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Gonzaga guard tops 1,000 career assists

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)

Gonzaga has produced a lot of spectacular point guards over the years, from John Stockton to Dan Dickau to Blake Stepp. Courtney Vandersloot has them all beat, at least in the key category of assists.

The senior recently became only the seventh player in NCAA history to dish out at least 1,000 assists in her career. Even Stockton, the NBA's career assist leader, didn't get that many in college

Vandersloot is easily leading the nation this season with an average of 9.9 assists per game - almost three assists per game better than the second place player. She also leads the West Coast Conference with 18.5 points per game as the No. 23 Bulldogs attempt to run away with another league title and seek a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

Many consider Vandersloot the greatest female player in school history.

''She is the best player to come through here and I am honored to be a part of that,'' said Kayla Standish, who averages 16 points per game, including the layup that gave Vandersloot her 1,000th assist on Feb. 12.

Vandersloot, known as CV or Sloot, is from the Seattle suburb of Kent, Wash., and held the career scoring record at Kentwood High School when she graduated. The 5-foot-8 Vandersloot was rated one of the top point guards on the West Coast, and was sold on Gonzaga during her recruiting visit.

''I fell in love with Gonzaga,'' she said.

The feeling was mutual.

''Courtney is the heart and soul of our basketball team,'' coach Kelly Graves said.

She became a starter her freshman year, averaging 10 points and 5 assists per game and was named WCC newcomer of the year. She had 10 assists in her first college game, against Washington. She was WCC player of the year as a sophomore, averaging 16 points and was third in the nation with 7.5 assists per game.

She repeated as WCC player of the year last season, averaging 14 points and leading the nation with 9.4 assists per game, as the Bulldogs advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.

She's even better this season, adding 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 steals and a dazzling array of no-look passes and drives to the basket, her pony tail bobbing as she explodes past defenders.

''You never know where the pass is coming from,'' Standish said.

Vandersloot dropped 24 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds in a loss to No. 2 Stanford this season, and is a finalist for the Naismith and Wooden awards.

She has an easy explanation for all her assists.

''I'm just surrounded by so many scorers,'' Vandersloot said.

''It's more enjoyable for me to make a good pass than to score,'' she said.

But the ability to shoot from outside, and also to penetrate, is what opens up the defense for her assists.

Stockton, who lives in Spokane, remains a key figure in Gonzaga basketball, and is well known for mentoring the guards on the men's team. It turns out he helps the women also.

''I've had chances to work with him,'' Vandersloot said. ''He asks if I need help or advice.''

Vandersloot became the first female player since 1995 to top 1,000 career assists when she handed out nine in Gonzaga's win over Pepperdine on Feb. 12.

''I will say I was glad to get it over with,'' she said of the milestone.

She has 1,029 in her career, trailing Suzie McConnell of Penn State (1,307), Tine Freil of Pacific (1,291) and Andrea Nagy of Florida International (1,165). Among men, the career assist leaders are Bobby Hurley of Duke (1,076), Chris Corchiani of North Carolina State (1,038) and Ed Cota of North Carolina (1,030).

Vandersloot, who has 1,880 career points, has the chance to be the only member of that group to score 2,000 points and have 1,000 assists in her college career.

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