Michelle Smith WBB Feature: Hristova looks to lead WSU to do something special

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When Borislava Hristova arrived at Washington State back in 2015 from Bulgaria, she was far from home, didn’t speak the language well.

She admits that if someone approached her to do an interview after a game, she would “run and hide in the locker room.”

Five years later, “Bobi” is comfortable. She is confident.  And she would really like to ensure that something “special” for her Cougars team in the final weeks of her college basketball career.

Hristova, the second-ranked scorer in the Pac-12 (19.1 ppg) heading into this weekend’s road trip to UCLA and USC, has scored 20 or more points 10 games this season.

She leads her team in scoring and ranks second in rebounding and is shooting better than 47 percent from the floor.

The Cougars are 9-9 and 2-4 in conference play, but hoping for a surge that could put them in postseason position, after a difficult schedule thus far in which they have played seven top 25 teams. They are still looking for their first win against a ranked team. The No. 10-ranked Bruins present the next opportunity on Sunday.

“We have lost nine games and seven of them are to ranked teams,” Hristova said. “We learn more every chance we get and we are starting to compete, but we need to find a way to win one of these.”

Hristova is doing everything she can to make that happen.

Hristova had a choice to make after the 2018-19 season, returning to Washington State for a fifth-year or, perhaps, exploring her options as a graduate transfer. Hristova said the decision wasn’t actually that difficult.

“For sure, one of the biggest reasons I wanted to stay was that the program hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in a long time and I wanted a chance to do something special with this group. This tough schedule has made it hard to do something, and I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. But I am going to do whatever I can do to play hard for my team.”

Head coach Kamie Ethridge said she feels as if Hristova has taken a chance on her program twice now, both when Ethridge arrived in 2018 and in her decision to return last fall.

“I think she knew that she could come back, that she would know the system better and I think she thought that the vibe of our team was good, that we were headed in a great direction,” Ethridge said. “She loves this place and she wants to leave a legacy.”

Hristova took over as Washington State’s all-time leading scorer on January 5 in a 96-75 win over California and became the school’s first 2,000-point scorer in a win over rival Washington on January 11. She needs nine more starts (she is currently at 111) to break the school record for career games started and is also closing in on the record for minutes played in a career.

She is also moving up the Pac-12’s all-time scoring charts and will likely be among the conference’s top 20 all-time scorers by the time her career ends.

Hristova has been one of the conference’s most consistent scorers throughout her career, averaging 17.7 points.

“I still have room to grow my game,” said Hristova, who is hoping to continue her career in Europe after college. “I’m working on my 3-point percentage, working on being better at both ends of the floor.

Ethridge lauded Hristova’s consistency this season and her desire to win.

“She wants to help the team win any way she can,” Ethridge said. “I know that her and Chanelle (Molina) feel the worst every time we lose and they know they are in a position to make more of an impact than anyone else.

“I can live with it when Bobi takes a bad shot, because you get so many things from her that make up for it,” Ethridge said. “I know that about her and I’m good with that. She’s a dynamic playmaker and I like where her head is right now.”

Ethridge said the goal is to keep Hristova rested and focused on trying to lift the Cougars over the hump in the second half of the Pac-12 schedule and into postseason position.

“Look at what happened when Klay Thompson came up and they hung his jersey in the rafters,” Ethridge said. “There is that kind of goodwill for her here. Maybe someday her jersey should be hanging in the rafters.”

Just a few days ago, Hristova got her diploma in the mail, having finished up her degree in Sports Management and her minor in business.

No matter, her work in Pullman is almost done.

“It’s been a great journey,” Hristova said.

One in which she hopes to write a happy ending.

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, San Francisco Chronicle, The Athletic and AOL Fanhouse. She was has won several awards, including the WBCA's Mel Greenberg Media Award, presented annually to a member of the media who has best displayed commitment to advancing the role of the media in women's basketball. For previous Michelle Smith features on pac-12.com, visit the archives page.

 

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