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Katie Hempen found her second family with ASU women's basketball

With a deadly three-point shot and a contagious smile, Hempen leaves behind a lasting impact on the Sun Devils.

Red shirt junior Katie Hempen shows some skillful ball handling Friday night against Utah. The Sun Devils win the game 45-42 over the Utes on Feb. 27, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. (J. Bauer-Leffler/The State Press)

Red shirt junior Katie Hempen shows some skillful ball handling Friday night against Utah. The Sun Devils win the game 45-42 over the Utes on Feb. 27, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. (J. Bauer-Leffler/The State Press)

Nearly every team has a three-point specialist. For No. 9 ASU women's basketball, it's been Katie Hempen for the last three years.

The redshirt senior guard's sharpshooting skills are a big reason why the Sun Devils (23-4, 14-1 Pac-12) are sitting tied atop the Pac-12 standings in pursuit of a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Hempen recently broke the ASU career record for three-pointers made in a victory over UCLA, cementing her place in the program's history as its greatest shooter of all-time.

It wasn't a conventional road to Tempe for Hempen, who began her college career in her home state of Illinois. After being named Ohio Valley Conference freshman of the year at Southern Illinois University, Hempen transferred to ASU and had to sit out a full season due to NCAA transfer rules.

"I couldn't have asked for a better family," Hempen said, reflecting on her career as a Sun Devil. "I'm thousands of miles from my own family so being able to come here — and feel like I'm home — that's just a great feeling for me."

With a support system that includes her girlfriend Devin, friends, teammates, and a head coach with as much passion and charisma as Charli Turner Thorne, it's easy to see how a girl from frigid Illinois has been welcomed warmly into what she calls the ASU family.

On the court, Hempen is red hot from three-point range as her college career winds down. With two games left in the regular season, Hempen is shooting 44 percent from deep — a career high that's good enough for ninth in the country and the third-best individual percentage in the Pac-12.

Turner Thorne said she's seen a trend in Hempen's career of shooting better and better as the season goes on.

"She's getting her shot off quick and really reading and cutting well," Turner Thorne said. "She's just doing what Katie's done — and does."

If it weren't for a slow start to the 2015-16 season for Hempen, who led the Sun Devils in scoring last season, she'd have a shot at the best three-point shooting percentage of any player in the country.

But ASU players and coaches will insist that statistics don't matter to anybody on a team that shares the scoring load as well as they do. With only one player average more than nine points per game (junior forward Sophie Brunner at 11.1), balance is the name of the game for this veteran Sun Devil group.

Having that kind of balance takes a load off the shoulders of 5-foot-three senior fireplug point guard Elisha Davis, who is also in the twilight of her ASU career.

Davis said having shooters on the wing like Hempen and post threats down low like Brunner makes her job as a distributor infinitely easier.

"When everyone is a threat on the floor it helps as far as attacking and making the defense confused," Davis said. "To know if I give a good pass to Katie and Sophie seals, if she makes one more good pass to Sophie, it just makes it easier. I think that speaks highly to our team being connected."

That kind of connectedness has been an enduring theme of this season for an ASU team that turns to the reliable shooting of Hempen when all else fails. Her presence is one that players and coaches agree will be severely missed.

Over her three years as a Sun Devil, Hempen set a number of records on the basketball court and built personal connections outside of it that will last a lifetime, but she said that her growth as a person is what truly stands out.

"As an adult I've matured with leadership, communication and holding myself accountable," Hempen said. "The fact that I feel comfortable leaving Arizona State outside of basketball makes me feel really, really good. Charli cares about you as a person just as much as she cares about you as a basketball player."

Reach the reporter at or follow @RClarkeASU on Twitter.

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