The Arizona State women’s basketball team officially opened practice for the 2013-14 season on Tues., Oct. 1.
Coming off a strong offseason, the Sun Devils are looking to continue progressing and building the foundation for a successful 2013-14 campaign.
“We feel like we have a really good base going into the start of official practices,” said head coach Charli Turner Thorne, who will be entering her 17th season leading the Sun Devil program. “We had a really good offseason and that is where it starts for any team that aspires to have success. As a coaching staff, we were pleased with what we saw in the improvement of our fitness level and skill development.”
The next challenge that awaits the Sun Devils is the all-important gelling as a team, something that is very much a point of emphasis for a team that includes eight of 12 players on the active roster with a season or less of experience at ASU.
“This month will really be about working on coming together as a team, learning our system and getting in good basketball shape,” said Turner Thorne.
Here are some notes on the Sun Devils, who officially open their season Sat., Nov. 9 when they host Hawaii at Wells Fargo Arena.
Deja Mann Returns to the Floor
The Sun Devils were dealt a serious blow prior to the 2012-13 season when senior Deja Mann, the team's most experienced player and leading scorer among returners from 2011-12, was lost for the season with a knee injury.
More than a year after the injury Mann is back on the court and is expected to be one of the team’s key contributors this season.
“It is fantastic to have Deja back on the court healthy,” said Turner Thorne. “She is such a great basketball player. She is a player who is not just skilled, but is smart, tough and knows the expectations of the program.”
A starter in 48 of 95 career games, Mann started all 32 games in 2011-12 and led ASU in assists (3.4 apg), free throws made (56) and free throw percentage (.812). She finished third on the team in scoring and recorded double figures in points nine times in 2011-12 with seven of those instances coming in the last 15 games of the season. Her 22 points at USC (Feb. 15, 2012) were the most scored by a Sun Devil last season.
Katie Hempen Ready to Contribute
Among the players making their 2013-14 debut for the Sun Devils is redshirt sophomore Katie Hempen, who redshirted last season after transferring from SIUE in 2012, where she was named the Ohio Valley Conference’s Freshman of the Year.
Although she was not able to play last season, Hempen made great strides within the Sun Devil program as she was named the team’s Most Improved Player at the conclusion of last season.
“Katie took advantage of her redshirt year as much as any player I have ever coached,” said Turner Thorne. “She is a very savvy basketball player. She is smart, tough and can really knock down shots. She sees the game and she steps up takes charges almost every day and so she is really going to bring a lot to the table. I think when people watch our team they are going to notice the energy and really positive vibe she brings to the team.”
Burke and Normen Taking on Leadership Role
Two returning players who Turner Thorne said have stood out in the offseason are redshirt senior C Joy Burke and redshirt sophomore G/F Eliza Normen.
“In terms of our returners, I think Joy and Eliza have really come on strong this offseason, not just with their work ethic, but with the leadership they are bringing to the team,” said Turner Thorne. “They have really stepped up in pulling the team together and trying to get everyone on the same page."
Burke played in all 31 games (30 starts) last season, her first season as a full-time starter, and led the team in rebounds (6.1 rpg - 18th in the Pac-12) and shot blocks (1.0 bpg - 15th in the Pac-12), finished second in field goal percentage (41.7) and third in scoring (7.1 ppg).
“Joy has a certain sense of urgency with it being her last season and that is really driving her to help her team be as successful as it can,” said Turner Thorne.
After being inactive for the better part of two seasons – her senior year of high school and her freshman year at ASU – because of injury, Normen was able to get out and contribute last season, playing in all 31 games, including the first two starts of her career.
“Eliza has had a great mentality since day one in this program,” explained Turner Thorne. “It’s really exciting to see her healthy now and I know she is looking forward to doing everything she can to help her team in any way she can.”
Turner Thorne Impressed With Freshman Class
Turner Thorne said she has been really pleased with what she has seen thus far from this year’s freshmen class comprised of forwards Sophie Brunner and Kelsey Moos and center Quinn Dornstauder.
“The freshmen are really looking good,” said Turner Thorne. “They have been really impressive, both in what they are doing on the court basketball-wise and also how they have been able to handle the load of big-time Division I basketball.
“There hasn’t been anything that we have asked them to do that they haven’t been able to do or fell short of and our standards are pretty high. They have shown a winning mentality and a real ‘go-getter’ attitude.”
Maroon and Gold Scrimmage Set for Oct. 11
Fans can get their first look at the 2013-14 Sun Devil women’s basketball team on Fri., Oct. 11 when they join the Sun Devil men’s team for the Maroon and Gold Scrimmage at Wells Fargo Arena.
“The Maroon and Gold Scrimmage is a new event that will showcase both the men’s and women’s programs and is something that fans are really going to enjoy,” said Turner Thorne. “I’m excited that we are able to have an event like this before the season starts. It’s way to give a little preview of both teams and at the same time it gives us the opportunity to interact with all the fans, whose support we appreciate so much.”
Activities begin at 5:30 outside of Wells Fargo Arena that include face painting, inflatables for children to play in and on and a balloon artist.
The Arizona State pep band will arrive at 6 p.m. as teams warm up and a student 3-on-3 tournament will take place. Team introductions begin at 6:30, with the women's team scrimmaging at 7 p.m. followed by the men at 7:30. Prizes given away will include floor seats for women's basketball and a trip to the men's UNLV game in November.
Fans will have the opportunity to get autographs from both teams at the conclusion of the event.