Sun Devil WBB opens 2021-22 campaign vs. Northern Colorado on Tuesday night
THE GAME: Sun Devil WBB (0-0) vs. Northern Colorado (0-0)
WHEN: Tuesday at 8 p.m. MST
WHERE: Desert Financial Arena • Click here for tickets
WATCH: ASU Live Stream
LISTEN: KDUS AM 1060
LIVE STATS: Click here
The Sun Devil women's basketball team opens its 2021-22 season on Tuesday night (8 p.m. MST) when it hosts Northern Colorado at Desert Financial Arena.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Entering her 25th season leading the Maroon and Gold, head coach Charli Turner Thorne welcomes back several talented returners, including veteran players G Taya Hanson (set school record for most 3-pointers per game last season) and F Jayde Van Hyfte (one of the team's top post performers who was forced to miss last season due to injury).
After showing several flashes of brilliance during its first year in Tempe, Turner Thorne's Top Five recruiting class – including G Jaddan Simmons (first Sun Devil freshman to average double figures in scoring since 2003) and posts Maggie Besselink (team's top rebounder last season) and Katelyn Levings (played in and started all but two games last season) – is poised to have an even bigger impact this season.
Add to that a quartet of outstanding transfers – seasoned Big Ten standout Mael Gilles, 2021 All-Mountain West performer Jade Loville, 2020 Mountain West Conference Newcomer of the Year Ayzhiana Basallo and two-time NJCCA All-American Isadora Sousa. Combining the talents of key returners with the infusion of new talent, Turner Thorne and the Sun Devils will look to feature a high-tempo offense to go with the signature, hard-nosed, pressuring defenses that Turner Thorne's teams have come to be known for over the years.
Tuesday's game vs. Northern Colorado can be seen via live stream at https://pac-12.com/live/arizona-state-university. It can also be heard on KDUS AM 1060. Pregame coverage will start at 7:30 p.m. MST. Veteran broadcaster and the state of Arizona's 2010 & 2019 Broadcaster of the Year Jeff Munn is in his 18th season as the voice of ASU women's basketball. He will be joined by former Sun Devil head coach Maura McHugh.
SERIES NOTES VERSUS NORTHERN COLORADO (TIED AT 2-2)
ASU and Northern Colorado have split the four games they have played. This year's contest will be the first between the two teams since 1979.
The Sun Devils are 20-4 in season openers under head coach Charli Turner Thorne. ASU has won seven of its last eight season openers with its only setback in that stretch coming in 2015 when it dropped a 68-64 decision at home vs. Kentucky in overtime.
WELCOME TO TEMPE
The Sun Devils added a quartet of talented and experienced transfers in the offseason who head coach Charli Turner Thorne feels has the potential to have a major impact this season.
Three of the four transferred to ASU in April with 2020 Mountain West Conference Newcomer of the Year Ayzhiana Basallo being the first to officially join the program. Basallo, a 5-5 guard who will have two years of eligibility, arrived at ASU from San Jose State where she earned her degree in communication earlier this season.
In her only full season at San Jose State – did not play in 2018-19 due to NCAA transfer rules and SJSU's 2020-21 season was canceled after only four games due to COVID-19 – Basallo earned the Mountain West Conference's Newcomer of the Year award for a season in which she averaged a team-high 18.5 points per game while shooting 44.7 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from beyond the arc (school single-season record) and 92.5 percent at the free throw line (school single-season record).
Jade Loville, a 5-10 wing who earned All-Mountain West honors last season, joined the Sun Devils from Boise State. In 2020-21, Loville, who has two years of eligibility, scored in double figures 19 times last season, setting the school's single-game scoring record with 40 points at UNLV on Feb. 10, 2021. She scored 20 or more points nine times and was named the Mountain West Player of the Week after averaging 26.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in a two-game sweep of San Jose State (Dec. 31 and Jan. 2).
A 6-1 forward who originally came up through Canada's youth national teams Mael Gilles is using her fifth year of eligibility to play for the Sun Devils after spending the last four seasons with Rutgers (started 55 of 101 career games). Last season, Gilles averaged 8.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in helping the Scarlet Knights earn their highest seed in the NCAA Tournament since 2012. A starter in all 18 games she played in last season, Gilles notched six double-figure scoring efforts, including a season-high 16 points on two occasions.
