Fearless: Angel Goodrich reflects on her highs and lows at Kansas

By Ryan McCarthy

Angel Goodrich knows what’s coming.

Even though the opposing guard charges forward toward the hoop, she saw the impending drive a few steps back while everybody else scrambled around the court.

Instead of panicking, she found the spot to set up for the charge.

Goodrich slides her feet parallel to the player, bracing for the impending impact. The player’s elbow jabs into Goodrich’s chest.

As Goodrich falls, her chin tucks tightly underneath her head as the rest of her body falls back onto the court.

Goodrich lands on the ground fully sprawled out on the wooden floor. She turns her head to see what direction the referee pointed.

The official motions in the other direction with his opposite hand behind his head signaling an offensive foul, just like many times before.

The Kansas bench jumps up and down in excitement.

Goodrich simply grins.

Master of the Charge

Taking a charge is nothing new for Goodrich. The junior guard from Tahlequah, Okla., has been doing it her entire basketball career.

It has become her signature move. The ultimate sacrifice for the team, one that won’t be found on the stat sheet next to points and assists.

In her early playing days, flopping, when a defensive player makes intentional contact with an offensive player to get a call for her team, was something Goodrich could get away with.

But at the college level, star players don’t always get the same treatment as they do in secondary school. So, when she became a Jayhawk, some changes to her signature play were needed.

“I’ve been taking charges since high school, but high school, I’d be able to flop and everybody knew me for flopping,” Goodrich said. “Then I got the point where I couldn’t flop anymore. Now I have to let them hit me.”

At times for Goodrich, charges seem as brutal as a head-on car collision. Sometimes she lies on the ground staring up at the top of the arena.

Other times, she stabilizes herself on her hands and knees trying to regain her breath after being bowled over by a behemoth of a post player.

“That’s like a big momentum change when that happens,” Goodrich said. “It just really gets people hyped and I want to be able to get my teammates hyped.”

The Finalist

Goodrich was recently named a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award, an honor given out to the nation’s top female point guard. She’s also second in the NCAA with 212 assists.

Goodrich is a finalist for many reasons, but most of all because of her will on the court.

She has proven herself as the unequivocal leader for the Jayhawks as they continue to work toward the team’s first NCAA appearance since 2000.

What makes Goodrich a respected floor general is her willingness to take the time to teach her teammates. A quality not every athlete shares.

“She’s a very caring person. She’s very quiet, but not never to where she doesn’t care about what’s going on,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said.

“The most important thing is to give someone your time, and I think she’s willing to do that.”

A (friendly) sibling rivalry

Goodrich grew up in Stilwell, Okla., a tiny town near the Arkansas border.

The middle child of Fayth and Jonathan Lewis, Angel showed her competitive nature at an early age.

The children were raised at Fayth’s father’s house, playing on a gravel and dirt court. No asphalt to be found. The backboard and rim were pinned on a nearby tree.

When bad weather arose, Goodrich and her older brother Zach played basketball in the hallway of their home.

The hallway wasn’t much wider than four or five feet. Zach and Angel imagined they were Reggie Miller or Michael Jordan, and the games would get fairly heated.

“They’d be real competitive. Some games we wouldn’t finish because we’d start fighting, but it was out of love and being real competitive,” Zach said.

The Tahlequah Treasure

Sequoyah High School girls basketball coach Bill Nobles knew right from the moment Goodrich stepped into his gym that he had a special player.

In her first three years, Goodrich helped lead the Indians to three consecutive Oklahoma 3A state titles.

By the time her senior season came around, Goodrich and her team drew crowds of thousands into their home gym. In fact, people were turned away routinely if they did not arrive early.

“That whole group, including Angel, was a pretty inspiring group to a lot of kids around here and a lot people,” Nobles said.

That year, Goodrich averaged 14.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 5.9 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

The apex of the season came on March 8, 2008, when top-ranked Sequoyah faced off against second-ranked Millwood in front of 11,000 people at the Oklahoma State Fair Arena.

The Indians came up just short of a historic run and lost 63-60.

Despite the loss, the accolades rolled in for Goodrich. She grabbed a Top 50 recruiting spot on several websites, First Team All-State selection and a Fourth Team All-America by Parade Magazine.

Goodrich played in one more big game before becoming a Jayhawk. She competed in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American game in Tampa Bay, Fla.

Goodrich scored seven points in the showcase, but what stood out about her performance was something unheard of in a glorified scrimmage.

She took a charge.

The knee injuries

Goodrich arrived in Lawrence in fall 2008 with the intention of beginning the turnaround of Kansas women’s basketball. She saw it as challenge to turn the Jayhawks into a consistent postseason contender.

Then, in her second practice, Goodrich suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. She spent the rest of the year rehabbing and returned to Kansas’ lineup the following season.

After playing 15 games in the 2009-10 season as the Jayhawks’ starting point guard, she tore her ACL in her right knee during a game on Jan. 12, 2010.

Going through the mental and physical toll of a knee injury can be brutal for an athlete. There were murmurs that she may never play again.

Even though it wasn’t an easy road, Goodrich pushed forward.

