The excitement for the upcoming women's basketball season is almost electric. After completing a sensational run into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and an appearance in the West Coast Conference Finals, the BYU Cougars are looking to build on their success and provide another memorable season for their fans.
The Cougars will be coming in with a bit of a different look this year as they lost two key players from their Sweet 16 team. Starting guard Kim Beeston graduated last year after a tremendous career at BYU and will be missed as a leader on the floor. The Cougars also lost their starting center to the WNBA (as well as graduation) when Jennifer Hamson was drafted 23rd overall by the Los Angeles Sparks. The 6'7" Hamson was a presence that many teams couldn't defend against, giving the Cougars an inside dominance that will be hard to replace. With a young team, only three seniors, you never know who will step in and fill the holes but the prospects are on the roster and ready to make their case.
One of key to future success is how quickly the team will build their chemistry and work together. With a trip to Spain complete, the Cougars took a giant step in building these relationships as they were able to put a number of players on the floor and work on various rotations. It didn't hurt that the team went 4-0 and 14 players scored in the first game alone. This bodes well for the Cougars as they embark on their next journey, but fans are still wondering what is in store, and who to look out for. To answer some of these questions, take a look at the breakdown below:
With 10 guards on the roster, seven of them at least 5'7", Coach Judkins has the luxury to play an offense that can play three guards without losing anything in the post. If you had to keep an eye out for three players, look no further than Lexi Eaton, Ashley Garfield, and Kylie Maeda.
Eaton is a junior and should be the leader of this group. With size, the ability to get to the free throw line, and great passing abilities, she brings the whole package to the team. Last year she averaged almost 17 points per game while racking up 80 assists and 157 rebounds. With a free throw percentage over 83 percent she will force teams to try to defend without fouling.
Garfield is a senior and was second on the team in rebounds with 220 and added 59 assists. With the loss of Hamson you can expect her to increase her scoring as she finished the year over 42 percent in field goal percentage. She plays a physical brand of ball as she fouled out three times last year and found herself at the free throw line 74 times.
Maeda is also one of the seniors and will need to replace much of what Beeston was able to accomplish, so look for her to have an incredible season. Last year she racked up 112 assists while only turning the ball over 52 times. Add 27 steals, 78 rebounds, 76 percent free throw shooting, and almost 40 percent shooting from behind the arc to the arsenal and she should give opponents nightmares.
Keep an eye out for:
Sophomore Kristine Fuller and Senior Xojian Harry are the tallest of the guards as they're both listed at 5'11". Look for them to make some noise on defense and pull in the rebounds from the guard/forward position.
Don't sleep on sophomore Makenzie Morrison or freshman Cassie Broadhead as they both played well in Spain. Morrison twice scored in double digits while Broadhead proved she can dish the ball as well as rebound. The guards as a whole are a talented bunch and several of them should step up and make plays throughout the year, making it an exciting group to watch.
The forwards on the team will play a big role, but with the size of the guards there will be less time for them to be on the floor together. It is a talented group and will make an impact on every game. Here are a few to keep your eyes on.
Senior forward Morgan Bailey will be the leader of this group, and possibly the team. As a junior playing alongside Hamson, Bailey averaged almost 11 points and seven rebounds per game. It will be interesting to see how she reacts to the double teams that will surely come her way, but her talent is apparent and teams will be forced to game plan against her. During the trip to Spain, she recorded double-doubles in two of the four games and scored at least 13 in all four. With a high 22 points and 11 rebounds in the second game, she proved that she can do what will be expected.
Keep an eye out for:
Look for freshman players Savannah Irwin and Alohi Robins-Hardy as well, as they showed their value in Spain. Savannah recorded eight rebounds in each of the first two games while Robins-Hardy scored in double digits twice. Robins-Hardy also hit a three point shot and two free throws to put the finishing touches on the first game.
Look for the Cougars to once again make noise in the WCC and fight their way into the NCAA tournament again. With a young team that includes five freshman and four sophomores, the Cougars will need to maximize the non-conference games to find the balance that will be needed in the grueling conference schedule. The Spain trip was a start, and it gave them the chance to play some close games that will only help down the line.
The Cougars have too many weapons for the opponents to game plan against and so if one player is off or taken out of the game, the others will be able to step up. With solid depth on the bench and a powerful group of starters, the Cougars are poised for another exciting season that should bring the fans to their feet. The season starts on November 1st with an exhibition game against Westminster. Make sure to pack the Marriott Center and get ready to enjoy another year of BYU Women's Basketball!