Gonzaga is in a familiar spot hosting an opening round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament. But the No. 12 seed Zags have an unfamiliar...

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Gonzaga is in a familiar spot hosting an opening round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. But the No. 12 seed Zags have an unfamiliar face leading the team in the postseason.

Zags junior Jazmine Redmon averaged 21 minutes mostly off the bench last season, but she will be the focal point when the Zags (27-5) play No. 5 seed Iowa State (23-8) in a tournament opener Saturday at 1:15 p.m. at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane.

“I never thought I would be in this role,” said Redmon, a point guard who averages a team-high 3.8 assists, and 6.2 points.

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Redmon averaged 13 minutes as freshman while playing behind star Courtney Vandersloot. Last season, she started seven games but Zags coach Kelly Graves ran his offense through standouts Katelan Redmon and Kayla Standish.

With 10 underclassmen on a revamped roster this season, Graves called upon Jazmine Redmon to be the floor leader. Dubbed “Jazzy Fresh” by senior Meghan Winters, Redmon guided the team to an outright West Coast Conference regular-season title and tournament championship, earning the Zags their fifth straight NCAA berth. It’s the third straight time the Zags have opened the tournament in Spokane.

“It’s a lot different,” Redmon said of this season. “I always looked up to them (Vandersloot and the graduated stars). This year we depend on a different person every game scoring the points, getting the rebounds and getting the stops. It’s exciting that we have more of a team aspect.”

Winters said the catalyst is Redmon’s defense. She was voted WCC Defensive Player of the Year and guards the opponent’s best perimeter player.

The Cyclones’ top scorer is sophomore Hallie Christofferson, a 6-foot-2 forward who averages 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds and shoots 52.4 percent from the field. Sophomore point guard Nikki Moody ranks third nationally in assists (7.3).

“I remember when I was growing up, I hated defense,” Redmon said. “My parents were always on me that I needed to learn it because it’s the base of basketball, so I did it the hard way. Now I think it’s more exciting (than scoring), it’s something I can go to and I know I’m good at.”

Winters agreed.

“I don’t think I’d want to play against her in a game,” said Winters, a reserve. “It’s always been her strong point, but she’s really honed in this year and knows the team really relies on her guarding the best player on the other team. She also has to run the point, so she’s done an awesome job taking on two huge roles on our team.”

It’s the first meeting between the Zags and Cyclones. Iowa State is making its seventh straight tournament appearance and finished second behind No. 1 seed Baylor in the Big 12 conference.

But GU is 5-1 all-time in the NCAA tourney in Spokane.

“I just never thought this could be possible,” said Redmon, a Spokane native, of starting in the NCAA tournament for the Zags. “I’ve come a long ways since my freshman year, especially with my shooting. There’s always room for improvement, but I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”

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