Family reunions are a common event in Utah, but rarely do they occur at the Marriott Center during a West Coast Conference basketball game.
However, that’s exactly what will happen on Feb. 2 as the BYU men’s basketball team hosts No. 1 Gonzaga. Senior Cougarette Alexis Williams will perform during the game, while her cousin Nigel Williams-Goss will start for the Bulldogs.
“We’ve never been able to do something where we’ve been together,” Williams said. “It’s always been one or the other, so I’m excited.”
Williams grew up in Utah while Williams-Goss spent time between Portland, Oregon and Las Vegas. Even with the distance between them, the two cousins were able to develop a strong relationship over the years.
“We’re as close as we could be, for living in two different states our whole lives,” Williams said. “We’re both very dedicated to what we do. So we don’t get to see each other hardly at all. But we definitely are able to communicate and support each other.”
Williams-Goss transferred to Gonzaga from the University of Washington in 2015 and sat out last season, per NCAA rules.
“This will be the first time we’ve actually played (against) each other,” Williams said.
On the season, Williams-Goss is averaging almost 15 points and five assists per game. The senior has helped Gonzaga become the only undefeated team in the country. He was also named to the Oscar Robertson Trophy midseason watch list last week.
“He’s done fabulous,” Williams said. “He works harder and is more dedicated than anyone I know. He knows what he wants, and he’s willing to put in the work to get it and he deserves it. All of his hard work is paying off now, and it’s well deserved.”
Off the court, family time and supporting each other have always been important parts of the relationship. Whenever a dance competition or basketball game brought one close to the other, they would do their best to attend.
“We would go out (to Portland) and visit once a year maybe,” Williams said. “Sometimes I’d have dance things out there, so they’d come and watch and support that. When he played at Utah, we were able to go watch him there.”
Outside of the game and seeing her cousin, a special part of the week for Williams will be spending time with her grandmother, who is making the trip from Portland to Provo. She has been diagnosed with cancer and the BYU-Gonzaga game is an opportunity for her to see both grandchildren perform live.
“We didn’t expect her to make it this long, so I’m really excited for her to come in,” Williams said. “She hasn’t been to Utah in a really long time because of her sickness.”
Valerie and Virgil Williams-Goss, Nigel’s parents, are also making the trip to Provo.
“We’re excited,” they said. “We have watched BYU for years, so it should be fun. Plus, knowing Alexis dances there, it’s even more special.”
Family aside, Williams didn’t mince words when asked who she’ll be rooting for in the game.
“I think my family will probably be cheering for Gonzaga,” Williams said. “But I’m cheering for my Cougs.”
Still, she keeps her cousin in mind.
“But I hope Nigel has a really good game,” Williams said.
The Cougars and Bulldogs tip off in the Marriott Center at 9 p.m. MST on Thursday, Feb. 2.