Senior leadership crucial in upcoming BYU Women’s Basketball season

BYU Women’s Basketball will kick off its season during Thanksgiving weekend against the LSU Tigers on Friday, Nov. 27 at the South Point Shootout in Las Vegas at 7:30pm MT.

A team with lots of talent and experience will look to build off of a 2019-2020 campaign that saw them go 18-11 and 13-5 in West Coast Conference play.

The Cougars lost four seniors last season: Brenna Chase Drollinger, Jasmine Moody, Shalae Salmon, and Khaedin Taito, who made up 37% of BYU’s points. Drollinger also accounted for 34% of their 189 made three-pointers.

They return three juniors, however, with guards Maria Albiero and Paisley Johnson Harding, and center Sarah Hamson. The trio started every game they played in last year.

Maria Albiero sets up a play during a 65-54 win over Pacific in the Marriott Center on Feb. 15, 2020. Albiero is one of three returning juniors who now make up a crucial group of senior leaders. (BYU Photo)

Albiero averaged 5.8 points, 3.1 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game last season as one of the starting guards.

Head coach Jeff Judkins talked about the experience Albiero gained last season. “I’ve noticed just in the workouts lately, Maria has gotten so much better with her minutes that she got to play last year,” he said.


Harding and Hamson were both named to the Preseason All-WCC Team. Harding averaged 15.5 points, 3.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game last season and made the All-WCC First Team.

With transfers and a different roster, Harding may see a position change to shooting guard this season.

“Paisley is finally going to play the position that I recruited her at,” Judkins said. “I wanted her to play some two, and she’s probably going to play that this year.”

Hamson is the reigning WCC Defensive Player of the Year, averaging 7.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game last season. “Sara has really worked hard this offseason, trying to get stronger and trying to get mentally ready to go and I hope that it pays off,” Judkins said.

Shaylee Gonzales dribbles near mid-court during the 2018-2019 WCC Championship game against Gonzaga at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Gonzales missed last season with an ACL injury, but led the Cougars to a WCC Championship in her freshman season. (BYU Photo).

Sophomore guard Shaylee Gonzales was also named to the Preseason All-WCC Team, making BYU the only school in the league with three players on the list. Gonzales sat out last season as she recovered from an ACL injury but was named 2018 WCC Newcomer of the Year her freshman season. She averaged 17 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game in her first year as a Cougar.

“She just does everything that she’s supposed to, you know, she’s a dream player,” Judkins said. “You’re very lucky to have a player like that as a coach in your career. She’s a hard worker, she’s talented and she’s motivated. She really wants to prove to a lot of people how good she is, and she wants to win.”

BYU will have freshman forward Tahlia White, who recently returned from serving an LDS Mission in Spokane, Washington, as well as two transfers joining the team this season.

Tegan Graham, a graduate transfer from Colgate University, is a 6-foot guard who averaged 7.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and two assists in four years for the Raiders.

Kayla Belles-Lee is a 6-foot-3 junior forward transferring from Michigan State University. In two seasons as a Spartan, Belles-Lee averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. She recently married Kolby Lee, a center on the men’s basketball team.

Following the season opener against LSU, the Cougars will play UT Martin on Saturday, Nov. 28 in Las Vegas, also at 7:30 p.m. MT, as part of the South Point Shootout.

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