Dec. 16, 2011
By Jon Cooper
No one personifies the term “gentle giant” like Sasha Goodlett.
She may stand 6-5, but with her big eyes and soft-spoken nature, the senior center of the Georgia Tech’s women’s basketball team can off as a big teddy bear.
On the other hand, there are consequences for getting the gentle giant angry. Thanks to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the ACC is about to see what those consequences are.
Goodlett, a four-year starter, had a nightmarish outing against Rutgers on Nov. 25th, in Tech’s debut at the San Juan Shootout, shooting 1-for-9, missing her first four shots and her last four shots, and managing only five points against the 13th-ranked team in the country as the Jackets fell, 59-40.
“The Rutgers game for me, personally, was a huge learning experience,” she said. “I felt like I let my team down and honestly every game after that I told myself, ‘I will never do it again. I will never come back in the locker room and feel how I felt after the Rutgers game.’ That’s no way for me to go out and play, especially against a ranked opponent. After that I basically told myself, ‘I’m going to go in and work hard and be what my team needs me to be.'”
Since then Goodlett has been that and more.
Heading into Friday night’s game at Georgia State, she’s averaged 17.2 points, having been held under 15 points just once. Her shooting has gone from 45.0 percent to 59.6.
As important, she’s begun to answer the call and act like a senior leader.
“We challenged Sasha after the Rutgers game to be a presence,” said Head Coach MaChelle Joseph. “Not just on the court but in the locker room, in team meetings, in practice, in everything we were doing. We felt like as a senior captain, as a player that started virtually every game of her career, that she needed to be a presence with our other players. That also entailed her coming into a game and demanding the ball, wanting to be that go-to player when the game is on the line against the best teams in the country.”
She answered that challenge last Sunday in Murfreesboro, Tenn., against Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders took a three-point lead into the half. That was enough to tick Goodlett off. She came out firing, taking four of the team’s first seven shots, hitting two of them. She’d score 13 of her 15 points in the final 20, making her final three shots. Tech would outscore MTSU, 33-19 in the second half, outscoring them 20-10 in the paint — an area they were outscored 16-12 in the first half.
It was being the kind of difference-maker Joseph and the team is looking for, especially with ACC play on the horizon.
“The strength of the ACC, most of the top teams have a great center, a go-to player inside that carries their team,” said Joseph. “For us to have the kind of success that we want to have, the type of success we’ve had in the past, she’s going to have to be a presence, night in and night out in the ACC.”
Guard Mo Bennett, another hero of the MTSU game and one of five seniors on the roster, is one of the more vocal players on the team and has made Goodlett her target on more than one occasion, trying to get the center going. Bennett has found that there’s been less call for that of late.
“I think she’s embraced that role pretty well,” said Bennett. “Now she knows to give it all she’s got. That’s what she brings every day. She may not be as vocal all the time but no matter what, she works hard. She’ll stay after practice and do what she has to do because in the end, we tell her every game that we need her to produce. She’s taken that and it has showed the last few games. She knows she has to play to give us a chance to win and that’s what she’s doing. She’s putting it all out there for us.”
Now that the giant has been angered, there are no plans to pacifying her. If anything she’s going to get even more ornery and even better.
“I feel like I’m coming into my own,” she said. “With each and every game I’m getting more and more confident within my ability and I feel like my teammates also are becoming more and more confident in my ability. Their confidence in me helps me have my confidence in myself and I feel like the past few games, is making our team more of a threat.
“We have some great guards with Metra Walhour at the point and Ty Marshall at the wing, Dawnn Maye, Mo Bennett,” she added. “We have tremendous guards, tremendous scorers. But if you don’t have a presence inside to draw attention, ultimately those guards can’t shine like they’re supposed to.”
Goodlett is about to shine in a way few have in Georgia Tech history. Heading into action Friday night she needed 23 points to become the 25th player in school history to score 1,000 points.
“I’m excited for Sasha because a lot of people, when she was coming out of high school, doubted whether she could play in our system with the pressing and the running and the trapping,” said Joseph. “Sasha has proven that now she can not only guard inside, she can guard on the perimeter, she can run the floor with some of the fastest guards in the ACC. For her to accomplish the 1,000-point mark is just a testament to her hard work and how far she’s come at Georgia Tech.”
“It’s very humbling to reach 1,000 points,” said Goodlett, whose career high is 21. “For me, it’s more of a team achievement in a sense that when I succeed we all succeed.
“Only 25 players have done it,” she added. “Me reaching this landmark will be a reflection of my teammates’ hard work and their pushing me and driving me, how much they really want me to succeed. I feel like it also reflects back to the seniors and their leadership, because without them showing me by example I don’t think I would have been able to reach this.”