Makiyah Williams and Brianna McDaniel are two of most exciting names on the Chicago basketball scene right now.
Williams, a Class of 2021 wing, committed to Marquette in April, choosing the Golden Eagles over Kansas State, DePaul, Saint Louis and many more. McDaniel, a Class of 2022 guard, is mulling over more than 22 Division I offers, including invitations from Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, DePaul, Northwestern and plenty others.
They’re also best friends.
Naturally, basketball introduced them. Chicago Hoops Express (CHE), the AAU team the two have played with for years now, merged with Lady Dribblers, another local AAU squad, when the two were in elementary school. They had seen each other around in the small world that is Chicago girl’s basketball, and both families knew each other, but it wasn’t until they were put together that their friendship flourished.
“My auntie, she used to play for Lady Dribblers, so I used to always go to their practices and watch them,” Williams said. “I always knew Brianna, her mom and sister, but we built a closer relationship when Lady Dribblers and CHE combined teams.”
Now, the two are tight, even creating a hoops-themed nickname for their partnership: “bestiball,” combining best friends and basketball to describe their bond. Williams first coined it, and McDaniel latched on immediately. They’ve stuck with it since, and the artistically-inclined Williams even designed matching headbands for them.
“I think it means they vibe, and the way basketball is for them when they’re playing with each other, they kind of feed off each other,” Shamona McDaniel, Brianna’s mother, said. “I truly know that Bri loves playing with Makiyah.”
While they love playing together, plenty of their opponents on the floor certainly haven’t enjoyed dealing with the duo.
“Every time we play, it’s very hype, because we know each other on and off the court,” Williams explained. “We’ve been playing with each other for so long. We both played up at a higher age level than we were, so we’ve been together for a while. We’ve got strong chemistry together.”
It’s not just the girls who have a strong relationship. As they played together more, the families were with one another, and soon both collective units were linked.
Fast forward some years, and Williams’s mom, Marquita Ross, does the McDaniels’ hair in her home. Ross has done hair since she was 8 and started turning profit as a teen. In other words, the McDaniels have the hook up.
In-home hair appointments have taken a hit since the pandemic began, but before, the McDaniels would come over for their hair appointments and make the most of it.
“If Shamona comes to get her hair done and Bri’s not getting hers done, that’s a good time for Makyah and Bri to connect with each other,” Ross said. “We’re sitting around, laughing and listening to music, and they’re in Makiyah’s room doing their little thing: listening to music, making up dance routines, making up stuff for social media.”
Basketball has undeniably played a massive role in the two becoming close friends and in the families growing together as they have. But it was deeper than simply sharing a team.
“Initially, it was a basketball thing. Like, yeah, we know each other,” Shamona McDaniel said. “But it seemed like they had a mutual respect for each other on the court once they started playing with each other, and then it seemed like they bonded over that. They would talk about things that annoyed them. They would push each other.
“I can’t say that at that point in time, Bri respected too many players who she wouldn’t get an attitude with when they pushed her,” Shamona McDaniel continued. “But with Makiyah, it was like she instantly respected the fact that she pushed her. Makiyah expected the pushing from Bri the same way she gave it to Bri. With that mutual respect, they grew to become closer friends, wanting to hang out, things like that.”
Their relationship off the court has flourished, and they have favorite activities, like finding the best crab legs in town and creating their own choreographies. But at the root of it is basketball, and when they play together, it just feels right.
“Having a good friendship with her, that makes us know what each other is thinking on the court,” Brianna McDaniel explained. “It’s good for the team. I feel like it’s very important that we play basketball with each other, because how we play together is off the chain.”