Temple University women’s basketball freshman guard Aniya Gourdine adjusted quickly from the high school level to being a newfound starter in the Owls lineup.
“She’s done a great job of handling the ball and distributing the ball,” said head coach Tonya Cardoza. “But, you know, she’s a freshman who’s played in 15 games and I think every day she’s learning and getting better.”
Gourdine, who came from St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, went from leading her high school floor as a point guard to becoming a key ball handler in the Owls’ backcourt and has brought a forceful presence on the defensive side of the ball, Cardoza added.
The true freshman’s first start was against Saint John’s University on Nov. 9, 2021, because Cardoza benched freshman guard Jasha Clinton for the game. Gourdine finished with three points, grabbed three rebounds, and had two assists.
“It meant a lot to start,” Gourdine said. “But it also meant I needed to step it up more. I’m a freshman, but I don’t play like a freshman. I had to be older, I had to play older.”
But it wasn’t until she started against Northwestern University on Dec. 17 that Gourdine, who is averaging 25.4 minutes per game, became a regular in the starting five.
Gourdine totaled eight points against the Wildcats and also had six rebounds.
“She’s doing a better job defensively,” Cardoza said. “She rebounds from the guard spot and has just been playing better all around, and that’s important to us.”
Last season Temple relied heavily on its forwards, graduate student Mia Davis and junior Alexa Williamson, to grab most of the rebounds inside the paint.
But Gourdine, who is second in total rebounds, has contributed with her versatility on the defensive side of the ball, racking up 70 defensive rebounds so far this season, and she’s taken some of the weight off the more experienced players.
It took some time for the Owls’ to find their chemistry this year with six freshmen and three transfers added to the roster, but Gourdine has continued to push herself to help secure her starter position, she said.
“I need to do the little things,” Gourdine said. “It’s not always about scoring, getting rebounds. It’s setting my teammates up, playing defense and just doing the little things.”
Gourdine, who is averaging 7.4 points per game, can bring the ball down the court and look for open spots to pass the ball down low, but she’s also stepped up to take open shots when they’re available.
“She reminds me a lot of me and she’s tough, she wants to win,” Cardoza said. “She’s going to go out and compete, and we’ve thrown her in the fire. I mean, she handles herself out there.”
In the Owls’ matchup against Duquesne University on Dec. 5, 2021, Gourdine had an all-around impressive performance. She came off the bench and had three steals, eight points and seven rebounds, playing a total of 26 minutes.
As the season has progressed, Gourdine’s shooting comfortability has grown. She put up 26 points in Temple’s past three games and had a double-double, almost triple, with 12 points, 10 assist and eight rebounds against the University of South Florida on Jan. 22.
Gourdine has been working on being the eyes and ears of the coaches. Assistant coach Sam Guastella wants Gourdine to stay poised on the court rather than become rattled by an opponent, but that’ll come with time and experience, she said.
“[Gourdine] as a point guard is just an extension of our coach,” Guastella added. “She needs to keep growing her ability to understand what we’re looking to do and execute that.”
Now that the team is more than halfway through the season, Gourdine hopes to improve her decision-making and learn from her mistakes, she said.
“[Cardoza] and I talk a lot on the court during practice,” Gourdine added. “I know exactly what she wants from me and I’m basically her on the court.”