Gayle stands above the rest in Women's Basketball record books
Nov. 21, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Considering that she stands 6 foot 4, few people actually tower over Texas Women's Basketball senior Ashley Gayle. Ellen Bayer is one of those people. She's 6-foot-10, and up until recently, the most prolific shot-blocker in UT history.
Gayle and Bayer stood side by side in conversation last spring, and it was during that exchange Gayle truly realized Bayer was not only someone to look up to -- literally -- but also someone to strive to be, surpass even.
Bayer set the Longhorns' career blocked shots record in 1990, but with her 290th career block on Sunday against Alcorn State, Gayle moved in front of Bayer and is now UT's blocked shots leader with 296 and counting.
"I think that's why I came to Texas, and I think that's why everybody comes to Texas -- to pursue those big goals and records set by people in the past," said Gayle, who has 12 blocks in her past two games. "To be able to put a mark on UT history and on this program is really special to me. It means a lot."
Gayle said it was during her encounter with Bayer during an alumni reunion last spring that she truly understood the impact of the record, and the importance of pursuing it.
But Gayle's pursuit of history has a very tangible benefit for the Longhorns of the here and now. Because of Gayle's steady, even spectacular, post defense, UT's guards can take more chances with their perimeter defense.
"Basically, we are directing (the ball) right to her," guard Yvonne Anderson said. "If she doesn't block it, she definitely scares them into coming back out. We can reach for the ball every now and then knowing she is back there. She honestly saves us on a lot of stuff, and I don't know if there are many more in the country who do it as well as Ashley Gayle."
Gayle's 60 blocks during her freshman campaign rank as the second most ever by a freshman and the 11th most overall in one season by a Longhorn. She also holds the UT single-season blocks record with 117 set during the 2010-11 season, which bettered her previous school record of 103 set during the 2009-10 season.
As one of the senior leaders on this year's team, Gayle is in the final stages of a UT career that is highlighted by her pleasant demeanor and photogenic smile. But Gayle's friendly disposition is in great contrast to her stern, shot-blocking tendencies that take over when she's on the basketball court.
"She takes so much pride in her defense, the way she defends and the way she blocks shots," UT head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "It can really change games. She gets into the heads of guards and post players who are used to getting wide open shots."
Often times, a lane will appear in the paint, and a guard charges ahead for the lay-up. That's when Gayle swoops in out of nowhere, with her wingspan and height, and affects the shot.
"The blocks you see are spectacular," Goestenkors said. "But she also changes so many shots. She blocked seven (against Alcorn State), and I'll bet you she changed 10 other shots as well."