NCAAW: BYU Cougars’ Shaylee Gonzales is ready to dominate

Shaylee Gonzales was quite possibly born to play basketball.

The 22-year-old guard for Brigham Young University is already generating WNBA draft buzz with up to two years left in school (thanks to an extra covid year), but her path toward a career in professional basketball really began back in the early 1990s when both of her parents were beginning their own college careers. Josh and Candice Gonzales played for Grand Canyon University from 1994-1996 and 1994-1997, respectively, with Candice making it all the way to a WNBA tryout that didn’t end up going her way.

Undeterred, the two got married and eventually welcomed five children who have all formed their own relationship with the game that brought the pair together. As Josh explained, he and Candice know just how lucky they are. As their children’s interest in basketball grew, the Gonzales family started their own AAU team in Arizona called Team Arizona Basketball, where their three youngest still play.

Of the five kids, Shaylee is currently front-and-center as she continues to bulldoze her way toward a professional career at the highest league in the United States. Her resume is impressive. She was scouted by numerous Division 1 schools at the age of 15, receiving offers before she could even drive a car. She was the first player in the history of her high school to reach 2,000 points and racked up numerous titles and awards before she graduated, including being named the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year.

The buzz surrounding Shaylee didn’t escape the notice of several major colleges around the United States, and schools such as Stanford University courted her hard. But for Shaylee, there was only one school for her: Utah’s BYU, where she had attended an elite training camp at the age of 15. Shaylee explains that BYU’s appeal wasn’t strictly about basketball, saying, “I wanted to make an impact on a team, but the environment was important. My focus was also on academics, and BYU checked off all the boxes.”

Getting into a Division I school is a major part of any would-be collegiate athlete’s career, male or female. Some basketball players, like Shaylee, are approached early and often and accept full scholarship offers before they ever touch the ground as a student. Others, such as recent Texas Tech graduate and 2022 NBA prospect Adonis Arms, have to work their way to the top. Arms spent two years at Mesa Community College before he signed with Winthrop University in 2019 and Texas Tech in 2021, a path that is markedly different from Shaylee’s ⁠— but that difference is what brought the two together in early May 2022.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Shaylee (like a lot of college athletes) is able to play for an extra year while she is at BYU. That’s a compelling fact, especially as she could technically leave college at the conclusion of the 2022-2023 school year to pursue the WNBA if she wanted to — and that’s exactly the decision she and her family are weighing these days. To help Shaylee get the extra push she needs at exactly this point in her collegiate career, Shaylee and her family brought in Tremaine Dalton, founder of The Process Basketball. The Process is one of the world’s most successful basketball training programs, and possibly the only one that combines NBA and European style training with on-the-ground humanitarian work around the world.

After working with Shaylee for one day, Dalton immediately understood three things: Shaylee needed more “killer” instinct, her competitive edge is fierce, and, if she keeps her focus, she can make it to the WNBA. His solution? To phone in his friend Adonis Arms.

Similarities between the two exist; they play roughly the same position and they are both chasing professional careers in a sport they love. In most scenarios, Shaylee and Arms might never have met, let alone practiced together for several days. But The Process is a dedicated advocate and partner in the global fight for equity between men’s and women’s basketball, and Dalton has already seen how connecting male and female players can contribute to that goal.

For example, Swedish basketball pro Kalis Loyd has worked with The Process for a number of years in preparation for European championships and the Olympics. She is also a mentor to Elijah Clarance, a young member of the Swedish men’s national team and another player who trains with Dalton. As one of the top female players in Europe (her team Toulouse Métropole Basket won their championship in May 2022), Loyd also works with Clarance on his physical and mental game. As a result, they are both enjoying unmatched career success.

Dalton’s goal was to replicate this experience with Shaylee and Arms. Arms and Dalton have worked together for years, ever since July 2019 when Arms joined Dalton’s summer training session in Paris, France. Arms has reaped the benefits of training with The Process ever since, and in 2022 he had the opportunity to share those benefits with Shaylee.

The differences between the two are why Dalton wanted them to work out together, especially as Shaylee prepares for her final year or two of college basketball. While it’s clear that her hard work and the overwhelming support of her parents have gotten her this far, many professional athletes know that you often need a push to make it to the next level.

As Dalton explained. “We feel that one way to improve gender equality in sports, and especially in basketball, is through intensive skill development. At The Process Basketball, we provide a space for women athletes to train with the same intensity as men as an effort to nurture and instill growth in a safe environment. Through mentorship, players learn from each other and provide guidance based on their own experiences and the experiences of one another.”

As many athletes know or will soon learn, in this day and age there is a lot more that goes into being a professional athlete than just being able to play well. To that end, Shaylee has maximized her extra year in college both as an athlete and beyond. In addition to her promising basketball career, Shaylee has a thriving social media presence that counts over 130,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 80,000 followers on Instagram. Her unique position as both a celebrated college player and a social media influencer isn’t lost on her.

Shaylee’s social media career took off after she injured her ACL in 2020 and made a video about her recovery journey. That video has gone on to garner more than one million views, launching her into the world of NIL (name, image, likeness) success as an athlete. Shaylee says that her followers are an important part of her journey, explaining that when she began making videos as a high school senior for 200 subscribers she had no idea where things would end up.

“Once I entered college, things blew up. I had 10,000, then 50,000, and then I got hurt. The ACL video means a lot to other players because they can see how far I have come as a player, and the story connects with people over and over again.”

Shaylee’s social media presence has broadened her ideas about what life might look like for her a year, five years, ten years from now. The WNBA is at the forefront of her mind, and by all accounts, she’s good enough to make an attempt at the league following her 2022-2023 school year. That’s just one path available to her, which is the gift that the extra year has given to so many athletes around the United States.

For a player like Shaylee, there are advantages to leaving a year early and advantages to sticking it out. Right now, her focus is on staying in school and maximizing the extra time. As Dalton points out, “Time is more important than anything, and having that extra year has been a blessing for many athletes. It’s like having a free man in a video game and you get an extra life to play again. You get to see the mistake you have made, to study your opponents, and to even reevaluate yourself mentally and physically.”

When it comes to Shaylee Gonzales’ WNBA aspirations, there is no limit to what she can accomplish. She already has family support, an extensive online network, teammates and coaches who want the best for her, access to incredible training and a proven track record on the court. Now all she has to do is what she does best: play basketball.

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