The Indomitable Cherokee: University of Kansas's Court General Angel Goodrich
Angel Goodrich came out of Sequoyah High School as one of the top point guard prospects in the class of 2008. The 2007 Gatorade Player of the Year in Oklahoma led the Sequoyah Indians to three Class AAA state titles and averaged 14 points, 6 assists, 5 steals and 4 rebounds per game as a senior.
Goodrich was widely expected to attend an Oklahoma college. But all that changed after a visit to the University of Kansas and legendary Allen Fieldhouse, home court of such basketball greats as Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Lynette Woodard, Paul Pierce, JoJo White, and Mario Chalmers.
“It was an awesome visit,” said Goodrich, a member of the Cherokee Nation from Tahlequah. “It was a family atmosphere.”
Goodrich was coming to Kansas, and for those who knew what this 5 foot 4 dynamo was capable of, great things would be expected. Larry Grigg, athletic director at Sequoyah Schools said Goodrich was one of the most intelligent basketball players he’s ever seen. “Her thinking in high school was so much more advanced.”
Sequoyah girl’s basketball coach Bill Nobles said even in high school, Goodrich had the uncanny ability to see something before it happened.
“She really understood the game well,” said Nobles. “You combine that I.Q. with tremendous court vision, and I imagine she’s about as close to 180 as it gets.”
But before she would realize her potential at KU, Goodrich would be tested mentally and physically.
The Sequoyah Indians
Goodrich’s athletic skills were honed during four stellar years at Sequoyah High School, an Indian boarding school run by the Cherokee Nation with quite a history of its own. The school was originally an orphanage set up by the Cherokee National Council in 1871 to take care of the many orphans who came out of the Civil War.
In 1925, it became Sequoyah Orphan Training School in honor of Sequoyah, a Cherokee who developed the Cherokee syllabary. It then became Sequoyah High School until 2006, when the school added 7th and 8th grade and became known as Sequoyah Schools.
Today, Sequoyah Schools enrolls more than 300 students representing 42 tribes and 14 different states.
At Sequoyah, Goodrich lettered in basketball, softball and track and field and earned All-State honors as a sprinter in 2006. Along the way to three state titles, Goodrich scored more than 2,000 career points, the only player in Sequoyah High School history to do so.
“We were the first Indian school to ever be invited to the Nike National Tournament of Champions,” said Nobles.
The Sequoyah Indians were the smallest school with the smallest team in the 2007 tournament. “We were playing with giants,” said Nobles. The Lady Indians went 3-1 and finished fifth in the defacto national high school championship.
Goodrich said her experience at Sequoyah taught her that you have to do whatever it takes to get where you want to go. “We wanted it so bad.”
Now, the incoming freshman was set to make her mark at KU. Then came two devastating setbacks.
During the second practice of the 2008-09 season, Goodrich tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. She had reconstructive surgery in October 2008 and missed the entire season. In the 2009-10 season, Goodrich saw action in 15 games before tearing the ACL in her right knee in a game against Oklahoma State.
She got through the experience with the support of family and teammates. “I opened up more when that happened,” said Goodrich.
“It taught me to be grateful for what I have and to be grateful everyday.”
By the 2010-11 season, Goodrich was back and finally had the opportunity to fulfill some of her potential. As a sophomore, the 5 foot 4 point guard took a team-high 24 charges, a stat that didn’t surprise Bill Nobles.
“She led our team in charges all four years,” said Nobles. In his four years coaching Goodrich, Sequoyah’s record was 107 wins and 7 losses.
“The only stat that matters is a ‘W,’” Goodrich would later say.
In 2011, Goodrich broke an Allen Fieldhouse record with a career-high 15 assists in an upset win over Iowa State. Her 15 assists was the second-most by a Jayhawk in KU history.
The Jayhawks went 2-6 after losing their top scorer, Carolyn Davis, to a knee injury in February. But in the last four games of the 2011-2012 season, Goodrich emerged as a leader, scoring 20 or more points for KU. She went on to lead the nation in assists, averaging 7.4 per game, and led the Jayhawks to an unexpected invitation to the NCAA tournament and an even more unexpected trip to the Sweet 16.
After beating Nebraska in the first round behind Goodrich’s 20 points, KU was set to meet the Delaware Blue Hens (31-2) and the country’s leading women’s scorer, 6 foot 5 Elena Delle Donne.
Delle Donne scored 34 points in the match-up, but Goodrich responded with 27 points of her own to lead KU to a 70-64 upset win. She shot 12 of 21 from the field, 3 of 6 on 3-pointers, and had six assists.
Now in the Sweet 16 for only the third time in KU history, Goodrich and the Jayhawks came out strong against the perennial powerhouse of women’s college basketball, the Tennessee Lady Vols. At one point in the first half, the Lady Jayhawks led by 14.
“At the time, it was a great feeling,” said Goodrich. “We wanted to prove everyone wrong.”
But Tennessee regrouped and went on to beat KU 84-73, bringing KU’s season to an end. Goodrich scored 23 points.
“It wasn’t easy for them,” said Goodrich.“They had to actually work for it.”
Goodrich averaged 23.3 points and 5.7 assists in the NCAA tournament.
Nobles said it was fun to watch as Goodrich developed into a leader on basketball’s biggest stage. “We were just mesmerized.”
Goodrich and her teammates will try to carry the momentum built from KU’s breakthrough year into next season.
“We took one big step,” said Goodrich. “We want to take another one.”
“She’s fearless,” said Nobles. “She can do anything she wants to do.”
He’s hoping Goodrich will serve as inspiration to other Indian youth. “Here’s a kid showing ‘em you can be whatever you want to be.”