In early June, ASU welcomed Isadora Sousa, a six-foot guard who played the last two seasons at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla. A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sousa has twice been named an NJCCA All-American – third team in 2020 and second team in 2021 – by World Exposure Report. She is coming off a campaign in which she earned FCSAA/NJCAA VIII All-State, All-Panhandle Conference first-team and FCSAA/NJCAA VIII All-Tournament Team honors in helping lead Chipola to its seventh FCSAA Championship and an appearance in the NJCAA Tournament semifinals.
One of the biggest challenges ASU faced last season was overcoming its youth/inexperience during a season unlike any other in which the team was in a bit of a start-stop mode the entire season due to Covid-19. In addition to the talent they will bring, just as important is the experience as Gilles (56/104), Loville (87/23) and Basallo 60/33) bring a combined 224 games of NCAA D1 playing experience, including 139 starts.
TOUCH FOR TRIPLES
A starter in 36 of 88 career games, last season Taya Hanson earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and Pac-12 All-Defense notice in 2021 for a season in which she scored in double figures 18 times, including career-high 21 points vs. Cal (Jan. 1), a contest in which she tied the single-game school record with seven triples. In 2020-21, Hanson led ASU in scoring (12.6 ppg), 3-pointers (62), steals (1.4 spg) and free throw percentage (84.8), was third in rebounding (4.3 rpg) and fourth in assists (1.4 apg). She averaged 2.58 3-pointers per game, the most ever by a Sun Devil in a season.
The team's active career leader in 3-pointers (111), Hanson needs five triples to move into a tie for 10th place on the school's career mark for most 3-pointers.
As a freshman last season, point guard Jaddan Simmons proved she has a bright future ahead. In 2020-21, Simmons averaged 10.8 ppg, becoming the first ASU freshman to average double figures in scoring since Jill Noe in 2003. In ASU's win over USC (Dec. 4), Simmons became the first ASU freshman to score 20 or more points since Dymond Simon scored 24 in a win over Washington State on Jan. 4, 2007. Simmons would go on to be named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week after scoring 11 of her 15 points over the last 9:20 (last 4:20 of regulation and 5:00 of OT) in ASU's 66-64 upset of then-No. 9 Arizona.
VAN HYFTE RETURNS FROM LAST AFTER HAVING A PREMATURE END TO 2020-21 SEASON
Post Jayde Van Hyfte was the team's most experienced player at the beginning of last season after starting every game in 2019-20. Unfortunately for Van Hyfte, an early injury forced her to miss all but one game last season.
In 2019-20, Van Hyfte led the team in offensive rebounds (2.9 rpg/tied for fourth in the Pac-12), was second in rebounds (5.0 rpg) and fourth in FG pct. (44.0). She grabbed 10 or more rebounds 3 times and more than half (89) of her 154 rebounds came on the offensive end.
NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE
With Van Hyfte out last season, the Sun Devils relied on a pair of freshman post players – Maggie Besselink and Katelyn Levings – who gained a valuable season as starters.
After missing the first four games of the season due to injury, Besselink played a prominent role with starting assignments in 14 of the 18 games she played in. The team leader in last season rebounding (5.7 rpg/16th in the Pac-12), Besselink grabbed seven or more rebounds seven times, including a career-high 13 rebounds (tying the single-game high by a Sun Devil in 2020-21) in ASU's upset of then-No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 28. She was also second on the team in offensive rebounds (2.3 rpg/10th in the Pac-12). She posted her first career double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in ASU's Pac-12 Tournament contest vs. USC (Mar. 3) and knocked down 50 percent of her shots over the last eight games of the season.
Levings started all 22 games she was available to play and finished third on the team in offensive rebounds (2.0 rpg) and fourth in both scoring (5.7 ppg) and rebounding (4.2 rpg). She scored eight or more points six times, including a season-high 10 points in ASU's WNIT contest vs. Houston (Mar. 22). She also grabbed five or more rebounds seven times and had a season-high four steals in ASU's WNIT opener vs. Rice (Mar. 20).
