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Center of Attention

Feb. 3, 2010

by Jon Cooper, Contributing Editor

ATLANTA — Sasha Goodlett is a people person. She just loves running into people.

She also doesn’t seem to mind people running into her.

“I love screening,” said the Bolton, Miss., native. “You get the ball, you need a screen? I’m the person you need to call. It’s just the selflessness of it, knowing that your point guard’s in trouble, and she sees you there and they know, ‘Okay, she’s going to take care of it for me.’

“Brigitte [Ardossi] taught me how to screen because when I first came, she set some mean screens. I remember last year, she got ACC’s Toughest screener. I’m going for that this year.”

Her teammates are eager to help her state her case, frequently running opponents into their 6-5 center.

“That’s my big screener right there,” said junior forward Deja Foster, playfully slapping Goodlett on the arm following Tech’s recent 80-73 overtime win over Miami. “Love her!

“She’s our big-body presence in the post, she means a lot,” Foster continued. “Last year she didn’t know what her role was on this team. Now she knows and she’s come into her own. She does what we need her to do.”

That’s been a little bit of everything. Against Miami that even included diving on the floor for a loose ball.

“My first year I used to get yelled at all the time about not diving on the floor,” she said. “I really wanted that possession. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it. That just made me work harder for the next one.”

Disappointment hasn’t really been in Goodlett’s lexicon this season, especially in ACC play. Only Brigitte Ardossi is averaging more points per game than Goodlett (11.6), only Foster and Ardossi have more rebounds than her 5.4 per game, and Sasha’s 22 offensive boards and .464 field goal percentage rank behind only Foster.

Did we mention she’s a History, Technology and Society Major who has been on the Dean’s List in the Spring and Fall of 2009?

Goodlett is the second-tallest woman ever to play at Georgia Tech — only 6-7 Dolores Bootz (Class of ’88 and a 1994 Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame inductee) is taller — and is standing taller every day.

She showed how big she could play as a freshman, playing in all 32 games, and starting 29 of them. As the games got bigger, so did she. In the victory over Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Goodlett recorded her first career double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds) in the 76-62 victory. In the next game, she did something almost unheard of. Goodlett limited Oklahoma’s legendary center Courtney Paris to eight points and seven rebounds, holding Paris under a double-double for only the eighth time in her storied career. It was a match-up Goodlett admitted she’d dreamed about coming into her freshman season.

“I actually remember it like it was yesterday,” she recalled. “I told myself, ‘When we step on that court it’s zero points, zero rebounds, when she steps on that court it’s zero points, zero rebounds.’ I was determined that she was not going to get that double-double on me that night.

“I felt good at the end of the day and she told me I had done a great job,” she added. “I still wish we had pulled that win out (Oklahoma won 69-50), but that was a great compliment coming from someone like her, who has done nothing but great things. Just to hear that made me want to work harder this season to do it again.”

Coach MaChelle Joseph believes that Goodlett’s willingness to work harder has led to an upward spiral.

“The key thing with Sasha is she’s lost 30 pounds since she’s been here,” said Joseph. “So her conditioning level has obviously improved. The more her conditioning level improved the more minutes she was able to play. The more minutes she was able to play, the more productive she could be.”

The game against Miami, in which Goodlett went off for 14 points and 13 rebounds, she played 40 of the 45 minutes. That gave her 75 minutes played out of a possible 85 over two games (she added 31 more minutes Sunday against Virginia Tech, and probably would have played longer had the game been closer).

“If you had told me two years ago that she was going to be able to play 40 minutes in a game, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Joseph.

Of course, if you had told Goodlett seven years ago that she was going to be able to play any minutes of Division-I college basketball she wouldn’t have believed you.

Until six years ago, Goodlett was headed in a different direction athletically. She was going to be a soccer goalkeeper, like her role model, Olympic gold medalist Briana Scurry, who, coincidentally played her professional ball in Atlanta, with the WUSA’s Atlanta Beat. That changed at age 13, when she chose to sit out a season of soccer and was asked to play basketball.

“I knew absolutely nothing [about basketball],” she said. “I had never seen a basketball game. Six years later here I am.”

Now that she has arrived, playing and excelling on the college level is something she expects, even if it sometimes still catches her off-guard, like after the Miami game, when she was asked to do a post-game radio interview (listen) after recording her first career home double-double.

“Coming off the court, [Assistant Sports Information Dan Goldberger] was telling me, ‘Sasha, Sasha, come talk to the radio.'” she recalled. “I was like, ”What happened? I only had 14 points.’ ‘But you had 13 rebounds,’ he told me. I was like, ‘Wowwwww!’

That’s what a lot of people who are taking notice of Goodlett are saying.

She went and did the interview. Gotta give the people what they want.

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