Peyton Williams won’t be in Kansas anymore when she plays basketball again. The former Kansas State women’s basketball and volleyball player will be calling Russia her new home after signing with Sparta & K M.R. Vidnoje.
— Peyton Williams (@pqwill11) July 7, 2020
After finishing her senior basketball season ranked ninth in career points in program history, as well as being named a two-time All-Big 12 First Team honoree, there were high hopes for the star forward to be drafted in April’s WNBA draft.
Though Williams went undrafted, she took the opportunity to continue her basketball career overseas. Signing a two-year contract with Sparta & K M.R. Vidnoje, Williams joins the four-time Euro League Women’s champions and two-time FIBA Europe SuperCup Women’s champions. The team is part of the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League.
“I felt a mixture of things,” Williams said. “Relief because COVID has made this process feel so much longer and has made everything so much more difficult, and, of course, excitement because this is my first contract and Sparta&K is a good team.”
Williams had interest from multiple teams outside of the U.S., including from Italy, Poland, Hungary and Turkey. Choosing the team just over a mile outside of Moscow’s city limits, Williams said she believes Sparta & K M.R. Vidnoje will help her jump-start her career.
“Sparta&K is a good team with a lot of history of success,” Williams said. “They’re in the best league with a lot of exposure, and it seemed like a great way to begin my career.”
Even though Williams’ career will not start in the WNBA, she is not letting that initial disappointment get in her way.
“Though I was disappointed, I wasn’t too surprised,” Williams said. “The WNBA draft is small, your chances are slim. I certainly felt bad for everyone who was watching and waiting for me to show up, but I guess I wasn’t too shaken by it.”
Although Williams will have to deal with a massive change in culture, she will not be doing it alone. Also signing with Sparta & K M.R. Vidnoje is Creighton alumna and fellow Kansan Jaylyn Agnew.
The Washington Mystics drafted Agnew in the second round of the WNBA draft this year before being waiving her; the Atlanta Dream then picked up Agnew. After playing with the Dream in the summer, Agnew will be spending her WNBA offseason with Williams at Sparta & K M.R. Vidnoje.
“It’ll be cool for both of us to feel like we have a little bit of home within each other, I think,” Williams said. “I think it’s great that we’re the same age as well and experiencing this new adventure together. She is also quite the player and I look forward to playing with her on the court as well.”
While she said she believes the everyday events in her life will not change that much in the move from the U.S. to Russia, Williams does know she is going to need time to immerse herself.
“I’ll still go to practice, work out, spend time doing my normal hobbies, but of course being in a new country will require me to allocate time to learn the language, explore the area, read up on some history, get acclimated, et cetera,” Williams said. “I’m not nervous yet, just excited right now. I studied anthropology and international studies at K-State, so this is right up my alley.”
While majoring in anthropology and international studies, Williams also minored in political science. Her studies gives Williams confidence in what is to come once she arrives in her new home, she said.
“Discussing cultural differences and learning how to identify your own biases and your own constructions of the world will prove very useful in the next coming months,” Williams said. “Many of my professors talked about the difficulties and the joys of immersing yourself in a new culture, so I feel like I have at least somewhat of an idea of what to expect.”
Williams must report to her new team before September 10, so she has about two months to further prepare for her new journey in Russia. The season begins in early October.
“I’m just really grateful,” Williams said. “These past few months have felt long and difficult, “ Williams said. “Adaptability has been the name of the game, and certainty has been in short supply. I feel lucky to have something to look forward to and, though it could change, I am cautiously optimistic about what my future holds.”