“The one thing I feel like I learned the most was just learning to lean on others that are willing to be there for you,” Goodrich said. “When I go through something I always get into myself and I want to fix it. I want to be in control of what’s going on.”

After the knee injuries, she battled a short period of seclusion, but eventually opened up.

“At the beginning of it I did isolate myself a little bit, and it just didn’t feel right,” Goodrich said. “I wasn’t myself, and when I opened up all the support I had from my family to my teammates, and my coaches, it made it a lot easier and stronger as well.”

AUDIO: Goodrich on her knee injuries and getting rid of her braces

Goodrich relied on her faith in God to help her through the trying times.

“I wouldn’t be here without him. Like I said with my knees, people thought I’d give up, but I feel he was always there for me, and he is always there,” Goodrich said.

Before every game, Goodrich takes a moment to thank God. While the national anthem plays, Goodrich closes her eyes, lowers her head and says a prayer.

The development of an All-American candidate

In her sophomore season Goodrich put together impressive numbers. She started all 27 games, averaged 7.5 points per game and ranked sixth in the NCAA with 6.3 assists per contest.

However, one part of Goodrich’s game was missing: the ability to knock down the outside shot.

This summer she spent hours in the gym developing her three-point stroke. Now she ranks as the sixth best three-point shooter in the Big 12 this season, making more than 36 percent of her attempts.

“I wasn’t a scoring threat at all last year,” Goodrich said. “It made me feel disrespected. So I need to do something to make this different.”

Out of all her attributes, Goodrich takes the most pride in her defense. At 5-foot-4, she’s usually matched with a taller opponent, but that’s never bothered her.

“Defense is one aspect of the game I’ve been trying to grow. That is one where, I don’t want to get scored on,” Goodrich said.

Goodrich has also improved her vocal leadership. A natural introvert, she continues to learn to express herself more on the court.

And not to be forgotten is Goodrich’s ability to find the open player. Currently she is second in the NCAA with 7.6 assists per game.

“It’s not like something I practice,” Goodrich said of her passing ability. “It just who you’re playing with and if you’re ready to catch it or not. It’s just knowing your personnel on the team.”

Freshman guard Natalie Knight shares some of the duties at the point and has learned a lot from Goodrich this year.

“Just in every little thing we do, we look up to her and make sure we’re doing right,” Knight said. “If we have any questions, Angel’s always the first person we go to. She’s a good role model.”

American Indian Role Model

From the beginning of her high school career Angel recognized that she would be a role model on and off the court for the All-Indian community of Sequoyah High School.

Goodrich received the first Division I athletic scholarship in the history of the school.

“When we were recruiting her we knew how much of a role model she was, and how many young people looked up to her,” Henrickson said.

Goodrich still talks to dozens of Native Americans after games at Allen Fieldhouse, who tell her how much of an inspiration she is to them.

Understanding that responsibility continues to be a major aspect of Goodrich’s persona. She wants to use the platform to make an impact on the next generation of Indians.

“It was such a big deal to them because I’m representing the tribes,” Goodrich said. “Little kids are always coming up to me and saying how they’re inspired. It just makes me feel honored.”

Nothing less than a B

Coach Bonnie Henrickson stopped Goodrich after practice last week to see if she had time to talk about some plays they’d seen at practice.

The team had been traveling a lot and Henrickson wanted to make sure Goodrich wasn’t behind in her academics and that she wasn’t holding Angel back from her classroom responsibilities.

Goodrich said she had a paper, but had only one page left.

Since coming to Kansas, Goodrich continues to succeed in the classroom. Her accomplishments include Academic All-Big 12 Second Team twice and Athletic Director’s Honor roll.

Growing up in the Goodrich house, there was only one way to earn play time: keeping up with your studies.

Since elementary school, Goodrich’s parents made sure she applied herself on the academic side no matter what the circumstances.

“I said, ‘OK, you’re not going to play if you make anything under a B,’” Fayth Goodrich said. “After that they made sure their grades were up because they love the game and they didn’t want to sit out for anything.”

That work ethic stuck with Goodrich to this day.

“I’ve always had that in my head. I don’t want to get a C,” Angel said. “C is average and I want to be above average. It was stamped and printed and installed into me and my brother, but I’m glad she did that.”

What’s next?

Angel Goodrich does not care about records or stats.

“It isn’t about records for her,” Henrickson said. “She doesn’t get caught up in numbers. The only numbers she gets caught up with is when she turns the ball over.

“She didn’t come here to do that. She wanted to be a difference-maker and take this team to the next level and that’s what she works on everyday to try to do.”

Goodrich’s main concern is making sure the Jayhawks secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The records are great, but she wants an impact that goes beyond the numbers.

“I want to still change this program around, just set the bar for the next people coming in,” Goodrich said.

Goodrich hopes to pursue a career in basketball whether it’s state side or across the pond after she graduates next season.

Henrickson said the sky is the limit for Goodrich, but she still has to grow her offensive game and prepare to be the floor general with people who might be 10 years older than herself.

Until then, Goodrich wants to enjoy the game and keep wowing people with her moves on the court and her kind spirit off of it.

Her brother Zach summed it up best.

“She plays to put a smile on your face.”