Women’s basketball welcomes new players, coaches

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Though change has taken over BYU’s women’s basketball team — with five incoming freshmen, two new coaches, a new conference, and open tryouts today and Wednesday — the team is excited to gear up and start the season.

Head coach Jeff Judkins realizes the daunting task of entering a new conference, especially one as intimidating as the West Coast Conference, but facing new teams and traveling to new places is an exhilarating challenge the team is ready to accept.

“We’re really excited,” senior guard Haley Steed said. “It’s a new feel, and there’s a lot of change, but it’s all good change. [There’s] a lot of positive energy going into the season right now.”

Though the graduation of last year’s seniors, each of whom played a lot of minutes, would normally be recipe for a “rebuilding year,” Judkins remains positive about the new team. The five freshmen all have extensive and award-laden basketball histories, and the coach is eager to see what the newcomers will contribute to the already-talented team.

“They’re very athletic,” Judkins said. “One of the most athletic groups I’ve had. They all bring something different to the table, but one thing they all have in common is that they’re basketball junkies. They really like to play, and they enjoy working hard.”

The team will also welcome two new assistant coaches, Melinda Bendall and Ray Stewart, and Judkins and players alike are excited for the latest additions to the staff.

“Melinda actually played here,” Hall said. “She was a senior when I was a freshman. We played one year together, so I know her just because [of that]. Ray was at Wasatch High School before this, but he’s done a lot of coaching girls’ high school club teams, so he’s worked with a lot of the most talented girls who’ve come out of Utah for the past three-four years.”

Judkins expects the coaching staff to mesh well, and is optimistic despite the different feel.

Female Cougars still have an opportunity to become a part of the women’s basketball team today and Wednesday at open tryouts.

“We’ve always had walk-ons,” Judkins said. “I’ve always wanted that because I want to give people opportunities to really reach their dreams. And I’ve had some really good walk-ons over the years that have been a major help to our team.”

Last year’s team made it to the third round of the WNIT with wins over Utah State and Denver, and Judkins is just as confident about the upcoming season.

“We have a really hard preseason,” Judkins said. “We play Duke, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Arizona, Syracuse, Utah … it’s a really tough preseason schedule, but I think they’re ready for it … I think this team will surprise a lot of people.”

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