2020-21 Cougar Women's Basketball Season Outlook
PULLMAN, Wash. – Year Three of the Kamie Ethridge Era gets underway for the Washington State women's basketball team this Friday – Dec. 4 – when the Cougs take to the road to face No. 2-ranked Stanford. Gear up for the 2020-21 Washington State women's basketball season and get to know more about the Cougars with our annual season preview.
Flexibility will be the key phrase for the 2020-21 season, as the NCAA attempts to navigate a full season of basketball during a global pandemic. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Cougars will only be playing 24 games this season, their fewest since 1977-78 season. 22 of those 24 games will be Pac-12 Conference contests, as the Conference decided to play a double-round-robin format this season, breaking away from the normal 18-game conference slate.
The season opens this Friday when Washington State travels down to the Bay Area to take on No. 2-ranked Stanford. This will be the first time in program history that the Cougs have opened the year with a Pac-12 contest. It is also the latest start to a season since the 1977-78 campaign, when they started on Dec. 2 against Simon Fraser.
Washington State opens at Beasley Coliseum Dec. 13, when they take on nearby Idaho to open a four-game home stand. The other non-conference contest for the Cougs this season will take place on Dec. 22, when they host Eastern Washington.
WSU will once again play two Boeing Apple Cup Series games against Washington. The first meeting takes place Dec. 11 in Seattle, then the two conclude the 2020-21 regular season in Pullman on Feb. 28 for Senior Day at Beasley Coliseum.
Due to Pac-12 health regulations and guidelines, no fans will be allowed to attend games during the 2020-21 season. Stay tuned for broadcast, radio and streaming information for games.
The season will once again end in Las Vegas with the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament making a return to the Mandalay Bay Events Center on March 4-7.
The Cougs return a heap of familiar faces in 2020-21 with seven players coming back from a season ago. However, WSU endured the loss of a pair of program stalwarts this offseason, with the graduation of Borislava Hristova, the programs-all-time leading scorer, and Chanelle Molina, who finished her career ranked second in program history in assists.
Despite the loss of two all-time greats, Washington State still returns a trio of players that started 21-or-more games last season in juniors Shir Levy and Ula Motuga, along with sophomore Bella Murekatete.
Motuga leads the pack of returners for Washington State, as the Logan, Australia native brings back a team-best 8.4 points and 2.3 assists per game from a season ago. The 6-0 forward started in all 26 games she appeared in, but battled through a pair of injuries through January and February. Motuga ended last season playing some of her best basketball of the year. She averaged 11.3 points per game over her final six contests, and recorded a season-high 14 points in back-to-back games against Cal - Jan. 31 - and Utah - Feb. 9.
Murekatete also returns to the fold for Ethridge after starting in 21 games as a true freshman last season. The 6-3 center is the club's top returning rebounder, after she averaged 4.1 caroms per contest in 2019-20. The first known Rwandan-born NCAA Division I women's basketball player showed flashes of her talent in her first season at Washington State. She collected her first career double-double against UC Irvine on Feb. 15 with 15 points and 13 rebounds. She also tallied 14 points against Southern Cal in her second-to-last game of the season and pulled down 10 rebounds against No. 9 UCLA. Murekatete was efficient from the floor last season, as she shot a team-high 51.3% from the field.
Levy will be the elder stateswomen of the team, having logged 61 games and 47 starts in her first two seasons on the Palouse. The junior from Ness Ziona, Israel returns a team-best 28 starts from a year ago, and she is the only WSU player to have played in all 61 games coached by Ethridge.
Cherilyn Molina and Celena Molina will look to aid in the loss of their oldest sister, Chanelle, in the backcourt. Both Molina's appeared in over 25 games last season, with Cherilyn making a start for Chanelle in the regular season finale at Oregon State. The youngest Molina sister made the most of her emergency start, by scoring a career-high 12 points against the Beavers, and hopes to build off that performance heading into 2020-21.
Sophomores Michaela Jones, Emma Nankervis and Grace Sarver will all be looking for a clean bill of health in 2020-21, as the trio missed time on the court last season due to injuries. Jones, a 5-10 guard from Wymore, Nebraska, returns after redshirting last season due to injury. She last suited up for the Cougs in 2018-19, when she made four starts and appeared in 24 games.
Like Jones, Nankervis made a handful of starts her first year on campus, as the Mount Eliza, Australia native started the first seven games of her Washington State career before sustaining an injury in November. Sarver was still able to appear in 21 games for the Cougs in a reserve role last season, despite missing over a month of action.
The New Cougs
After sitting out last season due to the NCAA Transfer Rule, redshirt senior Krystal Leger-Walker will make her WSU debut in 2020-21. She will be one of five newcomers for the Cougs this season.
Leger-Walker comes with familiarity of Coach Ethridge's offense after starting 63 games for her in two seasons at Northern Colorado. The duo guided the Bears to their first-ever Big Sky title and NCAA Tournament appearance during the 2017-18 season. The point guard won a total of 69 games for the Bears, which are the most wins for the program during a three-year stretch. She collected over 100 assists in each of her three seasons at UNC, and averaged 4.2 assists per game during her Bear career. Before sitting out last season, Leger-Walker averaged a career-best 8.9 points per game for Northern Colorado during the 2018-19 season.
Krystal won't be the lone Leger-Walker on the roster, however, as her younger sister Charlisse signed with the Cougars this offseason. The younger Leger-Walker brings an impressive resume into the program, as she is the youngest player to ever play for the New Zealand Senior Women's National Team, suiting up for the Tall Ferns since she was 16 years old. More recently, the 5-10 guard played for New Zealand at the 2019 Women's Olympic Pre-Qualifying Asia-Oceania Tournament in Auckland, New Zealand. The guard scored eight points and dished out seven assists in a win over the Philippines and helped the Tall Ferns post a 2-1 record in the tournament. In June of 2019, Leger-Walker was named to the World All-Star 3 team after leading New Zealand to a silver-medal finish at the U18 3x3 World Championships in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. It marked the first time any female team from New Zealand won a medal at a FIBA-sanctioned world tournament.
Another newcomer that should see action in the backcourt this season is sophomore Johanna Teder. The Tartu, Estonia native comes to the Palouse after one season at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. The guard played in 33 games and made 14 starts for a Lady Texans squad that went 32-1 in 2019-20. Teder, a 5-8 guard, was a first-team All-Western Junior College Athletic Conference member and over her final nine games of the season she averaged 13.6 points per game. She scored a career-high 26 points on March 5, 2020. In 2018 she was a member of Estonia's U18 National Women's Basketball Team.
Jessica Clarke is the lone post player out of the five newcomers this season for Washington State. The 6-3 post out of North Vancouver, Canada ranked as the No. 5 prospect in all of Canada according to Crown Scout Girls. In the summer of 2019, Clarke was selected to play in the prestigious BioSteal All-Canadian Basketball Game, an annual showcase that features the top high school talent in Canada. She averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds for Saint Thomas Aquinas, and guided her school to 14 championship game appearances as a prep player, winning two British Columbia Catholic Championships and numerous district titles.
Ekin Celikdemir is a 5-10 guard from Istanbul, Turkey, however she moved to the United States for her senior season, playing at The Tilton School in Tilton, New Hampshire. Celikdemir earned Class A All-New England Preparatory Athletic Council first-team honors after averaging 8.8 points, 3.3 assists and 2.5 steals per contest. She also enjoyed a successful stint with Fenerbahçe, a premier basketball club in Istanbul. Her U-16 Fenerbahçe team captured first place at the 2017 Turkey Women's Basketball Champions Tournament after placing second in 2016.
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