NCAA Tournament

KU’s Goodrich having a breakthrough in first NCAA Tournament

Early in Bonnie Henrickson’s tenure at Kansas, she searched for a difference maker. She needed a program changer, someone to help her restore the KU women’s basketball team to prominence.

Henrickson found what she was looking for in the form of a 5-foot-1 eighth-grader playing AAU ball in the small town of Tahlequah, Okla. Henrickson saw something special in this whirling, spinning, darting ball handler and wouldn’t take her eyes off Angel Goodrich until she came to Kansas.

Goodrich, a fourth-year junior, has grown to all of 5-4, and her indefatigable spirit and scrappy play have carried Kansas to its first NCAA Tournament since 2000 and its first Sweet 16 since 1998.

And with an upset of second-seeded Tennessee on Saturday morning, 11th-seeded Kansas would make its first appearance in the Elite Eight ever.

“She came to Kansas to elevate a program, and it’s been fun for me to watch her be able to do that,” Henrickson said of Goodrich. “I told her it was an opportunity to be program-shaper and have a chance to play in the Big 12 Conference, the best league in the country, which is enticing to a lot of players, and gave her the reigns to run the program at the point-guard position.”

That faith in Goodrich made her the most important recruit, perhaps even more so than Olathe East’s Danielle McCray (2006-10) in Henrickson’s eight seasons at Kansas.

While McCray was an eventual first-round pick in the WNBA draft, she never played in an NCAA Tournament game. Goodrich has taken over this tournament. She scored 20 points with five assists and two steals in 39 minutes in the Jayhawks’ first-round win over No. 6 seed Nebraska and 27 points with six assists and two steals in 40 minutes in the second-round upset of No. 3 seed Delaware.

“It’s who she’s always wanted to be, and it’s who I’ve always thought she could be,” Henrickson said of Goodrich’s first two NCAA games. “It’s nice that a lot of people got to watch her play in those games.”

To reach this stage, Goodrich has had to overcome some devastating injuries.

In her second practice as a freshman in 2008, Goodrich suffered a torn anterior cruciate in her left knee, causing her to redshirt that season. After playing 15 games in the 2009-10 season as Kansas’ starting point guard, Goodrich suffered a torn ACL in her right knee in the second conference game.

Another lost season.

But Goodrich was healthy enough to start all 27 games in which she played in 2010-11 season and flashed just enough promise by averaging 7.5 points and 6.3 assists. She finished the season with a flourish — 10 points, nine assists in a WNIT win over Wichita State and nine points, nine assists and eight rebounds in a second-round WNIT loss to Duquesne — that foreshadowed what was ahead.

After working on her outside shot during the offseason, Goodrich has been the complete point guard, especially after leading scorer Carolyn Davis was lost for the season — also because of a knee injury — in February.

Goodrich has averaged 13.7 points per game this season, but 16.8 in the nine games games since Davis went out of the lineup. Goodrich has averaged 23.5 points through two NCAA Tournament games, which ranks fifth among all players in the tournament. And she leads the nation with 7.4 assists per game, having shattered the school record for assists in a season with 244, breaking the mark of 207 set by Lisa Braddy in 1988.

“I’m one of the captains and leaders on the team, and for me, it’s just going out there and keeping my team together, being strong, and doing what I’ve got to do to help my team,” Goodrich said. “That’s to be aggressive, dish the ball to the open player and do what I’m asked to do.”

Goodrich’s two most impressive stats are these: She leads the team in floor burns with 81; and in taking offensive charges with 29, which is more than the rest of the team combined.

“I want to do whatever I can do to help us win,” Goodrich said. “And if it’s me getting on the floor, or taking a charge, I’m going to do that, because I want to sacrifice my body for these guys. I feel like they would do the same for me.”

Goodrich developed her competitive spirit playing basketball in the gym at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz., where her parents, Jonathan and Fayth Lewis, were stationed and took Angel, her brother Zack and little sister, Nikki, to shoot hoops.

“We were always in the gym,” Angel said. “Me and my brother would play basketball in the house, outside, we played everywhere.”

After Goodrich’s family moved back to Oklahoma, she led Sequoyah High School to three consecutive Oklahoma 3A state championships and one runner-up finish, and received the first Division I athletic scholarship in the history of her high school.

“I looked at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and the different schools around me,” she said, “but when I went on a visit to Kansas, it was like a family atmosphere. I wanted to go somewhere where I felt I could fit in, and it just felt like home to me.”

Senior forward Aishah Sutherland was in Goodrich’s recruiting class and has watched her blossom.

“The assists she gets, her playing more aggressively ” Sutherland said. “Everything she does on the court impresses me.”