Western Kentucky women’s basketball assistant coach ShaRae Mansfield has no hesitation – but plenty of enthusiasm – when talking about sophomore forward Chastity Gooch’s potential.
“She has what it takes, I think, to be an All-American,” Mansfield said.
Mansfield, a former Lady Topper, should know something about big-time post play.
From 1998 to 2001, the 6-foot-2-inch forward averaged 14.2 points and 7.9 rebounds and is fifth on WKU’s all-time scoring list with 1,854 points. She was named an All-American in 2000.
So when Mansfield and Crystal Kelly, the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder, start to take notice of Gooch, it resonates with the Franklin native.
“I look up to these people,” Gooch said. “I grew up around them, so it means so much to me.”
Gooch leads the nation in double-doubles with 20 in 23 games after finishing with 20 points and 15 rebounds in WKU’s 78-74 loss Saturday to Arkansas State.
Her nine straight double-doubles earlier this season were a program best, and she could become the seventh player in Lady Topper history to average a double-double in a season.
She’s tied for 12th in the nation in rebounding, and her average of 11.6 boards per game would tie Arnika Brown’s 2008-09 campaign for the best in WKU history.
“I’ve just been playing ball,” Gooch said. “I don’t worry about it, and it just comes. My teammates get me the ball on offense, and I go for rebounds on the other end. That’s it.”
Gooch’s 20 double-doubles move her past Kelly for second on WKU’s all-time list for most in a season.
Next up? Mansfield’s school record of 22 set in the 1999-2000 season. She’ll have at least seven games to break it, and that’s without postseason play beyond the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
“It’s amazing,” Mansfield said. “To see her, and how good she is – and so young. I see her doing these things and getting these double-doubles. It’s awesome to be able to help her in any way I can. … It’s going to be so enjoyable to watch her grow that much more and become that much better.
“I just look forward to what the future holds for her.”
Gooch’s numbers this season – she also averages 17.1 points – seemed unlikely during her freshman campaign, when she averaged 6.1 points and 5.6 rebounds.
All the 6-foot forward needed was to get back in her comfort zone, said Jasmine Johnson, a senior center on the 2011-12 team.
“Last year, we didn’t know if we were going to put her as a post because of her height or on the wing because of the advantage she has other smaller guards,” Johnson said. “This year, she’s just taking over. I know she’s comfortable playing the post.
“She has this drive and passion to be the best post player she can be, even though she’s undersized. We told her last year, ‘Well, Chas, you’re the next big thing.’ ”
Gooch has plenty of time to cement her spot in WKU’s record books.
She’s got a long way to go before she catches Kelly’s record of 62 double-doubles for a career, but she’s earned the admiration of one of the Lady Tops’ biggest stars and a three-time All-American.
“That’s extremely hard to do,” said Kelly, who’s now an assistant coach at Bellarmine University. “When you’re a post player, you have to get the ball first, find a way to score and then take care of your rebounding. That’s focus and mentally preparing yourself that, ‘This is what I need to do every game.’ You can’t take nights off.
“For her to be that young, that sounds like she’s playing very mature.”
Standout performances came easy to Gooch at Franklin-Simpson High School, but she learned last year the task is harder at the next level. She didn’t record a single double-double as a college freshman.
The biggest part of her maturation has been learning that talent alone won’t get it done, Mansfield said.
“You have to have the heart and tenacity to go out there and do that,” she said. “I really, really respect her for that because I know how hard it is. You have to take your game to the next level.”