Goodall to play pro ball in SpainWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Less than two weeks after returning from a trip to Israel, former UT women’s basketball player Melissa Goodall is preparing for a much longer trip to the Canary Islands in Spain. Goodall signed a professional contract Aug. 30 with Uni-Tenerife in Santa Cruz, Spain.
“I’m really excited, because it’s going to be a really cool experience,” Goodall said. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about the place I’ll be, the team and the coach. It’s getting really close now, and as it gets closer I’m getting more and more excited.”
Goodall’s contract runs until the end of April 2012. She is flying out Sept. 14; she and teammates will share an apartment that is provided by the team and fully furnished. Uni-Tenerife plays in the Spanish Second Division Professional Basketball League.
“She just worked her tail off the entire time that she played for us,” UT head coach Tricia Cullop said. “Of any of the players I’ve ever coached, she’s probably the most improved player from the time we first met her to what she’s become. She’s going to continue to improve. She practiced with us getting ready to go to Israel, and she just continued to show signs of getting even better. She’s really developing her perimeter skills. There’s no doubt in my mind she’ll be a success. I’m very excited for her and very proud of her.”
Cullop helped her decide where to play by connecting Goodall with her agent, Tom Cross, who helped narrow the decision down to a couple of teams.
“Anywhere would have been fine, but Spain was in my top two,” Goodall said. “When talking with Tom Cross, he said that Spain is a really good country to go to as a rookie. You get a lot of exposure and it’s a really good place to start off.
“You’re going to get a good experience and play competitive basketball. People are going to pay attention and you can move up from there. That was definitely a bonus. I had an offer in Germany and another offer in England, but theirs was a little bit better.”
The new team presents challenges for Goodall, such as playing in a Spanish-speaking country.
“I don’t know a whole lot of Spanish, but I’m hoping to get some of the basic phrases down by the time I have to leave,” she said. “Spanish to me is not that intimidating of a language to have to learn. I’ll be immersed in it, so I’m going to have to pick up on things kind of quickly.”
She is more concerned about the challenge of playing for a Spanish-speaking head coach.
“That will be a little bit of an adjustment,” Goodall said. “I know that she does speak some English, but preferably when she’s coaching she is speaking Spanish. I’ve heard from everybody who has played overseas that you have to have one or two teammates to turn to for a quick rundown of what the coach said. I’m going to have to do that.”
An easier challenge for Goodall will be adjusting to a different style of play in Spain.
“The nice thing about playing the variety of teams we’ve been able to play is she has had the opportunity to have some very diverse experiences,” Cullop said. “We’ve played everything from finesse teams to physical teams. She has gotten stronger along the way. She’s going to be asked as an American to go score. They’re paying her to be a scorer. The good thing is she can do that.”
The Rockets played physical teams such as Northwestern and finesse teams such as Bowling Green last season as Goodall earned third-team All-MAC honors. She led the Rockets with 6.9 rebounds per game and averaged 12.9 points, 1.1 assists, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 steals in 30.8 minutes per game.
“I definitely think I’m prepared from the different levels of competition and different styles I’ve been exposed to playing at Toledo,” Goodall said. “Our competition in our non-conference schedule increased a lot. Last year was a pretty tough schedule. With playing in the WNIT, that also exposed me to a little bit broader stroke of different styles of basketball. I’m prepared for whatever is thrown at me. Our coaching staff had the mindset to challenge us and not just have an easy schedule we could float on through.”
During Toledo’s postseason run in the WNIT, Goodall averaged 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. She scored 12 points with nine rebounds in her final game at Toledo as the Rockets beat USC 76-68 in the championship game.
Goodall has received advice on the style of play she will see overseas from UT senior guard Naama Shafir, who played for the Israeli national team in the European women’s championship.
“She has an idea of what it’s like to play for another country instead of your college team,” Goodall said. “I’ve been able to talk to a few people to get an idea. I’m just going to take it in as it comes, be as ready as possible when I leave and hopefully be successful over there as well.”
Goodall likely would have already signed with a team, but she was determined to join the Rockets on their trip to visit Shafir in Israel from Aug. 7 to 18. Goodall and classmate Jessica Williams had to maintain their amateur status to be allowed to make the trip.
“Everybody was so excited for it,” Goodall said. “When Coach Cullop said we were going to be able to go, there was never a doubt in my mind about going on the trip, no matter what it took.”
Williams headed to Hawaii this week to start her job as a graduate assistant at Hawaii Pacific University, and Cullop is not looking forward to her former players bragging about the weather this winter.
“Jay is going to be a graduate assistant at Hawaii Pacific, and Goody is going to such a terrible place, too,” Cullop joked. “It’s going to be awful when they call me and it’s snowing here and they say, ‘Coach, it’s sunny here.’ We always joke with recruits that it doesn’t snow in the gym.”
“I’m going to call and be like, ‘I went to the beach today,’ in the middle of February,” Goodall said. “I’ll see once I get over there if I miss winter or not. I’m excited to be living in the island life for a few months. I can’t complain about that.”
Santa Cruz is part of the Canary Islands and is about 130 miles off the northwest coast of Africa, so Goodall will be doing plenty of traveling to and from the mainland for games.
“I’m kind of an adventurous person,” Goodall said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing as much of Spain as possible. The Canary Islands is a little farther away than if I’d picked a city on the mainland. I’ll have time to do some traveling on my own, but I’m looking forward to playing all the different teams and visiting all the different cities through just the basketball aspect.”
Cullop visited an area close to Santa Cruz on a recruiting trip a few years ago.
“She and I talked about it,” Cullop said. “I’ve never been in the exact place she’s going to go, but I really enjoyed the brief time I was there. I think she is going to love it.”
While Goodall is excited to travel, she expects to miss her family and friends.
“I know that I will miss people, but luckily as part of my contract I do get one paid vacation with a round-trip ticket and everything,” she said. “I’ll be coming home for a week around Christmastime. I’m happy about that. With Skype and the Internet and all social media we have now, it won’t be too hard for me to keep in touch with people. I’m sure I’ll get a little lonely, but I’ll make a few friends I can hang out with.”
Goodall is tied for first in UT history with 131 games played, fourth with 83 blocked shots and 16th with 1,131 points scored, and she has no plans of slowing down in Spain.
“I want to keep my job, so in order to do that I have to produce,” she said. “I can’t just go over there and be a bum. I’m hoping to do at least as good as what I did my senior year. I’d like to average 15 points. I’ve been told that would be a good point for me to reach. I’m going into it expecting that I’m going to really enjoy it and want to be able to continue it. Maybe I’ll sign up for the same team, but if not I’ll play for another team the next year and do it for a few years down the road.”