By JASON MOON
Former South Putnam High School girls' basketball standout Molly Williams received a posthumous honorary bachelor's degree from Limestone College on Friday at the school's graduation ceremony.
Williams' parents, Ron and Candy Williams, were at the commencement Friday to accept the diploma.
Williams -- who was a senior on the Lady Saints' basketball team -- died on Sept. 1, 2005, while preparing for her final season of collegiate basketball.
Williams, 22, Reelsville, was running with her teammates when she collapsed. She was immediately taken to Upstate Carolina Medical Center, where she died hours later.
"She was part of my first recruiting class," Limestone women's basketball coach Corey Fox said. "Obviously, it was rough on everybody. But this is a really good thing that Limestone College is doing this."
To the best of his knowledge, South Putnam Athletic Director Kieth Puckett said Williams is the first former Eagle athlete to receive a posthumous degree.
"I think that's a testament to the kind of person Molly was," Puckett said. "You couldn't help but be in a better mood after being around Molly."
Limestone Director of Communications Josh Crotzer said it is established precedent to award honorary degrees to any student who died in their senior year.
According to Limestone College President Walt Griffin, who has been with the school since 1995, four or five students have received posthumous honorary bachelor's degrees in the last 10 years, none of which were athletes.
As a junior, Williams led the Lady Saints with 202 rebounds while ranking fourth on the team in points with 207. She also had three double-doubles on the season and recorded a season-high 14 points against North Greenville. Limestone finished with a 4-23 record while Williams was a junior.
She was team captain for Limestone when she died and also played one season of volleyball at the school. The school also retired the No. 40 jersey Williams wore while on the court.
The Lady Saints finished the 2005-06 campaign with a 12-17 record, but Fox said Williams' absence from the court was felt all year.
"We obviously missed Molly on the court and tremendously off the court," Fox said. "As a coach, she was one of those players that was giving everything she got.
"She was just a great kid. No matter where she was, she was happy. She was one of those people you like being around. There were so many good things about her."
Following graduation from South Putnam, Williams attended Danville Area Community College in Illinois for two years, receiving an Associates Degree in Business. She was an All-Conference selection both years for Danville.
As a sophomore at Danville, Williams averaged 8.2 points and 7.2 rebounds.
A 2002 graduate of South Putnam, Williams was on the BannerGraphic All-County Basketball team for four years, was an All-West Central Conference recipient in three sports, and was voted Putnam County's Top Senior Athlete.
She played basketball, volleyball, softball and participated in track at South Putnam, while ranking fifth in her graduating class.
Williams finished her playing career with 968 points, ranking her 11th all-time in Putnam County and fourth at South Putnam behind Jessica Canary (2006, 1,247), Rene McKinney (1989, 1,101), and Darla Ellis (1982, 1,017).
She averaged a double-double (points, rebounds) as a junior and senior while playing at South Putnam.
Williams was one of three receiving honorary degrees at the school's commencement Friday. Nearly 350 graduates will also receive diplomas and vice president of Limestone College Charles Cunning was the commencement speaker.