed to happen to a high school softball player. Strength, girth and velocity all had to be present to cause such damage. Only a superior athlete could’ve had something like that happen. Mia, with her powerful 5-10 frame and speed, checked all of those boxes.

But more importantly for Mia’s future, only a superior athlete and competitor could’ve possibly bounced back.

Mia wouldn’t let it be a career-ending injury. In the same way she approached her regimented workout schedule pre-injury, Mia attacked rehab. With 17 screws in her ankle, she and her mom drove 45 minutes each way, 5 days a week to rehab in Longwood, Fla. just northwest of downtown Orlando. They did that for 7 months.

“I didn’t think (my career was over) right away, but definitely throughout the recovery process and the months and months of physical therapy, I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh my God. This is a lot,’” Mia said. “I never doubted myself. I always knew I’d come back, but there were definitely points in the recovery process where I thought to myself, ‘This is gonna be hard.’”

Denika documented the rehab journey on Twitter with updates on Mia’s progress.

Just 2 1/2 months after surgery, Mia was taking light swings. Less than 3 1/2 months after surgery, she got back to straight-line sprints.

Mia worked her way back to a full recovery. She rejoined her Georgia Impact team in the spring and admittedly practiced even more after the injury.

It gave Mia new perspective. In a strange way, it also answered the last lingering question that Denika had.

“If there was one thing that I would’ve sent her off to college without knowing, it would’ve been adversity. What adversity has she had? Any team she goes on, she’s the starting shortstop. Any team she goes on, she’s the 2- or 3-hole hitter,” Denika said. “This is completely earned, but what adversity? Who’s better than you? Do you have to go in and fight for something? But there’s nothing like the adversity you can get from coming back from an injury like this.

“It makes you or it absolutely breaks you.”

Since the injury happened, Mia will watch games with her mom and turn to her to offer up some assurance. She’ll say “there’s nothing that can happen in college that I haven’t already been through. There’s nothing that’s as bad as what I went through.”

Mia’s college career has been a long time coming. She still has another year until she enrolls at Florida, where it won’t take long for her new classmates to connect the dots about her family lineage. It’s ironic that the more she continues to make a name for herself, the more reminders she’ll probably get about her parents’ athletic dominance.

That, however, is out of Mia’s control. More important to her will be trying to lead Florida to another national championship.

“I’m just excited to be coached by really good coaches and play on such a great team,” Mia said. “Hopefully we win. No. We will win.”

Soon enough, Denika and Jason will be making even more drives up and down I-75. Go figure that their travel schedule might actually be dialed back a bit compared to the national tournaments that Mia’s club team plays in. Whatever the case, they’ll be decked out in a familiar blue and orange.

A new chapter awaits the Williams family — and Mia’s story might just be the best one yet.

“It’s like a Hollywood movie. Part 1, you meet the people. Part 2, there’s the tragedy, there’s the conflict. Part 3, there’s the triumph,” Eads said. “Well, this is her triumph.”