When Sophie Brunner arrived in Tempe in the fall of 2013, the ASU women’s basketball team was in a transitional period. The team was still regaining its balance after head coach Charli Turner Thorne had taken a nine-month leave of absence from coaching to spend time with her family two years prior.
The year before Brunner’s freshman season, the team went through one of it’s worst years under Turner Thorne, finishing 13-18 and a distant ninth place in the PAC-12 standings.
Brunner’s impact on the Sun Devils was immediate, she appeared in every game the Sun Devils played and was named 2014 Pac-12 Freshman Honorable Mention, as well as helping bring the Sun Devils back to the NCAA Tournament. The momentum continued into the next three years, where she helped lead the team to the NCAA Tournament every year she played, highlighted by a Sweet 16 run in 2015.
By the time her time in Tempe was up, she was third on ASU’s all-time scoring list and had secured her name as one of the most decorated Sun Devil basketball players in school history.
Today, Brunner is living in her hometown of Freeport, Illinois, and studying for her master’s degree which she aims to use to become an elementary school teacher. She recently took some time to speak with House of Sparky about her ASU career in another edition of our Devil Distancing series.
What was your favorite memory as a Sun Devil?
My favorite memory would probably be my sophomore year. We won at home in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Arkansas Little-Rock. We were down by something like 18 points and then we won and got to go to the Sweet 16.
I think in general that year was super fun, we had a really good team. We all clicked, it was kind of new, in terms of the being able to go to the Sweet 16. The atmosphere of that game was incredible.
What does a typical day in your life look like today?
I wake up at 5 o’ clock every morning, because where I work is about 45 minutes to one hour away. I usually leave at 6 or 6:15 because I drop another kid off that goes to school in Rockford. I’m usually at school from about 7:15 a.m. to 2 or 2:30 p.m. I’m either subbing for a teacher that’s gone or I’m helping another teacher in her classroom.
I love it. It’s a great building, great principal, amazing staff, everything is great.
I also help coach girl’s basketball at Rockford Christian, about ten minutes away. Usually we have practice from 3:15 to 5 Monday and Wednesday. Then I try to workout after that. Then, come home, work on my grad school stuff and go to bed.
College taught me well, being a student-athlete and how to manage all of it. I really understand what time management is.
If you could relive one moment from your ASU career, what would it be?
We’ve had so many really fun ones. I think Stanford my junior year. It went into Overtime and we won by like, two points. It was really crazy, and it was at Stanford. We swept them that year. That game was insane, another great team, amazing friends.
You can tell the teams that aren’t close when it comes down to the wire, because they turn on each other instead of coming together when it comes down to the wire. Credit to Charli, she always made sure the culture was top-knotch, and it still is. I would do anything for my teammates.
Is there a player or a coach from your time at ASU that had a major impact on your life?
If anyone knows me and my time at ASU, my best friend and I were the same class and roommates all four years, Kelsey Moos. Her and I were two peas in a pod, she’s my favorite teammate.
I also keep in close contact with Charli. We’ll text every now and then, or call. I still talk to all my coaches from college. I was lucky enough to have the same four for all four years. It’s really special.
Is there a Sun Devil you didn’t play with that you enjoy watching?
They have a really talented team, honestly. It’s weird because this is the first year that there is no one I played with, so I feel kind of old, because last year’s seniors were freshmen when I was there.
Jayde Van Hefte, she’s from Illinois, and I played against her two older sisters when we went to state, and we beat them, so this might be a sore subject. She’s just gritty, she’s from Illinois, small-town girl, so we’re both similar in that sense. Great person, I enjoy watching her play because she’s so selfless.
I know it’s a solid team and I know Charli and the coaching staff is really happy with them right now.