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PROVO — Roster turnover was expected when BYU women's basketball coach Amber Whiting succeeded longtime program staple Jeff Judkins in the head chair this spring.
But the biggest player turnover dropped Thursday: top scorer Shaylee Gonzales.
The 5-foot-10 guard who averaged 18.3 points last year has put her name in the transfer portal after the coach who recruited her to BYU, Jeff Judkins, retired following the 2021-22 season and was replaced by former player Amber Whiting, as first reported Thursday afternoon by The Next Hoops.
Gonzales confirmed the report Friday in a post on Instagram, thanking her supporters, friends, coaches and teammates for the past four seasons in Provo.
"Thank you to my coaches, team trainers, the BYU athletic department, the university donors, and the ROC for the amazing four years at BYU. I am so thankful for all the relationships and memories that were made," she wrote. "Thanks to my teammates for always having my back and pushing me to be my best on and off the court. Thank you Cougar Nation, family, and friends for showing me so much love and support. BYU will always have a special place in my heart.
"With that being said, after a lot of prayer, I have decided to enter my name into the transfer portal and I could not be more excited for the upcoming opportunities."
Named second-team All-American by The Athletic and honorable mention by the Associated Press, Gonzales won West Coast Conference Player of the Year for the second consecutive season after leading the Cougars to a program-record 25-2 regular season, including a 15-1 mark in WCC play.
Thank you Cougar Nation, #2 out🖤 pic.twitter.com/Ha5QsGXmIZ— Shaylee Gonzales (@shayleegonzales) June 3, 2022
The Gilbert, Arizona, native averaged 18.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game, highlighting a back court that also include all-league honoree Paisley Harding and first-team all-WCC forward Lauren Gustin, with sharpshooter Tegan Graham a league honorable mention.
The redshirt sophomore with two seasons of eligibility remaining came back stronger than ever after a torn ACL sidelined her for the 2019-20 season, winning WCC co-player of the year honors and finishing second in the conference in scoring at 17.8 points per game.
It was that season — her non-counting COVID-19 sophomore year — that Gonzales tallied her 1,000 career point, a bucket against eventual NCAA runner-up Arizona in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in San Antonio. She also led the team with 2.4 steals and 3.6 assists per game.
A journalism major with a sports media emphasis, Gonzales has also blossomed off the court, leveraging new name, image and likeness regulations (or lack thereof) and her 210,000 TikTok followers and 130,000 YouTube subscribers into a thriving business that includes content marketing, merchandise and sponsorships with various business.
But things changed shortly after the season ended in a surprise first-round loss to Villanova, when Judkins retired after 21 seasons leading the program. Following a national search to find the Cougars' next head coach, athletic director Tom Holmoe and deputy athletic director Brian Santiago announced the hiring of Whiting, a prominent figure in the AAU basketball circuit who most recently led Burley High School — and her daughter, four-star point guard Amari Whiting — to the Idaho 4A state championship.
Whiting is the first female head coach of the BYU women's basketball program since 1997, and the 2001 BYU graduate already had a prior relationship with Gonzales; she was often paired with budding star for various mentorship opportunities connecting current players with various alumni.
Immediately after connecting with the team via Zoom video conference, Whiting even had Gonzales add her to a team-wide group chat so she could call, text and FaceTime each player individually and get to know them.
"These girls are my priority now," Whiting said. "I've got the ball rolling; (filling out her assistant coaching) staff is a priority, but getting my girls to stay — recruiting them back here — is my No. 1 priority right now."
Players are not bound to leave by entering the transfer portal, but schools are also not bound to maintain that player's scholarship when they submit the proper paperwork with the university's compliance office to leave.
It's also important to note that Gonzales' entry into the portal comes after the May 1 transfer deadline to be automatically eligible to play next season under the NCAA's one-time transfer policy. Pending a waiver from Indianapolis, the BYU guard would have to sit out a year-in-residence at her new school.
Gonzales was the leading scorer previously returning to BYU for the 2022-23 season — the Cougars' last in the WCC before joining the Big 12 — and the only double-digit scoring guard on the roster (Gustin averaged 10.7 points and 11.6 rebounds last year).
If she departs, BYU — which already lost Harding and starting point guard Maria Albiero to graduation — would be thin on the guard line. The leading candidates would be former East High star Nani Falatea, the 5-foot-9 two-time state champion who averaged 3.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 10.9 minutes per game a year ago, and rising junior Kaylee Smiler, who shot 40% from the field for 2.5 points per game last season.
The Cougars also signed Sophia Lee from Stockton, California, for the 2022-23 season. The 5-foot-7 shooting guard joins incoming recruits Shayla Gillmer from Aliso Viejo, California, and Alyssa Blanck from Olympus High after averaging 4.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a senior at Saint Mary's and starring on NBA Hall of Famer Jason Kidd's AAU team, Jason Kidd Select.