Last year when we wrote these previews, I highlighted the incredible story of Katie Campbell. Going into the year, the Gonzaga women’s team needed a guard to step up and score the ball, particularly from deep. Campbell became that weapon.
In her junior season, the Oxnard, CA native was one of the best three-point shooters in the entire country. At one point, she was fifth in the nation in three-point percentage. She finished the year shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc and her 63 mades threes rank ninth in program history for a single season. Campbell entered the starting line-up against Stanford in December when Jessie Loera suffered a concussion. She hit five triples, grabbed seven rebounds, and helped Gonzaga beat a top 10 team at home for the first time ever. She started every game the rest of the season.
Campbell isn’t just a three-point specialist. She’s a tenacious defender. Her 47 steals were second on the team behind the graduated Laura Stockton. She started the season 18-for-18 from the foul line and finished with the fewest turnovers of any rotation player.
So what’s next for her senior season? Well, she’s locked into a starting spot alongside Jessie Loera in the backcourt. The two of them should combine for one of the best defensive backcourts on the west coast. Offensively, she should continue to be Gonzaga’s best perimeter shooter. However, last season, she was the only Bulldog with more than 27 made threes so teams were able to key on her toward the end of the season - no bigger example than Oregon State forcing Campbell to go 0-for-5 and holding Gonzaga to ZERO made threes until the final 30 seconds in their second round NCAA Tournament loss.
This year, things should be a bit different. Loera should increase her 27 mades threes after making it a priority this offseason. Jill Townsend shot 44 percent and will have a much expanded roll on the wing this season. And Lou Forsyth might be the best pure shooter on the team, but has dealt with injuries her first two seasons. She is poised to break into the rotation and shot 15-for-32 beyond the arc last year.
What do all those players have to do with Campbell’s success? The more shooters on the roster, the more defenses have to key on all of them, which should open Campbell for even more shots. If she’s able to finish better from inside the arc (41% 2pt last year), she could easily increase her 8.1 points a game into double figures.