Washington State women's basketball 'in a good spot' under Kamie Ethridge
SAN FRANCISCO — Bella Murekatete wants to see Pullman turn into a basketball town and the senior post wants to be part of the reason why.
“We want players to want to come to Washington State and go to the Tournament every year and go farther than the first round,” said Murekatete, the first Rwandan women to play NCAA Division I basketball.
A program best 19 wins, two straight trips to the NCAA Tournament and a second-place finish in the Pac-12 regular season last spring inarguably sets a new standard for Washington State, a team with much of its core back on the floor. Murekatete, the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player last season, joins scoring guard Charlisse Leger-Walker (the team leader in scoring and assists) and Joanna Teder. This trio combined for 36.5 points a game last season.
Like Utah and Colorado, programs that have elevated their stature in the Pac-12 over the past two years, the Cougars are looking to stick in this newfound position.
“I think we’ve been trying to establish more of a winning culture,” Leger-Walker said. “Over the past two years, we’ve really started doing that, trying to bring that culture into the gym…all of us collectively buy into that mindset.”
Head coach Kamie Ethridge kept it simple on media day, saying her team is “in a good spot.”
“I know there’s excitement,” Ethridge said. “Our two best players sitting right here in front of you were our two hardest workers this summer and they’ve improved the most.”
Leger-Walker will take the court at Washington State for the first time without her older sister, Krystal, who was a team leader over the past two seasons.
Ethridge said that will be an adjustment for her team.
“Losing Krystal, I keep saying it, is the leadership void that she provided. Defensively, gosh, she was just -- I mean, she was so good defensively,” Ethridge said. “That I don't know if we can replace, although I think Charlisse's voice — she's always been the smartest player in the gym and has the best IQ in the gym and knows what to say, and she always has in her career, because really Krystal and her are far enough apart that she was the leader.
"So now she's just gone back into that role, her leadership role, her voice. I think that's going to take the place of what Krystal was, which is comforting as a coach.”