(Photo:Steve Rodriguez/ASU Athletics)
Following an early exit from last year’s NCAA tournament at the hands of the national runner-up Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Arizona State women’s basketball team will enter the 2014-2015 season with many questions remaining to be answered. Recovering from the loss of leading scorer Deja Mann and starting point guard Adrianna Thomas will be no small task, but in 2015 ASU has the personnel to overcome their losses and kick open the door to a new era of fast-paced, team-oriented basketball.
Looking back at last year Head Coach Charli Turner-Throne said, “We just found ways to win. We didn’t dominate and we want to build on that for this year.” When asked about what she wanted to accomplish this year, she said, “We’ve worked really hard this offseason just to get more consistent statistically…more consistent with our rebounding, taking care of the basketball. That is our huge goal, more consistency as a basketball team.”
Turner-Thorne will have her hands full this year formulating a rotation that will be able to consistently put points on the board after losing three of her top five leading scorers to graduation. The team will rely on a fast-paced tempo, and getting transition buckets off forced turnovers. The fast break predicated attack will also cover up the team’s lack of a shot- creating, number one offensive option after losing Deja Mann to graduation.
The Devils were nearly untouchable under the familiar confines of their home court at Wells Fargo Arena, going 14-1 at home during the regular season. This is something ASU will likely have to replicate if they are going to achieve a record equal or better than the 23-10 mark they put up last season, as coming out with victories on the road against Pac-12 opponents won’t be easy.
For example, ASU enters a gauntlet of a road trip in mid February, as they travel to Corvallis to take on Oregon State, then to Eugene to face Oregon, to Los Angles to face UCLA and then USC in a matter of two days. It’s no small task to win at any of these venues, especially in a succession. With a testing road schedule, the Devils will be forced to put more emphasis on taking care of business at Wells Fargo.
Projected Starting Five
PG- Elisha Davis
SG- Promise Amukamara
SF- Katie Hempen
PF- Sophie Brunner
C- Kelsey Moos
ASU will struggle to find veteran experience this year with the departure of Mann and Thomas, but look for Promise Amukamara and Katie Hempen to fit that mold for the Devils in 2015. Amukamara is a returning senior for ASU who spent most of the season starting at the 3, playing multiple roles for the Devils, and becoming their most valuable defensive player as she led the team in steals, creating easy transition points for herself and her teammates.
Hempen, on the other hand, does her work on the offensive side of the ball. The red shirt junior is a gifted scorer, who can shoot the ball with the best of them. Last year she not only totaled the third highest points per game average for ASU with 8.9 a game, but also was second on the team in shots made from beyond the arc. (44). Hempen should be the number one offensive threat for the Sun Devils this year, but don’t expect the stats to be mind boggling, as Turner- Throne’s system calls for multiple contributors to score the ball.
At the point guard spot, Adrianna Thomas leaves a gap with a seemingly easy fix. Elisha Davis finished 2014 with 94 assists, and looks to be the floor general for the Devils to start the year. She is a true point guard who creates plays for her teammates, plays solid defense and can score a little bit for good measure. Her ability to handle the point was apparent last year when she came off the bench replacing Thomas as the feature ball handler for the Sun Devils’ second rotation. When asked about what she learned from Thomas over the course of last year Davis said, “She taught me how to be poised and to stay with things and not let things affect me.”
Davis only started in three games last season, however her average minutes per game was just slightly lower than Thomas’ who received most of the starts, so a lack of experience shouldn’t be a factor for the 5-3 junior should she be thrust into the starting point guard role.
With a backcourt that has lost both of its starting guards, the pressure will be on the bigs this year to make the transition into 2014-2015 as smooth as possible. Last year’s emergence of freshmen forwards Sophie Brunner and Kelsey Moos was a major bright spot for ASU.
Brunner proved to be dangerous, crashing the boards and flashing a ton of offensive potential last year, leading the team in offensive rebounds and providing a midrange shooting threat that is uncanny for a player her size. Brunner played her way into Turner-Thorne’s favor, as she was able to earn increased minutes and eventually a spot in the starting lineup.
