Thorne returns, leads young ASU women’s hoops

Senior guard Micaela Pickens looks for an open teammate during the Sun Devils’ 60-48 loss to USC last season on Jan. 5. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

A young ASU women’s basketball team lost a veteran member after last season, but received another and looks to prove it can compete at a high level.

The Sun Devils gain back the brainpower of coach Charli Turner Thorne, who has returned after a one-year leave of absence, but have lost the talent of senior Deja Mann due to injury.

Mann was supposed to be the Sun Devils’ best offensive player, as well as their go-to defensive stopper.

“She brought energy,” redshirt senior forward Janae Fulcher said. “Just pass her the ball and she could make something happen out of nothing. Defensively, she would shut down any top guard the other team had.”

Thorne said Mann was projected to start at shooting guard this year, and her shot-making ability will be missed.

Thorne took a leave of absence last season, but is back for her 16th season.

Thorne is the winningest coach in Sun Devil history and has the third most career wins in Pac-12 history.

She said in ASU’s best years — back in 2007 and 2009 when it reached the Elite Eight — it was one of the best shooting teams in the nation.

Thorne said they have really emphasized shooting during practice, and it must improve if they want to succeed.

“Where we have to grow the most is our ability to put the ball in the basket,” Thorne said.

She said the defense and rebounding of past and present ASU teams have always been good.

Eight of the 14 players are either freshmen or sophomores this season, and the Sun Devils are not returning any starters.

Senior guard Micaela Pickens believes with so many younger players coming into the mix, the Sun Devils have much to learn from and about each other.

“We just have to figure out our strengths and work with that,” Pickens said.

Thorne said she wants to get the ASU program back to an elite level.

“I think we have recruited the players that can take us there,” Thorne said. “But it’s a process.”

ASU was recently tied at No. 5 in the Pac-12 coaches poll with Oregon State. The Sun Devils are ranked behind USC, UCLA, No. 13 California and No. 4 Stanford, in respective order.

The Sun Devils have an exhibition with Alaska-Anchorage this Sunday in the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe.

 

Reach the reporter at gdemano@asu.edu