A year ago, BYU basketball freshman Shaylee Gonzales blew any and all expectations out of the water. The Gilbert, Ariz., native even surprised herself.
The 5-foot-10 guard finished her first season having averaged a team-best 17 points (she was hoping to at least average 10 points her first year), posted 31 double-doubles and scored more than 20 points nine times. Her breakout performance earned her multiple West Coast Conference honors — including WCC Newcomer of the Year, WCC First Team, WCC All-Freshman Team and WCC Championship All-Tournament Team.
But any expectations or goals going into her second year came to a screeching halt when Gonzales suffered a torn ACL in July. Instead of leading the team on the court, she found herself on the bench.
“I feel like there’s not a word to describe how I felt,” Gonzales said. “I was just heartbroken and devastated. When it happened I thought it was a dream — I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘how can this happen to me?’ After the amazing season I just had with my team and then winning the conference and then me personally going to Team USA tryouts and it was just hard to wrap my head around things.”
It may not have been the type of season Gonzales envisioned for herself, but it was one she still grew from.
Having to sit on the sidelines of each game allowed Gonzales to experience another part of the sport: the coaching aspect. Being able to see how the coaches adjust and what they ask of their players struck a chord with Gonzales. Now she knows what to expect from them.
And the whole ordeal has also made her mentally stronger.
“The [recovery] process has been very smooth for me — I’ve been very blessed,” Gonzales said. “But it’s also been so hard mentally for me. Just sitting out and watching my team and not being able to help, it really messes with your mental side of things.”
Now, she’s focusing on getting her knee stronger to return to the court — along with her main focus of schoolwork, as final exams are coming up.
Before leaving BYU to head to Arizona due to the pandemic, Gonzales was checked out by Jeff Hurst, the team’s trainer, who conducted a strength test to determine which side of the knee was stronger — the side where the ACL tore, or the other. The ACL side was stronger.
“That was a really good sign,” Gonzales said.
The sophomore is almost fully cleared, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Last year, the Gonzales family moved into their new home in Gilbert. The bigger, new house was finally the perfect place for Gonzales’ father’s lifelong dream: an indoor basketball court.
The half court and mini full court should be finished by the end of May. Once everything is in place, Gonzales will make sure to use it during the summer to start working on her game again.
“I cannot wait for it to be done,” Gonzales said. “I can just literally be in there all day and maybe even sleep in there.”
With all BYU facilities closed down for the foreseeable future, being home may be the best option Gonzales has available. What better place to be than among a basketball loving family (Gonzales’ parents both played basketball at Grand Canyon University, where they met) and with a personal indoor court?
Now it's just a matter of when sports will be able to start back up again.
“I’m super excited for this next, upcoming season and I can’t wait to play with my team again and get back to work,” Gonzales said. “And the season is going to be amazing. I’ll get ready.”