Fellow freshman Kelsey Moos also played a dynamic role in ASU’s success last season, starting in 31 of 32 games and losing the team rebound lead to Brunner by just one. I asked her what made her transition to the college game so seamless, and she responded with a smile, “Well it definitely wasn’t easy, I’ll say that. The coaches and the team really helped me prepare and focus on what I needed to get done in the game, and they tried not to overwhelm me.”
Moos stands at 6 foot tall and is listed as a forward, but she was able to hold down the starting center position for the Devils with a down low, physical style of play. Moos isn’t afraid to bash with the trees under the rim, a trait that allowed her to easily adapt to the college game from the get go last year.
As is traditional with Turner-Thorne teams, the 2015 Devils will look to constantly rotate fresh legs onto the floor. This puts emphasis on the bench to perform well as they will be asked to play a major part in every game, capitalizing on the fatigue of exhausted opponents.
Starting with the new faces, freshmen Tia Kanoa, Nicole Iademarco, Ayanna Edwards, and transfer junior Peace Amukamara should be let loose right out of the gates.
Kanoa suffered a knee injury in her senior season of high school at Kamehameha High in Hawaii, which may hinder her ability to immediately crack the rotation to start the year. But look for the two-time California and Hawaii state champion to turn heads when she is back to full strength.
Edwards is a 6-foot-4 center out of Sacramento High School. She was ranked as the 14th best Center in the 2014 recruiting class by ESPN. Going by the nickname “Shaq,” she adds a terrific defensive presence to the bench, and brings a lot of size and strength to a Sun Devil team that is lacking it.
Rounding out the rooks is Nicole Iademarco the wing player from The Woodlands, Texas, who is the 2014 recruiting class 36th rated guard according to ESPN. She showed that she is a do-it-all player in high school, where she averaged 10.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists during her career. At 6 feet 1 inch tall, Iademarco can fit in at both the two and the three positions, making it more likely for her to find playing time early.
Don’t be shocked when Peace Amukamara instantaneously becomes a force off the bench for ASU in 2015. The transfer out of Mesa Community College earned both All America and Player of the Year honors at the NJCAA Division II level, and finished her phenomenal campaign by leading MCC to their first ever NJCAA D II title.
When asked about Peace’s transition into the D1 game, Coach Turner-Throne stated, “I watched Promise and Peace in high school, and I always thought if she worked hard she could reach this level. She’s tough and she’s smart and she’s skilled.”
Now heading to Tempe to play alongside her sister Promise at ASU, the two siblings will look to rekindle the chemistry of their high school days at Glendale Apollo.
As far as the returning bench players go, it’s tough to ignore the towering Canadian center Quinn Dornstauder. Standing at 6 feet 4 inches tall, Quinn has the ability to simply play above opposing players, grabbing rebounds and rejecting undersized shooters at the rim. As a freshman last year, Dornstauder led the Devils in blocks with 17, and it won’t be baffling if we see more of the same this year.
Joining Dornstauder down low is fifth-year senior Nisha Barrett, who suffered an injury in preparation for the 2013-2014 season that kept her sidelined the entire year. But in 2012, Barrett flashed some impressive offensive ability at Barstow Community College, where she averaged 18.9 points per game before transferring to ASU.
Filling out ASU’s guards off the pine are Eliza Normen, Isidora Purkovic, Arnecia Hawkins. The latter of the three dropped 18 points on Washington last year, proving that she is a valuable scorer off the bench. Purkovic, who is a traditional off guard, showed that she could handle the point when necessary, getting eight appearances as a freshman at both the one and the two. Finally Eliza Normen, the redshirt junior, finished fifth on the team in rebounding, showing that she isn’t afraid to bang with the bigs to clean up the glass.
The Sun Devils enter the year positioned at sixth in the Pac-12 preseason rankings, but don’t put too much faith in that. Remember the tenth spot they were slotted in last year? Coach Turner-Thorne’s team has a tendency to defy the odds, so lets keep that in the back of our minds as we watch this season of Pac-12 basketball unfold.
The Sun Devils start their quest for a return to March Madness glory next Friday, November 14th against Middle Tennessee State at Wells Fargo Arena. Tip off is at 7:00 ET as the ladies begin what should be another exciting year of Arizona State Women’s Basketball.