Many of the BYU women’s basketball players have hardly had time to get their paws wet in Provo, which to some may be surprising, as the Cougars are off to a 15-4 start.
Head coach Jeff Judkins said it is not always easy to work with so many young players.
“Having freshmen, it’s hard. They don’t understand a lot of things, not just with basketball, but with being away from home, getting into school, getting church callings,” Judkins said. “It’s a lot of learning how to play and what the coach expects.”
- Freshmen still need to wait their turn
According to Judkins, one of the most difficult parts of coaching so many freshmen is helping them understand they may have to pay their dues before they play real basketball.
“It’s hard because I want to play them, I want to give them experience, and they want to play,” Judkins said. “But my job is to put the best team on the floor.”
- Plenty of time to prepare for future seasons
Despite waiting for playing time and adjusting to the team culture, freshman guard Makenzi Morrison said there are advantages to being a newcomer.
“Learning everyone’s chemistry is a little hard, but it’s nice that there are so many people still learning so we can learn together from the start,” Morrison said. “Yes, we aren’t going to have the experience that the upperclassmen have, but if you’re good, you’re good. Your age shouldn’t restrict the limits of how you play.”
One of the major advantages of having freshmen on a team is it means a large majority of the players will have four or more years of eligibility. Having young talent means molding players from the beginning and could open the door to successful seasons in upcoming years.
“Freshmen want it now. They want to start now and play now,” Judkins said. “A lot of times I recruit kids and they think I recruit them for their freshman year and it’s not really that way. I want them for four or five years so when it’s their time to shine they are ready, and sometimes it’s hard for them to see that.”
- Positive effects of the group
Just because so many players are in their first year of eligibility doesn’t mean they haven’t been able to gain experience with the team. Many of the freshmen, like forward Kristine Fuller, redshirted last season.
“Last year we had the chance to practice learning terms and figuring out how coach reacts in the games,” Fuller said. “That really prepared us for playing in games this year. Plus having a lot of underclassmen makes them more willing to slow it down and break things down for us.”
Junior guard Ashley Garfield appreciates the energy and depth the younger players on the team provide, and thinks their influence can carry the team to post-season play this year.
“Having the freshmen at practice pushing us, they’ve really helped us to get better,” Garfield said. “I think we still have a really great shot at making it to the NCAA tournament.”