PROVO — She may not have a signature swipe of the face at the free-throw line, but junior guard Kim Parker Beeston is becoming the outside threat for BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins that Jeff Hornacek was for Jerry Sloan.
It’s a scenario many Jazz fans are quite familiar with, a star point guard, a dominating low-post presence, a legend at coach and an X-factor.
The trio of Hall-of-Famers John Stockton, Karl Malone and Jerry Sloan may have been the main attraction and the driving force in years of top-tier basketball, but contesting for a championship remained out of reach until the X-factor emerged.
Judkins just might be in that same boat this season. Senior point guard Hayley Steed is the engine that makes this year's team go, and there is no question this is her team. Jennifer Hamson, a 6-foot-7 junior, is beginning to find her groove and establish herself as that consistent force in the paint.
“Kim is very similar to that,” Judkins said of the comparison of Beeston to Hornacek. “Not the quickest player. Can’t beat people off the dribble. But can hit shots, can make passes, can make plays, smart, good defender. You know, the Jazz were a better team with him on the floor. We are a better team with Kim on the floor.”
Beeston’s role on the team has taken a 180-degree turn since Judkins got her to come out of 3A Wasatch in Heber.
“Kim has been a big surprise,” Judkins said. “When I recruited her, I thought she could be a good player off the bench who could execute and hit shots. But she’s worked hard and has become a lot better player than people had thought she could. She’s our best defender and guards the best wing player every night and she makes great passes. She’s gotten better every year with her shot and has become a lot more consistent and has really helped stretch the defense this year.”
In BYU’s nine losses, Beeston has averaged 7.2 points and has attempted 4.2 3-pointers. In the Cougars' 20 wins, she has averaged 11.4 points and taken 6.9 threes, showing her importance in creating space for other players to work with.
Beeston’s style of play has become somewhat of a staple for the Cougars, quickly helping her to emerge as a leader and a role player to be able to take on the role Steed now holds.
“Her competitive nature brings to this team a toughness that we kind of hang our hat on really,” Steed said. “Kim is the X-factor for this team. When Kim plays well, we are a very difficult team to stop. Her shooting is such an important aspect of our offense, and she is so deadly. A lot of teams don’t have that option, it’s a luxury, but she is more than a shooter. She’s a great defender and usually will guard the best player on the other team.”
The scenario the Cougars find themselves in is a much better one than what Beeston faced her freshman year, tearing tendons in her foot against Weber State.
“I had taken basketball for granted. I took running for granted. I took just walking for granted,” Beeston said. “It was really hard to sit there and just watch. I was determined to get back out there again. I wasn’t going to settle for being a bench player. I was going to look to shoot more. I shot a ton more over the summer, I played a lot more, I would even come down and play with the guys to try and improve any way I could. I wanted to become the best I could with the talents I have been given.”
Beeston’s attitude and determination through rehab has cemented her as a leader and did not go unnoticed by her teammates.
“It really stinks to sit out and not play,” Steed said. “It does give you a chance to evaluate yourself and the team. It’s a chance to look at things from a different perspective. But I think she used that redshirt year to become smarter and to learn Juddy’s system, which is a huge advantage really. To sit and learn his system and not use up a year of eligibility is huge. She was really determined coming back from that injury. It was one of those freak injuries that was really tough to come back from. I don’t think a lot of people know how hard it was and what it took for her to be able to come back from that. The team watching her battle through that and fight to come back was inspirational and we all gained tremendous respect for her.”
When it’s all said and done, the small-town family girl from Heber has two men in her life who represent her past and her future. Her role model and mainstay at home in her father, and she looks to embrace the future with her new husband as a teacher and coach after graduation.
“It’s actually been my dad, he’s been the one that’s pushed me my whole life to be the best, and he’s the one I’ve always wanted to talk to after the game. Now I’ve got my husband for that as well, but all growing up my dad was the one, he’s always been the one that’s had confidence in me but he would also tell me the things I needed to work on. I trust his opinion, he knows the game of basketball and he’s played the game, so I’ve always had a special relationship with him that way,” Beeston said.
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“Leaving the competition is going to be hard. I plan to teach health education and hopefully coach high school basketball," she said. "Replacing that feeling will be tough for sure, but I enjoy teaching the game and hopefully I can find a way to share what I’ve learned here at BYU with young girls someday.”
Jonathan Boldt is a sports writing intern for the Deseret News covering the Utah Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @jboldt24 - www.boldted.com