PROVO — Her name has changed, but BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins is expecting the former Cassie Broadhead to provide at least the type of standout play she did a year ago.
Broadhead's name is now Cassie Devashrayee, after getting married during the offseason, and she's coming off a year in which she averaged 17.9 points per game, earning her West Coast Conference Player of the Year honors.
“We’re really fortunate to get Cassie back, with the year she had last year,” Judkins said when asked to assess his team at the start of Monday's media session. “We’re hoping she can at least maintain what she did. I think she will.”
Devashrayee enters her senior year expected to again run the team from the point, and match or even improve upon her numbers last year. She's also embracing other ways she can help the team, as one of just two seniors on the roster.
“This year I’m taking on more of that leadership role,” Devashrayee said. “Half our team is new, so helping them understand the system, helping them know what (Judkins) expects that’s where my role has changed.”
THIRD FUELS THE FIRE: Davashrayee's first year within the BYU program was during the 2013-14 season when the Cougars advanced clear to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament. That year the Cougars weren't expected to do much and were even picked to finish fourth in the West Coast Conference, Devashrayee recalls, while also remembering how that team used it as motivation.
This year the Cougars were picked to finish third in the WCC, a spot Devashrayee doesn't plan on being satisfied with.
“It fuels the fire. Obviously we don’t believe that’s where we are,” Devashrayee said. “But I just think it gives us motivation. It gives us an edge.”
The goal this year is to improve upon last year's second-place finish in the WCC and early exit from the WNIT tournament.
“We really want to win our conference, and win games in the NCAA tournament, and you know, make a splash,” Devashrayee said. “Last year we went to the WNIT (tournament), and it wasn’t good enough.”
NEW FACES: The Cougars return some familiar faces like Devashrayee, Brenna Chase and Amanda Wayment, among others, but also welcome seven newcomers into the program. Six of the newcomers are freshmen, but also includes graduate transfer Malia Nawahine, who played for Utah.
“She’s played in a great conference where she played against good competition,” Judkins said of Nawahine, who is expected to help replace McKenzie Pulsipher at one of the wing positions. “She kind of has a good understanding of our offense and so she’s been a good surprise.”
As for the incoming group of freshmen, Judkins likes what he's seen thus far.
“The freshman group I have is very, very good, and very talented,” Judkins said. “They work hard, and they have a good feel for the game, but their inexperience showed the other night when they played against Oregon.”
The Cougars were wallopped by the Ducks in a preseason scrimmage, according to Judkins.
Notable incoming freshmen include Sara Hamson, who is the younger sister of Jen Hamson, and Maria Abiero, who hails from Brazil.
Overall Judkins characterizes his team as deep, yet relatively inexperienced.
“This is probably the most balanced team I’ve had in a long time,” Judkins said. “It’s a very close team — both offensively and defensively. It should be a fun year.”
The Cougars open the 2017-18 season on Nov. 2 with an exhibition game versus visiting Colorado Mesa.
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