Forging the path
Kansas star Goodrich looks to inspire other Native Americans
Kansas senior point guard Angel Goodrich may be known for her vision on the court in women’s basketball circles, but it is her perseverance that may be her greatest strength.
Goodrich is of Cherokee descent, and grew up in Tahlequah, Okla., which was founded as the capital of the original Cherokee Nation in 1838. She gleaned a passion for athletics, especially basketball, from her family, and often played hoops against her brother Zack as a youngster.
Despite her five-foot-four stature, Goodrich developed into a fan-favorite at Sequoyah High School and a sought-after recruit, who garnered 2008 WBCA All-American honors. During her high school career, Goodrich left quite a legacy, leading her team to three Class AAA state titles and one runner-up finish, as well as becoming the only person in program history to score more than 2,000 points.
While recruiting Goodrich, Kansas women’s basketball head coach Bonnie Henrickson remembers having to call the athletic director to make sure he would save her and her staff tickets for games.
“People would start lining up early in the afternoon to get into the game, and more times than not games were sold out and people were turned away,” Henrickson said.
And yet, while Goodrich was a high school icon, the odds were stacked against her – because of her heritage. According to a 2008 study by the National Center for Educational Statistics, only five percent of Native American high school graduates proceed directly to four-year colleges, and only 10 percent of those students graduate in four years.
“The statistics of Native Americans not going to school or dropping out are very high,” Goodrich said. “I wish more Native Americans could pursue their goals and dreams or get an education.”
Goodrich knows there are many reasons for the staggering statistics, but hopes her story can help influence the future of younger Native Americans who want to pursue an education, or dream of playing college sports.
“I see a lot of talent out there playing in Native American tournaments, and yet you don’t see them go on to a higher level,” Goodrich said. “I wish people could see them more, because there is talent out there. I know there is a lot of talent out there – I’ve seen it and wish the world could see it, too.”
Goodrich – and her two siblings are all currently attending college – the first generation in their family to do so, and the support of her parents has been a huge factor in making that happen.
“People told me I wouldn’t make it or wouldn’t go anywhere because of my size – that pushed me,” Goodrich said. “My mom also encouraged me and said I could do anything. That motivated me a lot. I wanted to prove people wrong and show them I could do it.”
Henrickson was immediately drawn to Goodrich’s passing skills and her vision on the court at such a young age.
“Even veteran players couldn’t make some of the plays she could make,” Henrickson said. “She could see things with the ball in her hands that most people can’t, and she could do it dribbling and running down the court.”
At Kansas, Goodrich has developed into one of the top point guards in the nation. Last year, she led the nation with 7.4 assists per game, and she is currently ranked 10th in Division I with 6.6 per game, along with a 13.4 scoring average. After breaking the school and Big 12 records for single-season assists last year, Goodrich appears on the watch list for the Wade Trophy, Wooden Award and Naismith Award this season.
And, she still draws tons of attention from her hometown fans. Whether they stop her at the local Walmart or text her well wishes after a game, she appreciates the support and interest from the community. Goodrich was even reminded of her glory days at Sequoyah as approximately 300 friends and family members drove an hour down the road to Fayetteville to see the Jayhawks’ contest at Arkansas in early December.
“It was like I was back in high school,” Goodrich said.
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But Goodrich’s success has not come without her share of personal adversity. While participating in her second practice as a Jayhawk, Goodrich tore the ACL in her left knee, underwent surgery and ended up missing the entire season. In her second year at Kansas, she played in 15 games, averaging more than 7.0 assists, before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in her right knee.
“It was very difficult [suffering the first injury],” Goodrich said. “It was very tough mentally being away from home. The second time, it was very tough, but I knew I could get through it. It was frustrating having to sit out and watch again.”
While the injuries were difficult to overcome, Goodrich was dedicated to her rehabilitation and has continued to improve as a player. She is not only a role model on the court for her fellow Native Americans, but also excels in the classroom. She earned Academic All-Big 12 First Team in 2012 after being an Academic All-Big 12 Second Team honoree in both 2010 and 2011. Goodrich carries a 3.2 grade-point average and has been named to the athletic director’s honor roll five times.
“She’s very proud of her Native American heritage, and rightfully so,” Henrickson said. “It’s very important for her to have young children – boys and girls – look up to her. She has persevered through two devastating injuries and come back both times a better player in spite of that. She wants everyone, but especially those of Native American heritage, to understand that it is worth the fight and this is what happens when you persevere.”
Goodrich and the No. 22 Jayhawks (9-2) open Big 12 Conference play against instate rival Kansas State on Jan. 2 in Lawrence, Kan.