@SunDevilWBB signs pair of elite, impactful players
TEMPE, Ariz. – Coming off a year in which it produced a signing class ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation, Sun Devil Women's Basketball will be adding two more elite players to its roster in the form of ESPN Top 50 player Meg Newman and Australian standout Jade Melbourne. Arizona State University head women's basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne announced on Thursday the signing of both players to Letters of Intent to study and play basketball at ASU.
"Although this year's class is not as big in numbers, it will have just as big an impact as the outstanding group of young women we signed last season," Turner Thorne said. "Meg and Jade are both tremendously skilled players who come from wonderful families and epitomize all of the high character traits that make our program's culture so special."
A six-foot-three forward, who is ranked as the No. 33 overall player in the nation and No. 6 at her position by ESPN.com, Newman will be coming to ASU from North Central High School in Indianapolis, Ind. An adidas All-American, Newman averaged 10.7 points and 6.5 rebounds and earned All-Marion County and All-MIC Conference honors last season. She helped lead her squad to the sectional championship game where she turned in one of her top performances of the season, scoring 25 points. Newman shot 55 percent from the floor in 2019-20 with four games of six or more made field goals and a shooting percentage of 75% and higher. Newman's 9.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore were important contributions in helping North Central advance to the state semifinal round. Newman's other honors include being named a state Junior All Star and a Brandon Clay Scouting All-American.
"The first time I watched Meg play live, I knew she would make an outstanding Sun Devil. I saw a six-foot-three, highly-skilled and athletic forward who played incredibly hard and was an elite teammate," Turner Thorne said. "As we kept watching, Meg's basketball savvy and her toughness also shone through. We got an opportunity to coach her at our 2019 Elite Camp and could not have been more impressed with her skill set and coachability.
"While Meg is hands down one of the best forwards in the country, she is an ever better person. We continue to joke that she knows everyone in the girls' basketball world and everybody knows and loves Meg. You combine her fun-loving personality and over-the-top work ethic and it will not be long until the Sun Devil Nation knows and loves Meg as well."
Added North Central coach DeeAnn Ramey, "Meg can be identified by her extraordinary passion not only for basketball but also for life. There is no doubt that Meg is going to make a positive impact on many lives. On the court, Meg commands a midrange presence that is unstoppable. Her versatility makes her a special player. It is not unusual to see her rebound, dribble the length of the court and score. In the classroom, Meg achieves at a high academic level (4.46 GPA). She is vice president of her class, vice president of the student athletic advisory committee and a National Honor Society member.
"It has been an absolute pleasure to have had the opportunity to coach Meg. Not because of the basketball skills that she possesses but because of the type of young lady she is. She has been an unbelievable role model for the young girls in our community. Her ability to reach out and connect with them is unprecedented."
A 5-foot-10 guard, Melbourne will be the second player in as many years to be coming to ASU from Australia, joining 2020-21 freshman Imogen Greenslade. Melbourne competed for Basketball Australia's Centre of Excellence in 2019 and averaged 11.4 points and 4.3 rebounds. She was a member of the Australian U17 national team that won a bronze medal at the 2018 World Cup. In 2019, Melbourne was an important contributor in helping Australia go unbeaten and claim the FIBA U17 Oceania Championship. She averaged 10.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists in the five games, including an outstanding 21-point outing in the championship game. Earlier this year, Melbourne traveled to the NBA All-Star Game in Chicago to participate in the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp. The NBA and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) runs the camp, which invites the top international 64 girls and boys from 34 countries and regions. Melbourne was joined at the camp by current Sun Devil and Canadian standout Maggie Besselink.
"Jade Melbourne is a very tough athlete and a high IQ, breakout guard who is truly a complete player," Turner Thorne said. "She is a tenacious competitor, a three-level scorer, dynamic passer and a tough, hard-nosed defender. She comes to us from the Australian Centre of Excellence and by most evaluations – most importantly our own – is one of the top guards in the world in her age group. She has had the benefit of playing against a very high level of competition through most of her career and it shows.
"As impressive as her basketball skills are, Jade is a genuine, fun, high-character young woman who absolutely fits our Sun Devil culture. We could not be more excited about who Jade is and what she will bring to our Sun Devil family."
Sarah Graham, who played 13 years in the WNBL and is currently a member of Basketball Australia's Centre of Excellence coaching staff, echoed Turner Throne's sentiments. "Jade is always wanting to learn and work on her game, making our job as coaches very easy in terms of her development and helping the rest of the group improve," Graham said. "Away from the court she has a bubbly and funny personality and really cares for her friends, always ensuring everyone is ok and included in everything. This translates to the court where she leads both vocally and by example, and brings energy and fun to everything she does.
"The things I've enjoyed most about coaching her is her pure competitiveness, no matter what the game or drill – she wants to win. Her will to improve would be the second. No matter how she feels, she wants to get better. She's a wonderful leader and teammate who makes others around her better."
Newman and Melbourne will be joining a Sun Devil program that has consistently been one of the most successful in the nation. Last season, ASU won 20 or more games for the seventh-straight season and was ranked No. 25 in the final AP poll. The Sun Devils were preparing to make their school record seventh-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament before the cancellation of the season was announced by the NCAA on March 12. One of the biggest highlights of the 2019-20 season came in January when ASU defeated consecutive Top-5 opponents after knocking off then-No. 2 Oregon (72-66 on Jan. 10) and then-No. 3 Oregon State (54-47 on Jan. 12).