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BYU Women’s Basketball Eyes NCAA Tourney Now That Their ‘Donovan Mitchell’ Is Back

Oct 20, 2020, 5:13 PM
Shaylee Gonzales - BYU Women's Basketball...
BYU women's basketball guard Shaylee Gonzales is back after suffering a season-ending ACL injury a season ago. (BYU Photo)
(BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – Jeff Judkins enters his 20th year as the head coach of the BYU women’s basketball program. He’s the winningest coach in BYU basketball history for both men’s and women’s with 411 victories through his first 19 years.

Winning has been the trademark of Judkins’ teams leading BYU to the postseason in 14 of his 19 years as head coach. One of those five years that didn’t qualify for the postseason was last year and it wasn’t due to the pandemic. BYU had an early exit in the WCC Tournament ending their season with a record at 18-11.

Shaylee Gonzales returns

But better days are expected to be ahead for Judkins’ program in the 2020-21 season. A big reason for that is the return of guard Shaylee Gonzales, who is back after suffering a season-ending ACL injury last summer. She headlines a roster that could be one of Judkins’ best during his 20 years at BYU.

“Losing Shaylee would be like the Utah Jazz losing Donovan Mitchell. We’re just a totally different team when she’s on the floor,” Judkins said. “She can do so many things to help everybody out. You know what makes a great player is not scoring and rebounding; it’s making people around you better. I think that’s what she learned as a freshman.”

In Gonzales’ freshman year two seasons ago, she started in 26 games and led BYU to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where she dropped a career-high 32 points against the Stanford Cardinal in defeat.

Gonzales earned WCC Newcomer of the Year that season and was later invited to be a Team USA U19 World Cup Team trials participant before suffering the ACL injury. Throughout it all, Gonzales continued to churn out content to her loyal followers on social media that has now reached 192,000 on TikTok and 70,000 on Instagram.

@shayleegonzales1I think we got a winna🤪 ##fyp ##dance ##utah ##byu

♬ Hit the Quan – Original Version – iLoveMemphis

Now back to full strength, Gonzales wants to be the first BYU player in program history to go to the NCAA Tournament four times during her career in Provo.

“She just does everything she’s supposed, you know, she’s a dream player,” said Judkins. “You’re very lucky to have a player like that as a coach in your career. She’s a hard worker, she’s talented, and she’s motivated. She really wants to prove to a lot of people how good she is, and she wants to win.”

BYU Women’s Hoops returns a lot of experience

Shaylee Gonzales teams up with All-WCC guard Paisley Johnson Harding to form one of the top backcourts out west in women’s hoops. Colgate grad transfer Tegan Graham will also be in the mix for playing time as she looks to be an immediate contributor this season.

BYU also returns one of the shot blockers in the country in 6-foot-7 center Sara Hamson. Hamson has racked up 336 blocks to date in her career and is a two-time winner of the WCC’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

BYU has yet to release a non-conference schedule for the 2020-21 season, but according to Judkins, they will look to start on college basketball’s opening night set for November 25th. They plan to play seven non-conference games before starting WCC play on December 28th against San Francisco in Provo.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Women’s Basketball Eyes NCAA Tourney Now That Their ‘Donovan Mitchell’ Is Back