Pac-12 Feature: Hempen gives energy, connectivity to Sun Devils
Charli Turner Thorne can’t imagine what practice would be like without Katie Hempen in the gym.
“It would be really hard for us,” Turner Thorne said of her senior shooting guard. “Because that kid is always talking, always giving us great energy to everybody, whether she is taking a rep or not.”
Hempen is fine with her role as energy source on a team where everybody has a role to play.
The Sun Devils are atop the Pac-12 standings because they are a balanced, unselfish team willing to pass around the ball and the credit. It is ethic that has long been part of the Arizona State program. And one that Hempen embraces.
“We don’t have one player that scores 20 points a game, or one of those duos like some of the big teams have,” Hempen said. “We have six people who can score in double figures anytime. We have what Charli calls ‘horizontal leadership.’”
Regardless of the direction, Hempen has assumed a leadership position for the Sun Devils as they hit the stretch run of the conference season. She became the program’s all-time leader in career 3-pointers with her 20-point performance last weekend in a key 65-61 win over No. 14 UCLA. Hempen earned the school single-season record last season.
Hempen, the Highland, Illinois native, added 10 points in Sunday’s tight win over USC, to keep the Sun Devils in a first-place tie with Oregon State for the conference title.
Hempen ranks fourth on the ASU roster in scoring at 8.8 points per game, leading the Sun Devils with 45 3-pointers.
“She’s definitely a top scorer for us,” Turner Thorne said. “We’ve won some big games when Katie is scoring for us.”
But Hempen’s game isn’t all about the offense.
“She is working hard on defense and rebounding when her shot isn’t falling,” Turner Thorne said. “That’s the big thing, the kid is always working. She’s always going to give you positive energy and enthusiasm. She’s always balling out there.”
Hempen said she embraces her role, both as a scorer and a tone-setter.
“My role is to bring connectivity,” Hempen said. “But we are all really connected right now and that makes my job easier. I think we become more connected on the floor as time goes on, how we set our screens, how we read each other. We really understand where Sophie (Brunner) wants the ball and Quinn (Dornstauder) wants the ball. Other people like to take jump shots. It’s the kind of thing you need to work on to become a better offensive team.”
But as team-oriented as the Sun Devils are, they aren’t afraid to go with the hot hand.
“We don’t live off our individual success, we live off our team success,” Hempen says. “If someone has a great game or gets some individual recognition, we are all so excited for that person. I don’t think we care that much about who it is.”
Turner Thorne says the best word she can use to describe Hempen is “winner”.
“She’s obviously not as tall as some people, or as quick as some people, but she’s determined and she finds a way,” Turner Thorne said. “She’s just a winner.”
Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse.