The 2019-20 Sun Devil Women’s basketball season tips off tonight against the Air Force Falcons at the Desert Financial Arena. The No. 20 Sun Devils enter the season looking to extend their streak of six straight seasons of 20 wins and NCAA postseason appearances.
Arizona State will look to replace key frontcourt players, (Kianna Ibis, Charnea Johnson-Chapman and Sophia Elenga), who have all graduated from the program. Their ability to not only score but rebound will leave coach Charli Turner Thorne trying to figure out who will get rebounds this year.
“We are going to miss our rebounding,” Turner Thorne said. “We are still working on replacing that rebounding that graduated.”
The three players accounted for roughly 48 percent of the team’s rebounding last season. Now, Turner Thorne sees the team playing differently as they look to replace the loss of rebounding.
“We’re going to be very different,” Turner Thorne said. “We are going to play a lot faster and a little more small ball this year. Very different look, one that we have had in our best years but not one that we had in a few years. I think we are going to be more dynamic.”
The new look Sun Devils will be lead by three senior guards, (Reili Richardson, Robbi Ryan and Kiara Russell), who Turner Thorne thinks will lead the charge.
“We have three dynamic experienced senior guards and that helps you sleep at night as a coach,” Turner Thorne. “There’s nothing those three haven’t seen, nothing. They have played top teams on the road in front of ten thousand plus fans. That level of experience is definitely comforting. They have had a good offseason, all three of them.”
Richardson enters her senior campaign, third on ASU’s career assist board (456). She is 79 assists away from passing Briann January (2006-09) and becoming the schools all-time leader.
Ryan was the team’s third leading scorer last year, averaging 7.2 points per game. She looks to be the teams top scorer as Ibis and Courtney Ekmark finished their senior seasons.
Russell looks to be the healthiest since her freshman year, Turner Thorne said. She’s constantly improved her field goal shooting (45.7% in 2018) over the course of her time as a Sun Devil.
One player to keep an eye out for this year is, senior forward Jamie Ruden. Turner Thorne mentioned the senior forward is catching the eyes of PAC-12 coaches.
“Jamie Ruden is healthy...that’s the player that coaches in our conference ask us about the most,” Turner Thorne said. “They know what a tough matchup she is as a five player that can step out and drain threes all day. They don’t want her necessarily to be out there more than she has been but she is looking great and very healthy.”
Ruden has made 47 three pointers in her three seasons as a Sun Devil and from the looks of it, Turner Thorne is expecting her to be trouble for her opponents.
“It’s finally here,” are the words Turner Thorne used to described the season finally starting tonight.
“With this team, the vibe is really good. We are younger, and we still have a lot to learn every day, but I think what characterizes all of our teams is, they just really care about each other and it’s always our goal to play for each other and not the scoreboard and you feel that. Now, it’s going to grow but I feel great that this team is committed to winning over everything else.”