Considering her year started with such a shock, it was nice to see Seattle Storm guard Angel Goodrich’s season end with the best game as a professional.
The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma tribal member registered the first double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) in her three-year WNBA career Sunday night in the Storm’s 59-58 loss to San Antonio in the season finale. Seattle (10-24) will miss the playoffs, but Goodrich was a regular contributor for a team with one of the youngest rosters in the WNBA. “It’s all about mindset and staying positive,” Goodrich told ICTMN. “It’s amazing to be on this team. [Seattle’s] a new team for me and I’m still trying to figure out what my role is specifically. I just tried to learn more about my teammates, get better every day and expand my game.”
Earlier in the year, the 5-foot-4 guard from Tahlequah, Okla., was cut for the first time in her illustrious career when the Tulsa Shock released her in the final roster move. Goodrich, who spent the first two seasons in Tulsa since coming into the league in 2013, felt the harsh reality of the business side. Los Angeles gave her a look, but did not sign her. But the veteran guard, who started 16 of 31 games her rookie season in Tulsa, found a home in the Pacific Northwest.
“It was heartbreaking. Nobody wants to be released, but you have to turn it all into a positive,” said Goodrich, who was a finalist for the Naismith Award and Wooden Award at Kansas. “I was close to home in Tulsa, so it was tough that my family wouldn’t be able to come to the games the rest of the season. L.A. ended up cutting me. So when Seattle picked me right up it truly was a blessing. The journey has been amazing and I’ve learned so much. I just kept working and I really think it was a blessing in disguise.”
Goodrich was a local prep legend in Oklahoma, leading Sequoyah-Tahlequah High School to three Class 3A state championships (2005-08) in four years, including the 27-0 season in 2007. She was also a First Team All-Big 12 selection her senior season at nearby Kansas University, so she had a local fan base in Tulsa. “There are a good number of folks that were just Angel Goodrich fans that would go to Shock games just because Angel was there,” Sequoyah athletic director Marcus Crittenden told ICTMN. “There were certainly a lot of Sequoyah people and Angel people and their reason to go to the games went away when they cut her. She’s very much aware of the business side. I’m just tickled for her that she landed somewhere. That’s the general view around here. We know how hard she works. She brings a lot to the table and given the opportunity, she’ll produce. On the down side, Seattle is the farthest WNBA franchise from Oklahoma, so we don’t get to see her play as much as we’d like.”
Goodrich has been making a name for herself in Indian country since the 2007 Sequoyah team was recognized in Sports Illustrated’s Top 25. She is currently the longest tenured Native player in WNBA history. “I came from an all-Native high school hearing all the statistics how Native athletes don’t make it. That has really pushed me to work hard,” she said. “In my job, I get to do something I love every single day. There’s still people looking up to me, sending me emails and letters supporting me and it means a lot. It’s a great honor and I really take it to heart when I see a little girl looking up to me. I hope I can continue to make people proud.”
In July, Goodrich and the Storm players and coaches made a big impression at the Nisqually Youth and Community Center east of Olympia, Wash. The Nisqually Tribe gifted her and teammate Sue Bird with a beadwork decorated necklace in appreciation for a special day. “It was awesome to see all the kids and what they’re doing for that tribe,” said Goodrich, who majored in applied behavioral sciences at Kansas. “It was amazing to see how much we [as professional athletes] could impact a community. When they gave me the necklace, it was so pretty and I was honored to accept that.”
Her game speaks for itself, and in many ways, so does her name. Sequoyah put a grant from the AthLife Foundation to good use, hiring Goodrich as an academic mentor from December until she reported for the WNBA season in May. “She followed our kids in their preparation for taking the ACTs through the college prep courses we have available here,” said Crittenden. “It was very important to have someone of her background because she had instant credibility with the kids. They all knew she has been where they would like to go as an athlete and a student. She really was the perfect fit as a mentor. She didn’t just take the minimum amount of classes and just barely pass ’em to remain eligible. She worked hard on her academics and got her degree at Kansas. She practiced what she preached.”
Goodrich carried a 3.2 grade-point average and was a member of the athletic director’s honor roll five times during her time at Sequoyah, as well as the 2007 Oklahoma Gatorade Player of the Year. Hard work and giving something back is making a lasting legacy for a woman who grew up in a small Oklahoma community called Greasy.