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UNC women's hooper Kennedy Todd-Williams looks to make another jump in junior season

North Carolina's Kennedy Todd-Williams listens to a question at the 2022 ACC Tipoff in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. (Photo by Nell Redmond/ACC)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Entering the breakout session for the ACC Tipoff on Tuesday morning, UNC junior wing Kennedy Todd-Williams paused before assuming the podium.

As journalists flocked to question head coach Courtney Banghart about the expectations swirling around her team or to inquire about junior shooting guard Deja Kelly’s latest NIL deal, Todd-Williams stood before her name placard. 

She pulled out her phone, took a picture of her interview setup and took another second to take it all in.

After nearly doubling her scoring average from her first season to her sophomore year, Todd-Williams is looking to make yet another jump as a junior. She seems poised for a breakout season, and this year, it feels like she’s finally getting recognized for it.

Just two years ago, this media frenzy would have swallowed up the now-exuberant Todd-Williams. 

After her rookie season at UNC, where the Jacksonville, N.C. native averaged just under six points a game, she met one-on-one with Banghart. It’s a moment Todd-Williams now considers fundamental to her development as a player.

“Having that one-on-one, we built that trust throughout that whole year," Todd-Williams said. "She (Banghart) was like, ‘Hey, you’re going to be an important piece to this program.’ Hearing that definitely, as a player, builds trust and ability — like she’s confident in me.”

Building that confidence was a gradual process. 

“Confidence is something that you have to see results,” Banghart said. “You can’t just be told you’re going to be alright."

Banghart took the visual aspect seriously. During Todd-Williams’ time at UNC, she and Banghart have watched the wing’s game film in countless sessions. They've analyzed the good with the bad — where Todd-Williams could’ve taken one more dribble or when she lacked physicality on a play.

“She watches more film than anyone on the team,” Banghart said. “She should just move into my house, with how much film she watches.”

Slowly, the self-belief began to crescendo — pouring over into breakout performances over the course of her sophomore season. 

Last year, Todd-Williams reset or tied her season high for scoring on seven separate occasions — including a career and team-high 19 against No. 3 Louisville and in the NCAA Tournament second-round win at Arizona. 

In the 66-65 upset win against Louisville in February, her pair of free throws with 16 seconds sealed the Tar Heels' win. Later that season versus Arizona, Todd-Williams' performance was essential in shutting down the rowdy away crowd.

“I really had fun and I think the crowd engagement really drove me in both games,” Todd-Williams said. “Those are some moments (I felt confident) because they were highly ranked. I was like, ‘Wow, this is super surreal, being a kid from Jacksonville, to be able to play on this (big) stage… and allowing me to showcase what I can do and allowing myself to just play.”

After building her confidence over the course of the past two years, Todd-Williams can now fully shift her focus to her on-court development. The junior said that she’s worked heavily on her 3-point shooting in the offseason, citing it as the most-improved aspect of her game.

“(It’s) going to expand our range on a consistent basis,” Todd-Williams said. “It’s going to be harder for people to guard.”

At UNC’s 'Live Action' event last Friday, seniors Eva Hodgson and Malu Tshitenge cited Todd-Williams as an example of North Carolina’s versatile guard play. This summer, the Tar Heels’ ball-handling corps has focused on being able to score at all three levels  — from the three, midrange and at the rim.

Both Banghart and Todd-Williams’ teammates credit the junior’s consistent work ethic in the offseason to her well-rounded skill set. 

Hodgson swears Todd-Williams “sleeps” in the weight room, and Kelly echoed this, calling her a “gym rat”. Banghart followed up by saying that Todd-Williams has earned “every single piece” of her growth.

“She never settles,” Tshitenge said. “I don’t think she’s ever satisfied. She feels like the sky’s the limit for her. She’ll keep on pushing and pushing for herself.”

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With the eyes of the college basketball world aimed in her direction, the budding star's new mentality was on full display as she sat before the media.

When asked about ESPN analyst Kelly Gramlich ranking her as the No. 2 wing in ACC, she paused for several seconds to formulate her answer that solidified her growth.

“I believe I should be number one, but I don’t mind," she said. "It was a blessing to even see my name up there. But we’re only going to continue to keep working and show the media what I can do, so I’m very excited.”


@dthsports |

Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.