College basketball: Yazzie caps career as Westminster's wins leader
Nicole Yazzie's playing career came to an end last weekend with a disappointing defeat in the Elite 8 of the NAIA championship tournament.
But the point guard from Bingham High leaves Westminster College as one of the most decorated players in program history.
Two Elite 8 berths. Three conference championships. The 2012-13 Frontier Conference Player of the Year. Oh yeah, and NAIA All-American.
Those accomplishments, that career, flashed through her mind near the end of the season-ending loss to Westmont (Calif.).
"With as good as our team was, I knew we'd have a chance to get to the final four," Yazzie said. "Thinking about it being my last game really only happened at the end of the Westmont game."
Yazzie, a starter nearly from the second she stepped on campus, guided the Griffins to new heights with each passing season. She led them to a team-record 29 victories this season and a national No. 3 ranking. Yazzie's 107 victories are also a school record.
It's the experience she anticipated when she committed out of Bingham, where she was part of the 2007 state championship team.
She chose Westminster over several out-of-state scholarship offers because she wanted to remain close to home. She is extremely close with her parents, Julius and Yanelle, and her two siblings.
"I wanted them to be able to come to every game," Yazzie said. "I don't think they missed a game. I'm fortunate to have them as my biggest supporters."
That support helped fuel a career highlighted by last week's announcement that she was one of eight players named to the NAIA All-America First Team.
Yazzie, twice an All-America honorable mention, became the second player in the program's 14-year history to receive the honor, joining Elisa Leader in 2009.
"She passes so well and has great touch," Westminster coach Shelley Jarrard said. "She never hurries, never gets herself in trouble with the ball. She is a great distributor."
Yazzie played two seasons for former Griffins coach JD Gustin, who left in 2011 to be the University of Utah's director of basketball operations. Jarrard inherited a point guard who could see the floor as well as anyone she's coached; a player who knew where the ball was supposed to go nearly every possession.
"She finds people in scoring positions and leads them to their scoring positions whether they know they are supposed to go there or not," Jarrard said. "She makes everyone better."
Yazzie is one of five seniors the Griffins will lose next season. Guard Allison Blake, a Davis High graduate, will play her senior season at Westminster next year after transferring from Rocky Mountain College, where she was named the conference defensive player of the year in 2012.
Also expected to join the Griffins is Juan Diego senior forward Lancee Whetman, who averaged 10 points this season.
Yazzie, a psychology major who graduates this spring, hopes she can remain in the game after this season, and hopes to move to the bench as a coach.
"That's the plan," Yazzie said. "I can't leave the game."
Westminster point guard Nicole Yazzie became the school's second first-team All-American this season.
Yazzie, a Bingham grad, won a school-record 109 games during her four seasons with the Griffins.
She plans to pursue a career in coaching.