By Andrew Wiebe
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Most summers Krysten Boogaard heads home to join up with the Canadian women's junior national team. But halfway through her career at Kansas, she decided enough was enough.
After two years spent being bullied by older, stronger and more experienced post players in the rugged Big 12 Conference, the junior center decided she wanted to push back
During the heat of last summer, the Kansas women's team spent five days a week sweating it out in the weight room and the gym to prepare for the season ahead. Boogaard spent six.
With the help of strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy, Boogaard spent an extra day each weekend to build the strength and stamina that has her poised to help the Jayhawks challenge for their first NCAA Tournament berth since the 1999-2000 season.
"For the past two years I have been kind of frustrated with being pushed around in the paint so I knew this was something I really needed to do," Boogaard said. "If I was ever frustrated about all the work I put in this summer, I would just think about how it would be during the season."
Boogaard is already seeing the benefits from the long hours in the weight room. She has added balance, power and explosiveness to her 6-foot-5 frame. Kansas is in the top 25 and has won seven of its first nine games. Boogaard is averaging 14.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. She's shooting 64 percent from the field and has attempted twice as many free throws as any of her teammates.
"She committed to putting on weight, good weight," KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "I think it's evident that she is playing more physical. She is able to take contact and finish better now than at any other point in her career."
There are more subtle benefits as well for Boogaard. She said her body just feels better in general, and she is able to sit lower on defense. She can also keep up with the rest of the team in transition, even leading the pack at times, allowing freshman point guard Angel Goodrich to find her for easy baskets.
Kansas fans were forced to wait an extra season to see the partnership blossom after Goodrich missed her first year on campus following a knee injury. But Henrickson knew it was only a matter of time before the two developed chemistry in transition and the half-court offense.
"I felt like Krysten would be able to run and create opportunities for herself," Henrickson said. "And I just knew Angel would get it over the top to her. If you look at her field goal percentage, she has very rarely had to make a move."
With Goodrich running the offense, Boogaard's production has risen despite an early issue with foul trouble. Those issues have kept her from staying on the floor consistently; she is averaging just 21 minutes per game and played only ten minutes in a loss to No. 8 Xavier.
"Angel is definitely one of the best point guards that I have ever played with," Boogaard said. "She sees the floor really well and makes those passes that you don't really think are going to get through. You just have to be ready, have your hands up and know she is going to try that pass."
More than ever before, Boogaard is prepared to catch that pass and finish with confidence. A summer of hard work in the weight room made certain of that. Now comes the fun part, chasing the lofty goals that brought her to Kansas all the way from Regina, Saskatchewan.
"This is what I would hope for," Boogaard said, "to be able to have a great team like this and hopefully help Kansas win a Big 12 Championship and get to the NCAA Tournament. That's what I want to help Kansas do. I think all of us here really want to do that."