Prior to the season, the Pac-12 women’s basketball coaches selected the ASU women’s basketball team to finish 10th in the conference, ahead of only Oregon and UA.
The Sun Devils, who finished 13-18 in 2012-13, brought in two players who the Pac-12 coaches were not anticipating being as big of factors as they have been this season: freshmen forwards Sophie Brunner and Kelsey Moos.
Coach Charli Turner Thorne had high expectations from her freshman class.
“These are two kids that have only won,” Turner Thorne said. “We knew we were getting two kids who knew how to win and were tough and skilled, so (we) absolutely expected them to have a good impact on our team.
“It’s always hard to say, because you never really know how people are going to adjust, but we knew they had everything that it took to be impact players.”
Moos won three straight state championships in high school, but she knew that her transition from high school to collegiate basketball would not be an easy one.
“I knew it was going to be really tough,” Moos said. “I’ve just been trying to play tough, because your freshman year is a lot about just getting experience and getting a feel for things and just working hard.”
Brunner also won state championships in her final two years in high school.
“I was expecting exactly what it is,” Brunner said. “Super fast-paced, really physical, smart players, hard players to guard, every game is like a challenge and it’s really been like that every game.
“I’m always being challenged by better players, stronger players, taller players, so I think that it’s made me a better player and made me realize how much of a challenge it really is playing DI.”
Team chemistry has been a key for the Sun Devils all season, and Moos cited the work done over the summer as a major factor in its progression.
“It helped a lot being here in the summer,” Moos said. “We went to open gyms with them, so that definitely helped so when the season did get here, it was a much smoother transition.”
Brunner echoed Moos’ sentiments, and said how playing with her teammates during the summer helped ease her transition to ASU.
“The team was obviously very welcoming from the get-go,” Brunner said. “The meshing in, them finding out who we are and us finding out who they are, and getting to know each other better came during the summer months, so once August and September came around and we were coming back to school, the comfort level was there.”
Turner Thorne credited those summer workouts with not only building the team, but allowing Moos and Brunner to progress as players as well.
“I think they really had a great prep summer and fall to be able to have a skill set that was going to translate over to this level of defense and the speed of the game,” she said.
Brunner was surprised at how much time she has been on the floor as a freshman and credited those around her with her development.
“I definitely didn’t expect to get this much time this early,” Brunner said. “I thought I’d just be a role player, work my way in, but with the help of the coaches and my teammates, I’ve been able to have opportunities to get in the game.”
Turner Thorne has been pleasantly surprised by the production of Brunner and Moos being able to come in and be key cogs in the Sun Devils’ machine this year.
“I would not say that I expected them to step in and play at such a high level right away and sustain it the way that they have,” she said. “It’s been beyond impressive, and they’re just really special young ladies.”
Turner Thorne has been impressed with the offensive progression that the two players have gone through this year, from not being aggressive enough in getting the ball to being key contributors on the offensive end.
“The evolution has been great from a team offensive standpoint in terms of them just learning the game at this level, learning to be more aware, being harder to guard, and they’ve really come a long way to the point that we’re running things for them,” she said.
“They’re starting as freshmen, leading our team to one of the best teams in the conference and providing a lot,” Turner Thorne said.
Turner Thorne said she sees a bright future for both of the freshmen starters.
“I’d project them to be two of the best players in the conference when it’s all said and done,” she said.
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