Shaylee Gonzales shoots against Gonzaga in the 2019-2020 season. (BYU Photo)

Alley-oops for women’s hoops: BYU basketball is back

Last week was Midnight Madness. This week is 7 p.m. gladness, as BYU women’s basketball kicks off the season Thursday night with its Blue and White scrimmage at the Marriott Center. 

Women’s basketball is just one of BYU’s many teams that were propelled into the world of name, image and likeness deals and Big 12 hype over the last couple of months. Though BYU won’t be joining the Big 12 until 2023, the women’s basketball team is set to have a slam dunk of a season.

Every year, without being able to vote for their own teams, the 10 head coaches in the West Coast Conference vote for their pick to win the upcoming season. This year, BYU won eight of the 10 first-place votes in the preseason poll, with Gonzaga receiving two. The poll comes after BYU’s killer season last year, despite the ramifications of COVID-19. 

In an interview with BYU Sports Nation, BYU guard and 2020 WCC co-player of the year Shaylee Gonzales gave an insight into the team’s preparations and how COVID may have a positive effect on the 2021 season.

“Because of COVID, everyone got an extra year of eligibility. Most everyone took that opportunity to come back and play again. That right there is a great opportunity for us to get better individually and as a team and to come back even stronger,” Gonzales said. “We’re excited to have everyone back. We’re going to be really tough.”

BYU proved its toughness last year, making its way to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Even though the Cougars took a close six-point loss to the University of Arizona, the game proved that BYU was still a force to be reckoned with, as Arizona moved on to the finals and took second place to Stanford. Gonzales said that it proved they could play with really good teams. 

As the regular season approaches, the Cougars are ready to face “really good” opponents with new skill sets and game-enhancing experience.

“We have been practicing for what’s felt like forever. We started practicing in June. It’s been a grind. We’re super excited to get into the season and play games,” Gonzales said. “We’re just stacked. Everyone brings something different to the table. Everyone contributes differently. If we come out the gate and we win our whole preseason (schedule) that’ll put us even more on top and bring a lot of eyes to the table.”

Some new legs on the court may also contribute to the Cougars’ success this season. With nine freshmen on the roster, two players in particular are grabbing Cougar Nation’s attention: Heather Hamson and Amanda Barcello. Hamson and Barcello are the sisters of Sara Hamson and Alex Barcello, prominent players on BYU’s women’s and men’s basketball teams. 

“It’s so awesome being able to see those sibling dynamics,” Gonzales said. “It’s awesome to see Sara and Heather in there together playing.”

Will some familial basketball power assist the Cougars in getting to the NCAA tournament again this year?

With the Cougars’ confidence and skills preparing them for success, the preseason poll looks to be an accurate projection of the season. The team has a challenging schedule ahead of them and is not set to play basketball rival Gonzaga until February. 

“Everyone’s going to want to go after us, being number one in your conference. All eyes are on you. Everyone’s going to go after you,” Gonzales said. 

The Blue and White scrimmage is tonight, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m MDT at the Marriott Center. Admission is free.

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