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Experienced Cougs Set for Another Big Season in 2021-22

Nov 8, 2021

PULLMAN, Wash. – The Washington State women's basketball team looks to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2021-22 after last season's remarkable run to the big dance. The Cougars will make the transition from being the hunters to the hunted in year four under the direction of head coach Kamie Ethridge, as WSU returns one of the most experienced rosters in all of NCAA Division I.

Coach Ethridge will have her most-experienced roster during her WSU tenure this season, as the Cougars return all but one player from last year's NCAA Tournament roster. Washington State brings back 90.1% of last year's scoring, led by the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Charlisse Leger-Walker's 18.8 points per game. The Cougs are the only team in the Pac-12 to return five players who started 20-or-more last season. In fact, WSU is just one of five teams who played in last season's NCAA Tournament that brings back five players with at least 20 starts.

With a heap of experience returning for the Cougs in 2021-22, it was no surprise to see WSU receive votes in both the Associated Press and Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Coaches preseason top-25 polls. The Cougars picked up nine votes in the AP preseason poll, while Washington State earned 13 votes in the WBCA Coaches Poll.

Three WSU players have also earned preseason accolades. Sophomore Charlisse Leger-Walker has been named Preseason All-Pac-12 by both the media and coaches, while her elder sister fifth-year senior Krystal Leger-Walker was named Preseason All-Pac-12 honorable mention by the media. In addition, the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame and WBCA have selected the younger Leger-Walker to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award watch list and junior Bella Murekatete to the Lisa Leslie Award watch list.

The Returners
Charlisse Leger-Walker leads the group of returners for Coach Ethridge after the sophomore took the Pac-12 by storm last season. The 5-11 guard from Waikato, New Zealand set numerous WSU freshmen records during her first season on the Palouse and was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week seven times, which is the second-most weekly freshman award selections by one player in conference history.  Leger-Walker is the Pac-12's top returner scorer after averaging 18.8 points per game a season ago. She became the first freshman in Pac-12 history to end the regular season as the conference's leader in total points scored, as she had collected 434 points heading into postseason play last season. The guard scored 20-or-more points in 12 of the 24 games she played in as a freshman. Leger-Walker was not afraid of the big moment in her first year with the Cougs, as she hit the game-winning shot against both No. 7/10 Arizona and No. 5/4 UCLA in WSU's wins over the top-10 programs last season.

Fifth-year senior Krystal Leger-Walker is the conference's top returner in assists, as the point guard averaged 4.5 assists per game last season. The elder Leger-Walker was an All-Pac-12 Defensive Team honorable mention selection in her first season with the Cougars after transferring in from Northern Colorado. She finished second on the team in scoring last season at 9.8 points per game. Leger-Walker scored 20-or-more points on three occasions in 2020-21 and scored double-digits in 11 games.

The Cougs will feature a veteran front court in 2021-22, as senior Ula Motuga and junior Bella Murekatete return to the fold after each player finished inside the top-10 in the Pac-12 in rebounding.  Motuga, a 6-1 forward from Logan, Australia, pulled down a team-best 6.8 caroms to go along with 8.5 points per game last season. Meanwhile, Murekatete returns after a strong sophomore campaign that saw her average 8.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. The first-known NCAA Division I women's basketball player from Rwanda, Murekatete scored double-digits in 10 contests, including a career-high 17 points against the eventual NCAA champions, Stanford.  Junior Emma Nankervis will once again provide the Cougars with a strong presence in the post off the bench for WSU. The veteran has played in 50 career games with WSU. Sophomore Jessica Clarke, who scored 11 points against No.8/8 Oregon last season in Beasley Coliseum, comes back to Pullman after spending the summer with the Canadian U-19 National Team at the FIBA U-19 Women's Basketball World Cup.

Washington State also returns junior Johanna Teder, who started all 24 games last season. The guard from Estonia proved to have a keen-eye from behind the arc, as Teder collected 39 3-point field goals in her first season in Pullman. Teder averaged 7.1 points per game last season and shot 33.6 percent from behind the arc. The guard was even better down the stretch last season by averaging 12.4 points over her final five games of the 2020-21 season, which included a career-best 23 points in an Apple Cup victory over Washington.

As is the case in the post, Washington State's backcourt will feature a load of experienced players. In addition to the Leger-Walker sisters and Teder, WSU brings back senior Shir Levy, who has played in a team-high 78 games during her WSU career with 47 starts. While redshirt junior Michaela Jones, Grace Sarver and sophomore Ekin Celikdemir all return for the Cougs.

Five WSU players were selected to represent their home countries over the summer in FIBA events. Charlisse and Krystal Leger-Walker helped the New Zealand National Team finish fourth at the 2021 FIBA Women's Asia Cup, while Jessica Clarke and newcomer Tara Wallack played for Canada at the U-19 FIBA Women's World Cup. Bella Murekatete helped Rwanda advance to the semifinals of the 2021 FIBA Women's Afrobasket Zone 5 Qualifiers.

With so much experience returning to the roster, Washington State only went out and added one player during the offseason. Tara Wallack, who is a 6-2 guard from South Surrey, British Columbia, comes to the Palouse after an impressive prep career in Canada. Wallack guided Semiahmoo Secondary School to back-to-back British Columbia Provincial Championships in 2019 and 2020, before having her senior season canceled due to COVID 19. During her junior season, she was named the MVP of the Senior Girls Provincial Championship game after posting a double-double with an impressive 29 points and 23 rebounds. During the Provincials, Wallack averaged 26 points and 15 rebounds per game. She was also named the MVP of the 2020 Centennial Top Ten Tournament and ended her high school career on a 57-game winning streak.

The Schedule
Washington State returns to a full slate of games in 2021-22 after being limited to just 24 games last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. WSU will play a total of 29 games, which includes 18 Pac-12 Conference games.

The Cougars will play a total of 13 games in Beasley Coliseum in 2021-22, which begins on Nov. 9 when WSU host San Jose State. Washington State plays a total of 13 games in Pullman this season. The Cougars will play 11 non-conference games this season, which includes a trip to the Bahamas over the week of Thanksgiving to participate in the 2021 Baha Mar Pink Flamingo Championship. The Cougars take on Miami (Nov. 25) and NC State (Nov. 27) in the Bahamas.

The Cougs open Pac-12 play on New Year's Eve, as Washington State closes out 2021 with a contest against California. The Boeing Apple Cup Series will take place during the last week of January, when Washington State and Washington play back-to-back games. The Cougars will host the first game of the series on Jan. 28, before heading to Seattle on Jan. 30 to take on the Huskies.

WSU plays its final home game of the season on Feb. 20, when the Cougars host last season's NCAA Tournament runner-up, Arizona. The Cougs end the regular season in the Bay Area, when they take on California on Feb. 26.

The 2022 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament will once again take place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. This year's tournament will take place from March 2-6.

For more information on the Washington State women's basketball team, follow @WSUCougarWBB on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.