BYU women's basketball: Jeff Judkins, a star with the Utes, has made his mark at BYU with recruiting
When Jeff Judkins has his team mentally locked in at practice, it's like a dance with chess pieces on a checkered board. Players move to squares on cue, Judkins surveys the floor like Bobby Fischer or a rabbit-seeking hawk.
You wonder if your cellphone rang, would anybody even turn a head?
This is the life Judkins has chosen, wearing sweats, a whistle dangling around his neck, his eyes soaking in every movement on the basketball court, all the angles, the spacing and point of attack. That he does this with BYU's women team is a story in itself, but for the moment, numbers checkmate the appointment. Judkins' record at BYU is 221 wins and counting. It is the most in school history; he just surpassed Courtney Leishman (219) last week.
Juddy. He's a single-name entity in Utah.
You say "Juddy" and anyone with a sports brain knows the reference. It brings visions of a passionate boy and man who knows one speed, needle buried. As a Ute shooter, he was amazing, as a Boston Celtic, they called him Little Hondo. For Rick Majerus, he mined the Mormon talent market as well as anyone who ever tried.
But you get him aside to talk about 221 wins and he immediately goes the assist route and becomes Jeff Jonas.
"I really have a talented group of young ladies who work hard and are very coachable," he says. "I have one player, Haley Steed, who has been here for six years and has fought through three ACL surgeries. She's a dream. She is what a coach dreams to have. She loves her team, she is a leader, can set tempo and can do all those little things."
Yeah, but what about your 221 wins, Juddy?
"The first thing that comes to me is I've won a lot of games with a lot of good players," he says.
"You can't win games without good players, and I've been blessed with good coaches who believe in me and what I'm doing, work hard and go the extra mile. And last, I've had great support here at BYU. What a wonderful university to coach at and sell players to come to. I've been really lucky."
Judkins, to those who know him, is the same yesterday, today and will be forever.
"He never changed from his college days," said Deseret News columnist Brad Rock, who's covered Judkins most of his life. "Same guy he was when he was 22. Five minutes after you meet him, you feel like he's a longtime friend — the kind of guy you want to send your kids to play for."
Steed buys that.
"I think the biggest thing about Juddy is his knowledge of the game," said Steed. "He is just so smart. If we're talking about game prep, I don't know if there is a coach better at preparing his team for a game as far as studying personnel of the other team and preparing to find ways to shut them down defensively."
Notice she calls him Juddy. Not coach, not Mr. Judkins.
"Juddy is awesome. He balances really well being a coach, being a mentor and he really, really cares about the players. That is one thing you can really trust about him and it's not just about basketball. He cares about us, and our lives. We have that kind of relationship with him, it is bigger than basketball."
Judkins' most successful season produced a 26-6 record during the 2005-06 season when the team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In his first season he went 24-9 and the team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen during the 2001-02 campaign. That Sweet 16 finish is the highest finish for a BYU women's basketball team in the postseason.
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