This was a big year for the BYU women’s basketball team. They made it to the NCAA tournament, then to the Sweet Sixteen. They broke multiple school records and multiple personal records, making a great name for the Cougars in the women’s basketball realm.
“We had the best inside presence this year that I’ve ever seen,” said head coach Jeff Judkins. “This team was really balanced. Defensively we were a really good team. Offensively they were smart and ran the motion well. Last but not least, this team was really close. They trusted each other, and they didn’t care who got the glory; all they cared about was winning. This team was really steady, and that showed in our season.”
This year they lose two key players, seniors Jennifer Hamson and Kim Beeston who played their last season at BYU, leaving some big shoes to fill.
“Jen, no question, has been one of the best players I’ve coached here at BYU,” Judkins said. “Probably one of the most dominating players, with her height, with her athletic ability and the way she can play both ends of the court. She’s a big part of why we’ve had success this year. It’s very hard to replace a kid like that.”
Hamson led the nation in blocked shots and made the All-WCC women’s team as well as the All-American honorable mention team. Beeston tied BYU’s single game record in 3-pointers made, and both players entered the 1,000-point club.
“That’s something that’s hard in college coaching,” Judkins said. “They finally understand what to do and all the things I’ve been trying to teach them. It finally clicks. You finally get someone where you want them and then they graduate and they leave and it’s really hard. But that’s how it works; then you just have to turn around and do it again.”
Judkins has already begun recruiting for next year and hopes to finish filling scholarships in the next couple of months.
“I signed two girls early,” Judkins said. “A really good player from Hawaii. She’s 6 feet, 3 inches, great shooter, she can handle the ball, and she’s a very skilled player. And then another girl from Freemont, a 6-foot, 1-inch post. She’s a great rebounder, a track star with good speed, and she’s a smart player. Both of them could come in and really help our team. These could be the next big players.”
Judkins is trying to recruit players who will take the place of Hamson and Beeston, to really fill in the inside presence, but next season already looks promising based on the potential shown by some of the players who will be returning. Sophomore Lexi Eaton and junior Morgan Bailey both followed closely behind Hamson and Beeston and, according to Judkins, next year could be their time to shine.
“Morgan shot the fourth most shots on the team, and next year she’ll probably be one or two,” Judkins said. “At the NCAA tournament she really played well, and I think that’s what she’s going to do for us next season. Lexi had a great year coming back from an ACL and being out of rhythm and worn out it took her a little bit, but the last few months of the season she was a terror.”
Freshman Kristine Fuller, freshman Makenzi Morrison and junior Ashley Garfield had some quality minutes this season that should help them next year. Junior Xojian Harry played a great tournament, and sophomore Kylie Maeda also showed impressive talent toward the end of the season.
“Kylie is really the unsung hero,” Judkins said. “She had an ACL injury, she didn’t play much as a freshman and sat behind Haley (Steed), but she really came in and had a great year for us. If you asked me who hit the biggest shots in the biggest games it was probably her this year.”
Next season the team is going to have a very different make up, and the competition is going to stay tough. A lot of teams in the conference aren’t losing many seniors, so their chemistry will already be strong. Judkins is confident and plans to head to the NCAA tournament again, predicting it will be between BYU and Gonzaga, despite losing Beeston and Hamson.
“I’m looking forward to building on what we did this year,” Judkins said. “Next year I have to replace some really athletic, aggressive and tough kids. Each kid on the team has a role, so I have to find players who can replace that. There are a lot of holes we have to fill every year, and I hope we can do it. We’re just going to keep getting better.”