Young BYU women’s basketball team just getting started
In the postgame interview after Monday’s 72-63 loss to Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, BYU coach Jeff Judkins said, “You know, I’m playing a 5-foot-10 power forward that has the heart of a lion.”
That aptly describes Caitlyn Alldredge, the Cougars softball player turned power forward who is the team’s only senior.
After completing an accomplished career as a BYU softball player, Alldredge decided to play one year of basketball for Judkins, and it couldn’t have worked out any better.
“It was awesome because even though softball is a different sport, they needed that veteran who had experience in the tournament,” Alldredge said. “Jasmine (Moody) had it, too, so her and I together could show them that we don’t need to be freaking out and that we can compete. Now they know that, so look out next year.”
Alldredge started the last 12 games of the season and contributed in a multitude of ways. She made a key defensive stop in the first win against Gonzaga and made clutch 3-pointers in the second victory against the Bulldogs. Alldredge was a physical defender and ran the floor well in the WCC Championship game, also setting a career-high in the first round NCAA Tournament win against Auburn with 14 points.
When things came to an end against Stanford, Alldredge was there to encourage her teammates to fight to go further next season.
“Once the game was over, we were disappointed but we realized that I’m the only person gone next year,” Alldredge said. “They’re going to come back and they’re going to get to the Sweet 16 and they’re going to get to the (Elite) 8. They aren’t going to let this happen again. They’re disappointed but they’re really hungry for next season.”
Stanford coach Tara Vanderveer was reminded that she recruited BYU freshman Shaylee Gonzales out of high school.
“Not hard enough,” Vanderveer remarked dryly.
Gonzales had a terrific game against the Cardinal, scoring a career-high 32 points and making 4 of 4 from the 3-point line.
“For a freshman to come into this atmosphere and against some real quality players that she played against, she’s very poised,” Vanderveer said. “Her numbers speak for themselves. She’s surrounded by really good players, and I think they have a system and she was very tough to guard.
“We switched on her or we’re in positions to try to take away stuff; she still made some big shots. She did bank in that one from the corner. I don’t know if she called that bank, but you know, she’s a very special player.”
Gonzales led BYU in scoring (17 points per game) and assists (4.1 per game) this season and was second on the team in rebounding (5.6 per game). She earned WCC Newcomer of the Year as well.
“You know, it wasn’t just all me,” Gonzales said. “It was my team, too. They were the ones who were getting me open and setting screens for me and just play-making and the spacing. You know, it’s an amazing experience to be where I am at right now, and I feel very pleased and very honored to be with this amazing team, and amazing coaches that make me better on and off the floor.”
Aside from Alldredge, the Cougars return every significant contributor to next year’s squad.
There will be some roster turnover, however. Sophomore guard Ashley Beckstrand has opted to transfer and redshirt freshman Tahlia White, who missed the season due to injury, will serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Judkins is high on 5-9 guard Leilani Otuafi from Nevada, which will add to his already deep arsenal of ball handlers and shooters. In addition, the Cougars have signed former Salem Hills standout and Daily Herald Valley Player of the Year Lauren Gustin, a 6-1 forward. Gustin initially chose the University of Idaho but never played for the Vandals, instead transferring to Salt Lake Community College. In 17 games for the Bruins, Gustin averaged 19 points and 14 rebounds per game. At this point the NCAA has ruled she must sit out next season but the Cougars are appealing that decision.
“We love this tournament,” Judkins said. “It was a fun time being here. Our team grew in so many different ways to make us a better team for the next few years, and like I said, I love coaching these guys. They have given all they need to. They have been hard workers and done whatever they need to for this team to win, so thank you.”
Junior forward Jasmine Moody added, “We know this is just the beginning. It’s just the start. We got a little bit of taste of the NCAA and we know that we want to keep coming back here consistently forever. We know with this young team that we can only get better from here.”