Just how good can WSU's Galdeira become?

PULLMAN -- If you weren't paying attention already, don't worry. There's still three years to appreciate what Lia Galdeira has brought to Pullman. The 5-11 guard from Hawaii just completed a freshman basketball season at Washington State so memorable, so multi-dimensional, that it's entirely possible one of the great careers in WSU women's basketball history is about to unfold before us.

Maybe even one of the great careers in Pac-12 history.

June Daugherty is known for her glass-half-full view of the world, but there is no hype in her voice when assessing Galdeira, just straight-forward analysis from someone who has been a college head coach for 24 years.

"When you reflect now that the season is over -- I've never had a kid that is as athletic and talented as she is in a freshman class," Daugherty told Cougfan.com on Sunday while recovering from the acute appendicitis that sidelined her for the Pac-12 Women's Tournament in Seattle.

That's no small feat when you consider that Daugherty's roster of talent over the years includes Giuliana Mendiola, the 2003 Pac-10 Player of the Year and a two-time honorable mention All-American selection at the University of Washington.

Galdeira, she said, "may be one of those people out there who come along once in a lifetime. She's that different. I think as long as she continues to get in better shape and become more skilled the sky is the limit.

"I think she could play anywhere."

Galdeira's first year on the Palouse was record-shattering. She broke WSU freshmen records for total points, points per game and free throw percentage, while claiming second on the all-time freshman list for steals and fifth for rebounds.

That's the kind of production that belongs to Jenni Ruff and Jeanne Eggart, the two greatest players in WSU women's history and members of the Cougar Athletic Hall of Fame.

Galdeira's14.8 points per game average was tops among all freshmen in the country, and her 86 steals was the most by anyone in the Pac-12.

"She kind of has a second sense if you will – an unbelievable feel for the game of basketball," Daugherty said. "Every game she does something new and different."

Coach wasn't the only one who noticed. Pac-12 media members voted her first-team all-conference, all-defense and all-freshman. Pac-12 coaches picked her honorable mention all-conference, honorable mention all-defense, and all-freshman.

Her ascension was so complete that she paced the Cougars in scoring in 15 of their 18 conference games.

How exactly was Galdeira able to make such an immediate impact?

"That's just how competitive she is," Daugherty said. " … She reads passing lanes and again is very intuitive about basketball."

For good measure, Galdeira also finished third on the team in assists, with 52.

Daugherty asked the numerous WNBA scouts in Seattle this past weekend for the conference tournament to assess all her players.

Daugherty already knows how Galdeira projects at the next level.

"If you ask me a particular player to compare I don't know off the top of my head right now who'd that be because I think Lia is so unique," she said. "She is just so unique in what she does with her body type and her strength and skill-package."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Galdeira hails from the island of Hawaii, the Big Island, and a rural town named Kamuela that is known for two astronomical observatories. She wanted to play on the football team her freshman year at Konawaena High School but wasn't allowed to. Her older brother Jacob played football at Western Montana.

  • The Cougars finished this season with an 11-20 overall mark and 6-12 Pac-12 record. The midseason loss of point guard Tia Presley to a knee injury was a blow. She was the team's second-leading scorer, and also earned Pac-12 honorable mention honors.

  • Daugherty said she began having stomach pains the night before the Pac-12 Tournament opener against ASU, and opted for an early night's sleep instead of going to the hospital. But the next day during shootaround at Seattle Pacific University the stomach pain began to worsen. Dr. Dennis Garcia, the team physician, checked her out and noted she had all the signs of acute appendicitis. She was in surgery three hours later, so completely missed the Cougar-Sun Devil game. Associate coach and husband Mike Daugherty had a message for her when she woke up from a successful operation. "I came out of surgery and they wheeled me out of my room. Mike was there and a lot of other people from my staff," she said. "On the grease board they had this big sign that said "Cougs Win."
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