By Brian Daffron -- Today correspondent
ANADARKO, Okla. - One of the nation's top high school girls basketball point guards signed a letter of intent Nov. 14 to play for the University of Kansas Jayhawks. Angel Goodrich, a Cherokee Nation member and a senior at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, chose Kansas over the University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Tulsa and Oklahoma State.
''Everyone I would be connected with was there,'' said Goodrich about signing with Kansas. ''They just seem like a big family, and they felt really like a next home.''
Goodrich was one of three nationwide who signed to begin at KU for the 2008 - '09 academic year, with the other players being Ashley Ellis of Deer Valley High School in Antioch, Calif., and Aishah Sutherland of Perris High School in California.
Since beginning her career at Sequoyah High School as a freshman, the 5-foot-3-inch Goodrich has led her team to three state championships, including a 27 - 0 record last season during her junior year where she averaged 18.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 6.9 steals and 1.4 blocks. But beyond the statistics, Goodrich attributes her success to growing and maturing into a leadership role.
''I've been able to become a stronger leader,'' Goodrich said about her keys to success on the court. ''As a freshman, I didn't know what I was doing. Now, I think I've gotten a lot stronger at that part.''
Goodrich's love for the game began as a child, when she would watch her mother, Fayth Lewis, play. ''My mom, when they were in the Air Force, they had a team, so we were always around it,'' she said. Her parents would also be her biggest influences, supporting her and taking her and her siblings to games.
Eventually, the early exposure to basketball translated into winning seasons with Sequoyah, where Goodrich said that their success as a team is based on being familiar with each other as players.
''Some of us played with each other since we were little,'' she said. ''We know how the other one plays.''
When not playing basketball during the regular season, Goodrich plays fast-pitch softball and AAU summer league basketball. It was during one of these summer leagues that KU women's basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson first noticed Goodrich.
''First time I got to see Angel play, she was a ninth-grader in summer ball,'' said Henrickson. ''I'd heard about her, and I had a chance to see her with her AAU team and just was absolutely impressed by how easy she made the game for everybody. Her ability to pass the basketball and set people up for layups was very impressive in the ninth grade, and it just kept getting better and better as she grew into an older, wiser player.''
Goodrich has the potential to make an immediate impact for the Jayhawks at the point guard position next season similar to the way that Jenna Plumley, Otoe-Missouria from Red Rock, did as a freshman point guard for the University of Oklahoma Sooners last season.
''Her role will be to play at the point,'' Henrickson said about Goodrich's potential. ''Her role will be like it has been for her summer team and her high school team - quite honestly, to lead us to championships. She'll have an opportunity at the point to have an immediate impact with how she plays. Her style fits our style, exactly how we want to play: push and run and create scoring opportunities for herself and for her teammates. I think her poise and composure and her calming effect on the floor will be important for us. Even as a freshman, I think she can still do that.''
In addition to her playing ability, Henrickson said that she is also impressed with the effect that Goodrich already has on current teammates during her unofficial visits, where her calm demeanor is a reflection of how she is both on and off the court.
''She has a quiet competence about her,'' said Henrickson. ''I think she brings calmness and competence to other people on the court, but I think she has that off the court. I see her as a teammate they'll be able to trust and be able to confide in.''
In the meantime, Goodrich still has her senior year of high school to complete, as well as a run for a fourth state championship in the 3A division. When not on the court, she said that her favorite subject is math, and that she is considering being a physical trainer after finishing college. Goodrich's message to other Native youth is to ''never give up, and work hard.''