LAWRENCE, Kan. -- When Angel Goodrich was a star at Sequoyah High School, the biggest question was how her generously listed 5-4 would translate to the big stage at Kansas.
As it turned out, however, height was far from Goodrich's biggest obstacle for the Jayhawks -- much more challenging was overcoming not one but two ACL tears.
Today, though, Goodrich plays without knee braces, and she's pushed herself into the WNBA draft conversation, with some even mentioning she has first-round potential. The reason? Her style is very classical, as she tries to involve teammates first but can look to score herself if necessary. Her decision-making is solid with a high basketball IQ, and she still possesses above average athleticism in spite of the serious injuries.
“Angel has been a program changer, "says Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson. "There is not a more important position in a basketball team than a point guard and she impacts the game at the offensive end with her ability to create scoring opportunities for her teammates -- and a lot of those are uncontested shots. Her bility to shoot the ball from the perimeter is a lot better than when she came in here. and she often gets to guard our opponent's best offensive player, so she is able to impact the game on both ends of the floor. And when fans get to meet her, they see what a quality person she is."
So what happened when Goodrich missed those two seasons? "Her loss completely changed how we played," said Henrickson. "We were not as effective in transition; we could not attack in transition. The point guard who replaced her ran a good halfcourt offense and didn’t turn the ball over but we are a team that wants to get up and down and score easy baskets, which is typically what you get in transition. We nearly eliminated all of that when she went down.”
This season Angel is averaging 13.4 points and an impressive 6.4 assists per game and is doing well enough to be listed on the Wade Trophy watch list among the best players in the nation.
Full Court had a chance to sit down with the diminutive point guard and learn something about her background, future hopes and most importantly the trials and tribulations about coping with the serious injuries that struck her in two of her five years in Lawrence.
Full Court: How did you get involved with basketball?
Angel Goodrich: My mother and father were stationed on an Air Force base where they met and they were part of a basketball league in Arizona. That’s where I got my initial involvement as I was always in a gym. My mom and dad played.
FC: Where did you grow up?
AG: I was born in Arizona. I was there until I was eight or nine. Then we moved back home to where my mom was from which was Oklahoma. I was pretty much there until I got here [Kansas]. I’m African American (father) and Native American (mother). I am Cherokee.
FC: Kids have a way of being cruel to each other. Did you experience any prejudice growing up?
AG: Not really. I always got picked on about my height. In high school, I went to an all-Native American school. Me, my brother and two other boys were half Native and half African American, and you could tell we were obviously different [in appearance] but we never felt unaccepted. We were like a big family, pretty much.
FC: I have heard the Indian reservations have basketball tournaments of their own in some parts of the country. Can you tell us about your involvement with them?
AG: I actually played in a lot of all-Indian tournaments growing up. There is one called NABI in Arizona. There, teams came from everywhere as it was the biggest tournament of the summer. I played for my mom, who coached us.
FC: Where did you go to high school?
AG: I went to Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, Okla. That was a school that I knew I was going to because all my cousins went there and graduated from there. It was kind of like family following family. I could have gone to Stilwell High School because that was the town we lived in.
FC: Did you always play point guard?
AG: Yes, occasionally other positions but mostly point guard.
FC: How soon were you on the varsity?
AG: I started as a freshman in high school.
FC: Was your high school team very successful?
AG: We won state three out of four [years]. We got beat my senior year. We were 3A out of six classes (6A is the biggest), kind of in the middle in size.
FC: Did you play club ball during the high school offseason?
AG: I played AAU with Tulsa Swoosh coached by Bert and Dwight Holdman. We went to Nationals a lot and did really well but not top three.
FC: Before settling on Kansas, what were your other finalists for college?
AG: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State because they were close to home (two to three hours away).
FC: What made you decide on Kansas?
AG: Just the atmosphere. I wanted to know how I would connect with the team and would it feel like home. Would I miss home? I connected right away with the team and the coaches. It was family-oriented and the atmosphere just felt homey to me.
FC: What was your first major injury at KU?
AG: A torn left ACL the second day of practice [my freshman year]. When it happened, I was hurt mentally and physically. Emotionally I was confused. I was upset because it was my first year and I was still sad being away from home. Have injury, can’t play ball, still homesick!
FC: What was the hardest thing about rehab, which took about nine months (about six months before she could step on the court)?
AG: Staying mentally strong because I couldn’t play. Watching the game every day and doing rehab on the side, it was tough. You are off to the side, trying to get better and stronger with your knee and everyone else is in practice doing their thing. Off the court, it was OK, they were around and talking to me and we were like always together.
FC: What hit next?
AG: Second conference game in sophomore year I was making a play and just crumbled. The right ACL was blown along with a meniscus tear. It was more serious.
FC: Is the second one worse than the first to recover from?
AG: I felt like it took longer. It was a little tougher because the first one my range of motion came back quickly. The second one it did not. It was a lot tougher than the first one. It took longer to come back from the second one.
FC: How about mentally?
AG: I knew I could get there because the first one I tore. The first one was kind of hard because I didn’t know what to expect -- with the second one, I knew what to expect and knew what I had to do to get back. When it got hard for me was when I didn’t get my range of motion back that fast. That’s when I started getting a little frustrated and kind of down. Once the range of motion came in, I was good to go. The mental part was not that bad as the first one. The second one was more physically tough.
FC: During the down time, was there anything positive to these injuries and anything you were able to work on in your game?
AG: For me being a freshman the first time, I could see the game and watch it before I could get on the court, [the game] being different than in high school. I was learning different things before I could get out there and be ready for the next year. That was a positive for the first one. I could tell when I got back for my redshirt freshman year that I knew more because there is a lot of terminology and info that you learn. There were less hidden positives for the second one, though I worked on a lot of form shooting both times and foul shooting.
FC: What advice would you like to give any player suffering a knee injury?
AG: Just stay positive. It is easy to get down because you have so much time to yourself and work by yourself on your rehab. You can start to think about a lot of things but stay positive and believe you can do it. Keep pushing!
FC: Looking at your own game, what one or two things do you bring to the table for your team?
AG: I like to physically push my team and I like to lead by example. If my teammates see me doing [it], they always follow.
FC: Do you think you are a more vocal leader now than a few years ago?
AG: Yes, a lot. It’s crazy how much I have changed.
FC: For a lead guard, what do you consider the most important tasks in the position?
AG: Leadership vocally, example-wise; staying in your teammates' ears. It doesn’t have to be rah, rah, rah. Just stepping up when you need to step up offensively yourself.
FC: Where do you think you still need to improve?
AG: I need to improve on my vocal. I try to talk to my teammates in a way they will respond well I need to improve more on that aspect of communication. I would love to improve my jump shot.
FC: Do you want to play in the WNBA?
AG: Oh yes, that has always been a dream. When I was younger I didn’t know there was college [ball]. I thought you went from high school to the pros.
FC: Why should a WNBA general manager draft Angel Goodrich rather than another point guard?
AG: Competitiveness maybe -- I love to compete. I like to say big things come in small packages.
FC: Do you want to play in Europe?
AG: Yes, I have always thought about the overseas thing. I would like to experience it.
FC: What are your goals for this season?
AG: Finishing off strong. This is my last year and I want to go out with a bang.
FC: Any advice you would like to give young players as to getting better?
AG: Don't give up. A lot of kids, if they don’t get it right away, they stop. Never give up and always believe in your dreams.
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