(Photo: Nicole Hernandez/WCSN)
As her team broke off their hurdle in practice last Thursday, head coach Charli Turner Thorne had plenty of reasons to smile.
A talented crop of freshmen has made waves early on for the Arizona State women’s basketball team.
“We knew they were special when we signed them,” Turner Thorne said. “They’re doing things that last year’s team couldn’t do and I expect them to keep getting better.”
With there being questions coming into this year on who would provide stability in ASU’s backcourt, multiple freshmen have stepped to fill the gaps left from last year.
Guards Reili Richardson, Kiara Russell and Robbi Ryan have all played big minutes and have stepped up for the Sun Devils.
All three have proven that they can, and more than likely will play large roles in Turner Thorne’s game plan for the future.
Richardson has established herself as a minutes deserving player. The 5-feet-11-inch guard hails from Southern California and led her high school to a state championship her senior year. The former five-star recruit was named the Pac-12 freshman of the week after her first two games.
“It’s good for my team,” Richardson said. “I’ve worked hard since the first day I got here, nothing was easy.”
Richardson also has Sun Devil roots. Her father, Mike Richardson, played football for Arizona State, later going on to be drafted in 1983 and becoming a starter for the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears.
Russell, a Minnesota product, was named a Ms. Minnesota Basketball finalist and has started at point guard for the Sun Devils in their three games, averaging seven points per contest.
“I just wanted to get better as a teammate and as a player,” Russell said. “I knew it was going to be a tough challenge coming here and adjusting to everything.”
Russell is currently the only freshmen to have started a game for ASU.
While surprised at being named a starter this early on, Russell came in with a mentality not unlike those of her fellow freshmen.
“It’s just basketball,” Russell said. “You got to play your game, it’s ok to be nervous.”
Averaging 11.7 points per game, Robbi Ryan has lead the Sun Devils in scoring through three games. Ryan was a four-star recruit, being named Wyoming Ms. Basketball her senior year of high school.
Ryan credits the upperclassmen for her smooth transition from high school to college ball.
“They lead us on and off the court,” Ryan said. “They talk to us constantly and they really help us through if we mess up and show us where we need to be at.”
Richardson echoed this sentiment.
“I’m following their lead,” Richardson said. “They’ve been here multiple years and they know what to expect and what it takes to win.”
As the season progresses and the Sun Devils take on more and more challenging opponents, the mettle of the freshmen core will be continuously put to the test and coach Turner Thorne says she expects them to be ready.