‘It’s a no brainer’ — Shaylee Gonzales makes her case as an All-American
What can’t Shaylee Gonzales do?
Against Saint Mary’s on Feb. 12, BYU’s star point guard was near invincible. Gonzales posted a career-high 35 points with 13 assists and six rebounds while also swiping seven steals — a ridiculous showing that’s just the tip of the iceberg for a stellar campaign.
Then again, stellar campaigns have become the norm for Gonzales.
Gonzales has racked up plenty of hardware throughout her career: WCC Newcomer of the Year, two all-conference first team and all-tournament team selections and WCC Player of the Year.
As decorated as her career has become, there’s one accomplishment that has eluded Gonzales thus far: All-American status. That could change in the next few weeks.
Not only could it change, but it very well should.
“It would be atrocious if she wasn’t an All-American,” BYU guard Tegan Graham said of Gonzales. “The bar needs to be much higher than WCC Player of the Year at this point because she’s just dominating.”
On a stacked 21–2 BYU squad ranked No. 20 in the nation, Gonzales’ star has shined the brightest, averaging career-highs in points, assists, steals and field goal percentage in her third season. Shooting at a 52.1% clip, her 18.8 points per game are good for second in the conference and lead all Cougar scorers.
“I think she’s one of the best players that I’ve coached over my career,” head coach Jeff Judkins said. Such praise from a basketball lifer such as Judkins — now in his 21st season at the helm of the women’s squad at BYU as the winningest coach in school history — should not be discounted.
National pundits have been quick to take note of Gonzales, who has earned a Becky Hammon Award watchlist nomination as well as being named to the Naismith Trophy midseason team this past week to honor the country’s best mid-major and overall women’s players.
“I’ve never played with anyone who had a higher motor, that could stay at that level for a whole game,” Graham said. “She’s everywhere and she does everything. She does it with such a humble attitude, and she’s just so much fun to watch.”
Judkins compared Gonzales to Andre Miller, who Judkins coached as an assistant at Utah before a productive 17-year NBA career where he finished 11th on the all-time assist leaderboard.
“What she does and how she performs and how she does it is amazing,” Judkins said. “I watch a lot of games on TV, and there’s nobody that’s any better than her.”
Gonzales has only gotten better over the course of the season, averaging 19.8 points and 6.3 assists on 56.2% shooting over the past eight games as the Cougars continue their steamrolling of opponent after opponent. Starting the year colder than usual from behind the arc, Gonzales has responded to shoot a solid 32.5% from three in WCC play to rank in the conference’s top 20.
“She scores in so many different ways,” Judkins said. “I’ve never seen a kid make as many floaters as she does. She’s really good without the ball, and she doesn’t always need her jumper to score.”
One of the nation’s better rebounding guards with more than five boards each night, Gonzales has also proven to be a defensive force with 3.1 steals per game over the past month.
“She has a great motor and just doesn’t stop,” guard Maria Albiero said. “It’s not just scoring or assists, she rebounds and she’s everywhere on defense. She doesn’t have to talk much or be too loud, every day she just comes in and competes.”
Simply put, she can do it all.
When watching Gonzales play, she has plenty of razzle-dazzle to pass the eye test. When seeing the video game numbers she puts on the scoreboard, an All-American case is undeniable.
In addition to Gonzales, the Cougars have several other deserving award candidates, with Graham a likely All-WCC selection and Sara Hamson in the mix for her third career conference Defensive Player of the Year award.
Forward Lauren Gustin was named an AP All-American Honorable Mention a season ago, and she presents her own compelling case for a repeat selection with near-identical numbers this year as an elite rebounder and paint presence.
Paisley Harding — Gonzales’ terrific backcourt counterpart — is averaging 18 points a game within the conference and is almost certain to earn her third All-WCC First Team selection, but Judkins believes his guard tandem is worthy of WCC Co-Player of the Year honors.
“I think those two are the two best players in our league, and I’ve had other coaches tell me that,” Judkins said of Gonzales and Harding. “I would never trade them away.”