A new basketball season is right around the corner for the Sun Devils and the latest preseason checkpoint was Pac-12 Media Day on Tuesday.
Coach Charli Turner Thorne was joined by guards Taya Hanson and Jaddan Simmons in San Francisco, along with representatives from the other 11 schools.
For a team that was voted eighth in the Pac-12 preseason coaches poll, there is definitely optimism that this team will finish higher than that projection. That confidence was exhibited by Turner Thorne in one remark: “What a difference a year makes.”
All-in on another level
One of the biggest storylines during the 2020-21 season, besides the pandemic, was the youth and inexperience of ASU. Freshmen made 79 percent of all starts last season but the additions of four new transfers have also brought a more veteran presence to the squad.
Turner Thorne was excited about changing the narrative:
“The balance of this team is back to what we’ve had. This team reminds me of our top-10 teams. We have the talent, they all love each other, but they are just all-in on another level and people are going to feel that.”
Building chemistry without COVID
The biggest challenges most teams faced during the pandemic were protocols and the lack of a real offseason to build synergy with each other. Rules are now being relaxed and that allows teammates to mesh in a more organic way during a more “normal” summer.
Hanson and Simmons both feel that the trust in the locker room has grown exponentially.
Hanson: “I love out locker room this year. We hold each other accountable every single day... The players are this team are very receptive to feedback. Feedback that’s good or bad. Charli recruits tough players so we are able to take stuff and be real with each other. We are trying to win a championship and that’s the type of locker room we want to have.”
Simmons: “A coach-led team can only take you so far, so we are trying to be a player-led team and everyone has the responsibility to lead. That’s what the team is doing this year, for sure.”
Depth of the Pac-12
The Pac-12 had its second championship game on the national stage in April. The game that left Stanford standing as national champions and Arizona as runner-ups cemented the notion that the west coast is the best coast (at least in terms of women’s basketball).
Coming into 2021-22, the conference of champions looks to add more trophies to its resume. Turner Thorne thinks that it is the depth that makes it so competitive:
“I absolutely think, hands down the Pac-12 is the toughest conference because we’re so good one through 12. There’s some other conferences where the top-half or top-third are really, really good, but nobody has the depth of our conference.”
The Sun Devils will tip-off their season on Nov. 9 against Northern Colorado, followed by the rest of their non-conference slate. The recently-announced Pac-12 schedule will commence on Dec. 31 at UCLA.