How a devastating injury helped BYU’s Arielle Mackey-Williams find her faith

“I’m really proud of our team and our coaches. We just couldn’t execute,” said Ari Mackey-Williams after BYU’s WCC semifinal loss to Gonzaga last season.

That loss started what would be a rollercoaster ride of an offseason for Mackey-Williams. BYU was entering the Big 12, head coach Amber Whiting was heading into her second year at the helm, and Ari was looking forward to a huge junior year.

Arielle Mackey-Williams brings the ball up against Pepperdine. (Melissa Collado)

Unfortunately, Ari wouldn’t have the opportunity to take the floor for the Cougars in their first season as a Big 12 member.

“It was really hard for me initially when I first got injured. Especially because I had worked so hard in the offseason,” she explained. “But, being on the sidelines has helped me grow relationships with my teammates and with my coaches.”

While tearing her ACL wasn’t a part of Ari’s plan, the relationships she’s been able to cultivate while recovering have benefitted her not only in the game of basketball but also in the game of life.

“Tearing her ACL, It kind of put perspective into things for her,” said head coach Amber Whiting. “You can have some dark moments. A lot of times when you can rely on an outside presence, it gives you that faith to get through things.”

For Ari, that outside source was her teammates, coaches, and God who helped her overcome the dark moments and push through with faith.

“Through my ACL journey, that was a big spark for me,” explained Ari. “In terms of having to turn to faith, and trusting in His [God’s] timing. That was a really big step for me that made me want to get baptized.”

Arielle Mackey-Williams’ Baptism Service

“My whole team has been very supportive of me. The missionary lessons were actually at one of my teammates’ house, and having my teammates cover over and supporting me [in the lessons] truly meant a lot to me. This is why I wanted to come to BYU, to feel loved.”

Arielle Mackey-Williams with her uncle

Ari’s teammates and coaches were able to demonstrate that love for her on Sunday as they were able to participate in Ari’s baptism ceremony and be with her during such a special moment in her life.

“It was a really special moment that we were all able to be together for her and to feel that love,” said teammate, Lauren Gustin.

While there is nothing joyful about tearing an ACL and going through the rehabilitation process that goes along with it, Ari has been able to find joy in her choice to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

“It was one of the happiest times I’ve experienced in my life,” said Mackey-Williams. “It was really awesome. My uncle was the one who baptized me. He and my auntie were the ones who helped me learn more about the church.”

While we won’t see Ari donning the number 5 jersey for the Cougars this season, the excitement to see her back on the court is palpable among Cougar nation, and it’s only a matter of time before Ari is back helping BYU both on and off the court.

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