SUN DEVIL WBB TO HONOR ALL-TIME GREAT BRIANN JANUARY ON FRIDAY
Briann January, one of the most iconic student-athletes in the history of Sun Devil Women's Basketball and one of the WNBA's most consistent high-level performers since 2009, will have her No. 20 jersey honored and displayed from the rafters of Desert Financial Arena this Friday (Nov. 12) when the Sun Devils host Minnesota.
January, who earned honorable mention all-America honors from the AP in 2008 and 2009 and from the WBCA in 2009, was a two-time Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and named first-team All-Pac-10 in 2009. At the conclusion of her Sun Devil career, January was at or near the top of several ASU career statistical categories including assists (first, 538/now second), steals (second, 265), free throws (second, 401), 3-point field goal percentage (fourth, .399), 3-point field goals (fifth, 132/now sixth) and points (seventh, 1,317/now ninth).
As a senior in 2009, January, who was named to the Pac-12 Women's Basketball All-Century Team in 2016, was second in the nation in 3-point FG pct. (.469) and 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1). Within the Pac-10 she was first in assists (4.7 apg), 3-point field goal percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio, second in steals (2.3 spg) and fourth in free throw percentage (.840) and 3-point field goals per game (2.0). At the time, her 65 3-pointers set a new school single-season record while her 167 assists were fourth on the school's all-time single-season list.
During her time wearing the Maroon and Gold, the Sun Devils won 77 percent of their games (104-32), including 72 percent of their Pac-10 games (59-13). They qualified for the NCAA Tournament all four years, including the program's first two Elite Eight appearances (2007, '09). For all she accomplished, Turner Thorne noted it was what January didn't do that made her even more special.
In the WNBA, January has been a starter in 288 of 357 career games over the last 13 seasons – nine with the Fever (2009-17), two with the Phoenix Mercury (2018-19) and two with the Connecticut Sun. During her nine seasons in Indianapolis, January played a vital role in helping Indiana advance to the playoffs eight straight seasons, including three trips to the WNBA Finals, winning the WNBA title in 2012.
A 2014 WNBA All-Star, January has been named to the league's All-Defensive teams seven times, including five first-team nods with the most recent first-team honor coming this past season while playing for the Sun. January, who has led the WNBA in 3-point shooting percentage twice (2015, 2018), has been on a playoff team 12 times in her 13-year WNBA career.
January joined Turner Thorne's coaching staff in 2017 while still maintaining her place among the WNBA's best during the college basketball offseason. In her two seasons on the bench, January helped the Sun Devils extend their streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and 20-win seasons to six. In 2019, the Sun Devils returned to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
January will be the third Sun Devil women's basketball player to have her jersey honored, joining Ryneldi Becenti and Kym Hampton.
YVONNE SANCHEZ JOINS CHARLI TURNER THORNE'S COACHING STAFF
Last April Yvonne Sanchez – a coach with more than 30 years of experience both as an assistant and head coach – joined Charli Turner Thorne's staff as assistant coach at ASU.
Sanchez came to Tempe from the University of Michigan where she spent the last three seasons as assistant coach. While in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines won nearly 70 percent of their games and earned a pair of bids to the NCAA Tournament (Michigan would likely have also been a 2020 NCAA Tournament participant had the postseason not been canceled due to the pandemic). In 2021, the Wolverines earned their highest NCAA Tournament seed ever (No. 6) and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history with wins over No. 11 seed Florida Gulf Coast and No. 3 seed Tennessee. Michigan fell just short of its first Elite Eight after being edged by No. 2 seed Baylor in overtime, 78-75.
Sanchez was on staff at the University of New Mexico from 2000-2016, spending the last five seasons of her tenure as head coach. She amassed 77 victories as head coach and was named the 2014-15 Mountain West Coach of the Year after winning a school-record 14 conference games. In her first season as head coach, the Lobos reached the Mountain West Conference championship game. She would duplicate the feat in 2015 when the Lobos went 21-13.