The 2018-19 edition of the BYU women’s basketball team will be one of the youngest in Jeff Judkins’ 17-year career in Provo as head coach.
So he’s taking them on a road trip.
Every four years the NCAA allows college programs to go on an overseas tour and the timing couldn’t be better for Judkins, whose roster is comprised of just one senior and 12 underclassmen. The Cougars will leave Aug. 18 and spend 12 days in Prague, Vienna, Slovenia and Italy.
“Sometimes with an older group, these trips aren’t as important,” Judkins said. “But this one will be pretty important. We hope to get them to play together and be a little bit ahead of schedule going into the season, because with young kids it can take more time.”
Junior Brenna Chase — one of two returning starters — said she has never been to Europe.
“We’ll shoot in the morning, game plan and then just go play,” Chase said. “We’re going to visit the Vatican, the Colosseum and some other cool places. With such a young team, it’s been great so far. The new players have caught on quickly to our style of play. Juddy has a lot of plays so that can be difficult to learn and the game is faster, so we’ve helped them pick everything up.”
The Cougars are in the last week of their summer workouts, where coaches are allowed eight hours a week for conditioning and instruction. BYU finished 16-14 last season and 11-6 in West Coast Conference play, failing to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
Three starters — Cassie Devashrayee, Amanda Wayment and Malia Nawahine — have graduated. Two others from the 2017-18 roster — junior guard Liz Eaton and senior center Hailey Rydalch — have transferred to Weber State and UNLV, respectively. Another post player, McKayla Longson, had to retire from basketball due to injuries.
Judkins signed three freshmen last winter in Arizona Player of the Year Shaylee Gonzales, Mountain View All-Stater Tahlia White and Brazilian Obalunanma (Babalu) Ugwu. This spring he announced two international additions in Kaylee Smiler (New Zealand) and Signe Glantz (Sweden).
“Shaylee is going to be a really good player for us,” Judkins said. “She does a lot of things well. Babalu is a really talented big and Tahlia reminds me of Kim Parker. Kaylee is a combo guard who is really crafty with the ball, pretty athletic and can really shoot it. Signe I’ve only seen once, but she can play the four or the five. She’s physical and smart and a good shooter.”
Smiler is with the team now but Glantz is still waiting for her visa to process and should join the program shortly.
Another addition to the team is 5-10 senior Caitlyn Alldredge, who has completed her eligibility with the BYU softball team and has one year to play basketball. Alldredge was a two-time All-State player at Viewmont High School before focusing on softball in college.
This new group will need to mesh with the returning players, led by Chase, 6-7 sophomore Sara Hamson, sophomore guard Paisley Johnson, 6-5 redshirt freshman Malli Valgardson, sophomore guard Maria Albiero, junior guard Khaedin Taito and the Cougars only senior, 6-2 forward Jasmine Moody.
“Brenna, Jasmine and Khaedin have done a really job as leaders,” Judkins said. “We usually vote for captains but these three girls have really stepped forward. They’ve made sure the other players are where they need to be and that they follow through with everything.”
Judkins and his coaching staff have put the players through their paces with specific goals in mind.
“We’re really trying to work on not fouling so much on defense,” Judkins said. “And we’re working on becoming a better rebounding team. On offense, I think we’ll be good at moving the ball and getting more people involved, more balance. I think we’ll have a deeper bench this year, so we are working on the bench being more aggressive.”
Chase averaged 13.5 points per game last season and established herself as one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference, making 69 triples. With leading scorer Devashrayee (19.1 ppg) moving on, Chase’s role will increase on both ends of the floor.
“I’ve been trying to develop my mid-range game more,” Chase said. “I think we’ll be able to do a little bit of everything. We can push the ball if we want or we can slow it down and set it up. We’ll have a lot of skill in the post and they are really good at finishing. We have a lot of speed in the guard line with myself, Shaylee, Maria and Paisley. Everyone will need to step up and make an impact.”