There were times early last season when Aleah Goodman had a deer-in-the-headlights feeling when she took the court.
That can often be the case for freshmen making the jump to college sports.
Goodman, who saw plenty of time for the Oregon State women’s basketball team and was a key contributor in the Beavers’ run to a second Elite Eight appearance in three years, sometimes felt “just completely lost.”
“I’m looking at Marie (Gulich) like what is going on, what play is he calling,” Goodman, a point guard, said a little over a week ago.
She was able to overcome that, finishing the season playing in 31 of 34 games and averaging 6.3 points per game in nearly 17 minutes of action.
She was certainly comfortable shooting from long range, connecting on 49 of 106 3-point attempts for a team best 46.2 percent.
Now with a year under her belt and plenty of experience, Goodman said the game has slowed way down for her and she’s ready to make an even bigger impact her sophomore campaign.
“This year it’s such a different feeling that it just gives me more confidence because I’m like, hey I’ve got this, I already went through this last year and so it’s definitely helped a lot,” she said.
Goodman and the Beavers will take on Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the annual Beavers Beyond the Classroom field trip day for elementary school children.
Goodman’s teammates have seen a more confident player this year and expect big things out of her.
“To see where she’s come from last year kind of a freshman where you don’t know the system and you’re just kind of thrown in there, especially last year with us not having a pure point, and her playing a lot of big minutes for us, I think she’s done a really good job of just being confident in everything she does now," said redshirt sophomore Destiny Slocum, who sat out last season after transferring from Maryland.
Added Mikayla Pivec, who handled the point last season: “She’s playing at a really confident place right now so we’re excited to see how many opportunities we can get for her to shoot the 3 and even driving this year she’s improved that as well.”
The relationship between Goodman and Slocum, the starting point guard, is strong on and off the court.
Goodman said she has learned a lot from Slocum as they see the floor and the game a little differently.
“Our chemistry is really good and having her out there has just been amazing,” Goodman said. “I’ve been able to grow a lot because we’re both super different, we both bring different things to the table. So being able to throw things at each other has definitely helped us on the defensive end playing against each other and on the offensive end.”
The feeling is mutual, Slocum said.
“We see the game so differently but also in the same way so we offer each other really unique perspectives,” she said. “I like to come off and attack and Aleah, she’s a pure shooter, and so sometimes she’ll be like, hey, when you read that your shot was there Destiny. Or I’ll be like, hey, you can drive a little bit harder.”
While Goodman is known for her 3-point prowess, coach Scott Rueck has been impressed with the improvement she’s made in her mid-range game.
“She’s clearly a great 3-point shooter and had gotten to the rim a lot but that midrange that is demanded at this level, she hadn’t needed before,” he said. “That’s the area that I’ve seen the greatest growth. It’s one thing that she doubted coming in as a freshman because she hadn’t done it much.”
Rueck added that Goodman's floor leadership and knowledge of the game is “second to none," and described her as a true coach on the floor.
Another area Goodman has worked on is on the defensive end.
“Her angles and understanding on that end of the floor are better, still room to grow there for sure but that just comes with time,” Rueck said. “There’s no fast track to that at this level.”
While she is behind Slocum as far as a starting position is concerned, it doesn’t mean she hasn’t worked hard enough to earn that spot.
“This team is so versatile,” Rueck said. “We have eight people who in my opinion have earned a starting spot. What do you do with that? We have to pick one but they’ve both earned it. Aleah’s one of those people who is pushing the envelope for that.”