By Kyle West
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Angel Goodrich has always possessed a special ability to locate the open player in the offense. In her first season on the court, Goodrich became the fastest player in Kansas women's basketball history to reach 100 assists, doing so in only 13 games.
Midway through her junior campaign, she has already climbed to fourth on the all-time KU career assists chart, eclipsing the 400-mark in a mere 58 games. Goodrich continues to set up the shooter with great efficiency this season with more than 7.5 assists per game. Different from years past, however, Goodrich is now finding that sometimes the best player to take the shot already has the ball in her hands.
In her sophomore season, Goodrich ranked sixth in the NCAA with 6.3 assists per game and 11th in the nation with a 2.24 assist-to-turnover ratio while also posting a team-high 47 steals. Fully aware of Goodrich's unique skill set to fill a box score, Kansas head coach Bonnie Henrickson noticed one area where Goodrich could contribute even more on the floor.
"Coach and I talked about it, and we both agreed that I needed to be more of a scorer," said Goodrich, who averaged 7.3 points per game in her first two seasons as a Jayhawk. "If I can get the bigs to come up on me, then it opens up more for the bigs, and I can dish it off. If they don't come up on me, then I can score, too. I worked on my shot over the summer, and I'm trying to work on it during practice. My biggest goal is trying to be more of a scorer."
Goodrich began improving her jump shot in the offseason by making the 20,000-shot club, a team initiative to have every player attempt 20,000 shots on their own before the squad took a 10-day trip to Italy in August. The hard work has shown throughout the season for Goodrich, who shot 50 percent or better from the field in 11 of the team's first 13 games after being a 35-percent shooter in the first two years of her career.
"It's very rewarding to see that work paying off," said Goodrich. "Just seeing something you've been working toward, you finally get it. I've really worked at this hard. Then actually seeing the results happen - it's like ‘wow.'"
Goodrich's increased confidence in her shot became very apparent at a critical moment early in Kansas' Big 12 season. With five seconds remaining in overtime and KU trailing Iowa State, 63-60, Goodrich brought the ball up the floor and drained a long three-pointer to send the January 11 game into a second overtime. Kansas went on to claim a 74-67 victory against the Cyclones as part of its best conference start (4-1) since 1996-97.
"I probably wouldn't have thought anything about taking that shot in previous years," said Goodrich. "This summer I tried to expand my range. I was kind of far out when I took that shot. I really haven't had that much practice with someone in my face, but to knock it down was a great feeling."
Despite a bigger focus on her shooting, Goodrich has recorded career-best numbers in rebounds, assists, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio thus far in the 2011-12 campaign. While increasing her scoring average by more than four points from last season to 11.8 points per game this year, Goodrich leads the nation with 7.8 assists per game. Goodrich also leads the team with 18 charges taken this season, establishing herself as a true do-it-all player.
"She's absolutely special," said Henrickson. "You look across the box score, and she has tallies in everything. Considering how much she has the ball in her hands and how many times she's guarded the best guy on the floor. It's pretty impressive."
Goodrich's ability to do everything has made her invaluable to Kansas during conference play, as evidenced by the fact she has only sat out a total of five minutes through the team's first five league games, averaging 41.0 minutes per contest when factoring in the double-overtime victory.
"We need her on the floor," said Henrickson. "She really dominates and controls both ends of the floor for us. She's our best on-ball defender. She's our best weak-side defender. We need her ability to make great decisions in transition - and that includes for her to take a shot for herself or drop it off for somebody to get a high percentage shot as well. In half-court, (we need her) to execute and set the table as a point guard. She's doing a really good job at that."
While Goodrich is pleased with her increased production across the board, most notably her shooting percentage and points per game, she has not lost sight of the most important goal she has for this season.
"Playing as a team and working together is always the main goal," said Goodrich. "We have goals as a team each game. It's getting those goals that are most important, the team goals to help us win."