Sasha Goforth

Arkansas sophomore guard Sasha Goforth sets up to shoot the ball during the Razorbacks’ Nov. 12 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Bud Walton Arena. Goforth transferred to the UofA after a year at Oregon State, returning to her home town of Fayetteville.

After leaving her native Fayetteville for Oregon State in 2020, Arkansas sophomore guard Sasha Goforth has returned to wear the jersey of her hometown team.

Goforth played basketball at and graduated from Fayetteville High School, just a short walk from the UofA.

Goforth was rated by ESPN as the top prospect in Arkansas and the No. 21 prospect in the country for the 2020 class. She competed in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. Goforth racked up offers from some of the top programs in the country, including Oregon State, Texas A&M and Arkansas.

When it came time for Goforth to pick a school, like many high school seniors, she could not resist the allure of leaving home and seeing more of the world.

“I kind of wanted to get away from Fayetteville, because I’ve lived here my whole life,” Goforth said. “I thought it was important to try new things and have different experiences.”

The desire to get away led Goforth to commit to Oregon State on June 5, 2019.

In her first season as a Beaver, Goforth started every game and averaged 11.6 points per game. She earned two Pacific-12 Freshman of the Week honors on her way to being named to the conference’s all-freshman team at the season’s end.

Goforth’s success was bittersweet, however, because she had no one to share it with.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, Goforth’s parents were unable to attend her games and she was not allowed to visit home during breaks. Homesickness set in throughout the year, but it was not until she returned home after the season that she knew Fayetteville was where she needed to be.

A self-described loyalist, Goforth said the decision to return home, although stressful, was very exciting.

“It was very hard for me, but it was exciting knowing that I was coming home and going to be playing for Arkansas,” Goforth said. “It was a mix of emotions because I knew I was letting some people down.”

Making her decision to transfer was not the first time Goforth had felt like she let someone down. During her original recruitment process she had to tell Razorback head coach Mike Neighbors she was choosing Oregon State over Arkansas, which was the second-hardest thing she has ever done, she said.

Neighbors told her to let him know if she ever changed her mind, Goforth said.

“When she reached out about coming back, it was seamless, it was falling right back into where we were,” Neighbors said in a Nov. 18 press conference. “I'm lucky (Goforth) got a freshman year under a great coach, in a great conference, got to play a ton and I got her back with four years of eligibility. That's a win right there.”

Since Goforth returned to Fayetteville, she and Neighbors have developed an even deeper trust in each other, something she is incredibly thankful for, Goforth said.

“In the beginning I had just come back from knee surgery, and I wasn’t looking like the player I was,” Goforth said. “He just kept encouraging me, and I think he’s really developed a trust in my game and I really appreciate that.”

Goforth was determined to also earn the trust of and respect of her new teammates, she said.

“I’m kind of a nervous wreck,” Goforth said. “But this team didn’t make it hard, they were always encouraging me, constantly trying to make me feel at home, like I fit in.”

Freshman point guard Samara Spencer thinks Goforth’s team-player attitude and kind nature make her a perfect addition to the team, she said.

“She bonds with everybody well,” Spencer said. “When I have one-on-one conversations with Sasha, I enjoy talking to her. She’s always giving me encouragement and talking to me about my game.”

So far this season, Goforth has flourished in a starting role for the Razorbacks. She is putting up 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Succeeding in front of her friends and family is the most rewarding part, Goforth said.

“It’s so satisfying,” Goforth said. “It helps me every game knowing my friends and family are here rooting me on and just knowing how much they enjoy watching me play. It’s awesome.”

Neighbors is happier than anyone to see Goforth back in Fayetteville, even if he did have to wait a little longer than he wanted.

“As hard as it was to let her go,” Neighbors said. “It was worth it to get her back.”

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