PROVO — For the players, the changes aren’t necessarily a big deal, but for coaches, it’s all been a tremendous challenge.

Shaylee Gonzales, and most of her BYU women’s basketball teammates, have been at it since early June. The on-campus facilities have been open for workouts, with a lot of precautions attached due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the redshirt sophomore guard has been taking advantage of all of it — excited to be finally back to work.

“It’s definitely not normal with all the precautions, but we’ve been lucky to get back relatively early to start our training,” Gonzales said. “We’re constantly getting screened, and we have to wear masks pretty much all the time except when playing basketball, but I’m so excited to just be back.”

“It’s great having the girls here, even though we’re not exactly certain if the season is going to proceed as normal. I’m very thankful to our administration for working with this as well as we could hope, all things considered.” — BYU women’s basketball coach Jeff Judkins

Offseason workouts have taken on a new meaning for Gonzales, who tore her ACL just prior to the 2018-2019 season, forcing her to redshirt and undergo a lengthy and arduous recovery. COVID-19 precautions aside, the star guard feels back to normal while she’s working out with her teammates, able to employ all of her tremendous athletic skills.

“It’s awesome and I’m so happy to be back with all my teammates to workout fully with them. I really missed it,” Gonzales said. “I love our team so much, and being back with all of them is just awesome.”

While Gonzales and her teammates haven’t had much disrupted due to COVID-19 precautions, the same can’t be said for BYU coach Jeff Judkins, and his staff.

Beginning with the cancellation of basketball camps, along with severe recruiting restrictions, Judkins is making do as well as he can with all of it. It has made for an unusual and tough offseason with Judkins and his staff taking some lumps with regards to preparing for seasons beyond the hopeful one on the horizon.

“Not having camps really hurts with recruiting players we hope to sign two to three years from now, but it also hurts financially a bit — especially with my assistant coaches. So them not having that opportunity to make a little more money is tough on them,” Judkins said. “But the big thing is recruiting and not being able to have recruits on campus.”

According to Judkins, BYU offers a unique environment, more than most every other university, that some recruits really take to when on campus to soak it all in.

“I can think of at least one girl I think we probably could have gotten here had we been able to recruit her like we normally do, but you just can’t do it like normal, and what really hurts is not being able to get them on campus,” Judkins said.

But recruiting restrictions aside and the cancellation of camps aside, Judkins does feel as if things are beginning to revert back to form.

“It’s great having the girls here, even though we’re not exactly certain if the season is going to proceed as normal,” Judkins said. “I’m very thankful to our administration for working with this as well as we could hope, all things considered.”

Should things proceed as normal, or at least close to it, Judkins feels his team is primed for a successful season, and a definite improvement on last year’s product.

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Leading the optimism is the return of Gonzales, who lit up the court throughout her freshman season before sustaining an ACL tear the following offseason. The last time the 5-foot-10 guard played was perhaps her best showing at the collegiate level in scoring 32 points in a loss to Stanford in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

“It was crazy. It really made me realize what I’m capable of and what I can do,” Gonzales said. “So to not being able to play an entire year was devastating. But I feel it’s going to be a blessing in the long run and I feel I was able to gain a better perspective having that year off, along with other things I worked to take advantage of.”

Joining Gonzales will be a most of the standouts of last year’s team returning, along with some notable additions, such as forward Lauren Gustin, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer restrictions.

“We feel really good about what we have for this coming season,” Judkins said. “Having Shaylee back is obviously enormous, but yeah, I feel if things can keep improving, and that if we’re able to have a season, that we’re set up to have a very successful one.”

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