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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Jennifer Hamson, left, and Kim Parker Beeston of Brigham Young defend against Haiden Palmer of Gonzaga during the West Coast Conference women's basketball tournament in Las Vegas, Saturday, March 9, 2013.

LOS ANGELES — BYU women’s basketball coach Jeff Judkins already has a motivational speech prepared for his team.

The Cougars were picked to finish fourth in the West Coast Conference preseason poll Thursday, behind Gonzaga, San Diego and Saint Mary's.

“As a coach, sometimes you want to be picked first because you think you have a really good team,” Judkins said. “But it doesn’t really make a difference. It all comes down to when you come out on the court. I know it will be a great motivating tool for me. I’ll tell my players, ‘Hey, the coaches thought you were the fourth best team in the league.’ ”

Cougar guard Kim Beeston figured that fourth-place was where BYU would be predicted to finish.

“I wasn’t too surprised because we lost one of the best point guards in the nation,” she said. “But I’m excited to see our younger players can do. Our goal is a conference championship. We definitely have the potential to do it.”

That point guard Beeston was referring to is former BYU star Haley Steed, who spent seven seasons in the program after suffering multiple season-ending knee injuries.

“It’s been different (without Steed),” Judkins said. “Seven years of watching that girl play, now no longer. It’s kind of like not seeing Karl Malone and John Stockton playing for the Jazz. This is a good opportunity for other players to reach their potential and show what they can do.”

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Meanwhile, BYU center Jennifer Hamson, who was named to the All-WCC preseason team, won’t be splitting duties between basketball and volleyball, like she did last year.

“It’s awesome to have her full-time,” Beeston said. “She’s such a valuable player. Having her already in the flow with the team makes a huge difference.”

“It will make a big difference. The players feel more comfortable with her," Judkins said. "She doesn’t seem as stressed out with so many things going in so many different directions.”