Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne has seen a lot over the last two-plus decades in Tempe, leading her to over 500 career victories and having 20 wins or more over the last seven years.
However, for all the experience and games that Turner Thorne has under her belt, this year will likely be more different and a bigger challenge than just about anything she’s gone through. With just a few months to prepare in contact practice, ASU has seven newcomers on its roster that will be going up against a gauntlet of Pac-12 programs.
The conference features five teams ranked in the AP top-25 and all but three non-conference games are against the Pac-12 foes. With so many new faces and departing veteran players like guards Robbi Ryan and Reili Richardson, the tenured Turner Thorne is eager for the challenge.
“This is probably the youngest team I’ve ever started the season with,” Turner Thorne said. “…Just like it’s a very uncertain country right now, there’s some uncertainty with ASU women’s basketball. But the thing I know is there’s a lot of character with this team. We’re very talented, we’re athletic, and we’re excited.”
Leading the Sun Devil newcomers and one of the starters in the season opener will be freshman guard Jaddan Simmons, who is the daughter of former ASU standout Jason Simmons. He was part of the Sun Devils Rose Bowl team with Jake Plummer in the late ’90’s, starring in the secondary, then went on to an NFL career and is now the secondary coach for the Carolina Panthers.
Other new faces include junior college transfer Gabriela Bosquez, forward Katelyn Levings, guard Maggie Besselink, and guard Sydney Erikstrup. Turner Thorne noted that all of the programs newest talent will play right away.
In addition to the adjustment of normal college life, the group has also had to work through a global pandemic and installing a new position-less offense that CTT has implemented to try and create more shots all over the floor. Whether it be through online classes or not being able to go out, or even day-to-day changes on the court, Turner Thorne said it’s been a lot to navigate.
Additionally, the team has had very little time to prepare and adjust for the opener in full contact, live action. Through all of the chaos of 2020, CTT has tried to get her group to conquer “mindset mastery strategies”.
“It’s our philosophy that if our players are at a good place as a person, then basketball takes care of itself,” she said. “Whether we are in a pandemic or whether we are having riots or protests or what is going on in the world, we are always trying to center them and being able to have them manage things as they come. Let’s learn how to try to be in a good place no matter what…We’re constantly working on that overall so that they can show up and peak perform every time they are on the court. It goes way beyond basketball to where when they go out in the real world, they can handle stuff.”
— Sun Devil WBB (@SunDevilWBB) November 24, 2020
Needless to say, it’s been a lot to take in for just a few short months. ASU received six preseason AP top-25 votes but did not make the rankings. In just a 22-game slate, CTT and her squad will look to rise above expectations and develop her young players along the way in a difficult season unlike any other.
“I really love this team’s vibe. They just have a really good vibe about them,” Turner Thorne said. “They show up, they work hard, and I haven’t really felt too much about, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’ They have a sense of, ‘Okay, let’s do what we have to do to win.’ That’s obviously what you need in team sports…They have a really good sense of what a team is and what this program is about. For such a young team, I’m really excited about that.”
The Sun Devils tip-off the season today, Nov. 25 at 4 p.m. local time against Stephen F. Austin.