Kyra Elzy’s newest addition to the Kentucky Women’s Basketball Team’s staff, Gail Goestenkors, isn’t a stranger to coaching, but more importantly, she isn’t a stranger to coaching stars. The former Duke head coach has succeeded at both winning games and developing players. Interestingly, her most talented star at Duke, Alana Beard, may have some surprising similarities to Wildcat stud Rhyne Howard.
Beard is regarded as one of the best women’s college basketball players of all time and deservingly so. The 5-foot-11 guard won National Player of the Year awards her junior and senior seasons, exhibiting leadership throughout. Beard had versatility that doesn’t come around often. Of course, neither does a player like Rhyne Howard.
Just like Beard, Howard has the capability to play any position on the court. Whether she’s flying past defenders for acrobatic finishes or rejecting opponents’ layup attempts, Howard shows serious resemblances to Beard. See for yourself in the video below.
Even when examining their stat lines, the two players put up strikingly similar numbers. Beard’s junior season she averaged 22.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. In a near reflection, last season Howard averaged 20.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.5 steals, and .8 blocks per game.
The players are similar, but so what? There’s no doubt Howard has been one of the best players in the nation the past two years, but her team has not necessarily followed her lead. In what has become a pattern, the Wildcats have seemingly found success, but only to a limited extent. For reference, Kentucky hasn’t made it past the Sweet 16 since the 2012-2013 season.
The ‘Cats are always good, but just shy of great. Goestenkors’ development of Howard and extra knowledge could help push the team over this annoying hump. During Beard’s final two seasons, the Blue Devils made a Final Four and Elite Eight back-to-back. Two things unfamiliar to Kentucky Women’s Basketball fans.
These recent shortcomings are partly due to an over-dependence on Howard’s spectacular skills. Goestenkors could have the answer to this problem. As amazing as Beard was for Duke, she wasn’t solely carrying them to Final Fours.
In reality, Goestenkors knows exactly how to utilize such a talent to make the rest of the team better. Goestenkors has spoken in the past to KSR on this exact topic.
“Once the defenses get set they really focus on Rhyne. So it’ll really help her a lot if we can score more in our initial fastbreak or our secondary break,” Goestenkors said. “I will be working with the wings, but whatever coach needs me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.”
With talented options such as Treasure Hunt, Blair Green and Robyn Benton returning, Goestenkors will have plenty of ability on the wings to work with. Goestenkors’ experience with a star like Beard may have very well prepared her for this exact moment in Kentucky history. With the help of Goestenkors, Howard may resemble Beard this season in the best way possible: leading her team to a deep run in March.