BYU women’s basketball is back on track after midseason slump, and junior Brenna Chase’s contributions are a big reason why

Having swept league-leading Gonzaga, second-place Cougars host San Diego on Saturday at the Marriott Center

(Photo courtesy of Jaren Wilkey, BYU photo) | BYU guard Brenna Chase defends Utah Valley guard Alexis Cortez in a women's basketball game played Nov. 29, 2018 at UVU's Lockhart Arena.

Provo • Brenna Chase took a little good-natured teasing from her teammates and classmates at Colorado’s Broomfield High when she accepted a women’s basketball scholarship offer from Brigham Young University despite not being a member of the faith that owns and operates BYU.

But look who’s laughing now.

Chase, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, is a key member of the Cougars’ surprising 20-6 team, which is alone in second place in the West Coast Conference standings heading into Saturday’s home game against San Diego (2 p.m., BYUtv) and coming off another win — this time on the road — over No. 13-ranked Gonzaga.

“In Colorado, there is a stigma regarding LDS culture, and people were like, ‘why are you going there? You have so many other options.’ I told them this was the best option for me, the best fit, and it still is,” said Chase, the WCC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week after she scored 38 points and made 11 3-pointers last week in road wins over Portland and Gonzaga.

Having earned First Team All-WCC honors last year after averaging 13.5 points per game, Chase has adjusted her playing style a bit this year to accommodate the arrival of freshman phenom Shaylee Gonzales (16.3) and rise of fellow junior guard Paisley Johnson (14.3). She is shooting less and not handling the ball as much, but is still averaging 12.4 points per game and should repeat on the all-conference team, coach Jeff Judkins said.

“Brenna is a team player,” Judkins said. “She wants to win. That’s all she cares about. I thought she would be the leading scorer on our team this year, but people have guarded her more closely, won’t give her as many open looks, and Shaylee and Paisley have come in and taken a lot of that [scoring] pressure off her.”

Chase’s 68 3-pointers leads the team, and she made a season-high seven against Portland, on 11 attempts.

“When I recruited Brenna, I didn’t think she would be that good of a shooter,” Judkins said. “I thought she would be more of a driver. But she’s really developed her all-around game by working hard and getting herself ready to shoot.”

Johnson said Chase has the quickest trigger in the West.

“She just gets her shots off so quickly,” Johnson said. “I love playing with Brenna. She’s such a leader on the court, and she’s able to hold me accountable for my actions on the court, keeps me level-headed.”

Growing up in Thornton, Colo., basketball is all Chase ever knew, she said, and the only sport she played. Her father, Andrew, played high school basketball, and her mother, Susanne, played and coached basketball. Her sisters, Autumn and Jasmine, also played. Autumn played college basketball at Metropolitan State before an ACL injury cut short her career.

“I was born in the gym, grew up in the gym,” Brenna said. “I played every minute I could.”

Judkins learned about Chase from a coaching acquaintance who didn’t have room on his roster for her, then watched her play in a summer all-star game in Portland. A scholarship offer followed shortly.

Chase went on her official visit in September 2015, and was one of the students who rushed the field after BYU’s football team upset Boise State with some last-minute heroics by Tanner Mangum and Kai Nacua.

“I loved it, and I loved my visit so much,” she said. “I actually didn’t know a lot about the LDS religion. I went to a [Catholic] school grades K-8. It was definitely a culture shock when I first got here, and even on my recruiting visit a little bit. But it is a great environment for being a good person. People here are super nice and everybody has good moral standards. It’s been good.”

Chase said when her playing days are over, she wants to coach basketball at the college level. She’s majoring in exercise and wellness with that goal in mind.

“I just love the game,” she said. “For me, it has always been a super big part of my life, and what I do. … I watch film all the time. I try to be a gym rat, but it is hard with school and things.”

Brenna Chase file

* Junior guard from Thornton, Colo., is averaging 12.4 points and 2.5 steals per game for the 20-6 BYU women’s basketball team.

* Made the All-WCC First Team as a sophomore in 2017-18 after averaging 13.5 points per game.

* Named the WCC Player of the Week after making 11 3-pointers in wins over Portland and Gonzaga last week.