ASU women’s basketball senior Sophie Brunner earned multiple nicknames during her four years as a Sun Devil: “Buzzer-Beater Brunner” and “Buckets Brunner” just to name a few.
But on Thursday night, anything would suffice for Brunner as she hopes to hear her name called during the 2017 WNBA Draft in New York City.
“I’m just excited to see what happens,” Brunner said. “If my name doesn’t get called, it doesn’t get called. I’m not really banking on that. I’m just hoping to get invited to a training camp, so that’s kind of my goal going into it."
There isn’t much left for Brunner to accomplish after four years at ASU. She's second on the school’s all-time rebound list (921), third in career points (1,405) and field goals (551), eighth in field-goal percentage (52.3) and ninth in free throws (288).
Brunner also led the ASU program to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, notching the No. 2 seed in 2016 — the highest seed in school history. Personally, Brunner finished first in program history in career rebounds during the NCAA tournament (70), second in field goals (42) and points (112), third in free throws (27) and fourth in assists (20).
Brunner is too humble to say whether or not she deserves a spot on a WNBA roster. But if Brunner is drafted, she'll be the first selection from ASU since former Sun Devil Promise Amukamara in 2015.
However, those around Brunner aren't shy about speaking highly of her — both on and off the court — something that should resonate with WNBA scouts.
Photo by Ben Shaul / The State Press
"Where will Sophie go?" Illustration published Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Photo courtesy Josh Orcutt.
"The one thing I always say about her," ASU head coach Charli Turner-Thorne said. "She's like one of the most loved players I've ever coached because, every week we're home, no matter where we are, there's Sophie Brunner fans' in the stands. That doesn't happen because you score points, I'm sorry. Especially in women's basketball, it happens because of who you are."
Originally from Freeport, Illinois, Brunner developed these characteristics even before coming to Tempe, and Illinois Elite AAU basketball head coach Tom Hohenadel quickly took notice.
“She goes so hard,” Hohenadel said. “She had that same motor that she has today, which is 150 percent. It’s just unique, she doesn’t have another gear other then all-out.”
Hohenadel has been instructing and coaching women’s basketball players for 18 years and has sent players to Division I programs all over the country. But once Hohenadel got to know Brunner's game, he knew she was a unique talent that might come along every 10 years.
“I knew at that point — and I remember saying to the Brunner's — that this kid is going to play in the WNBA,” Hohenadel said.
Even if Brunner doesn’t get her name called on Thursday night, her supporters believe that she has what it takes to earn a roster spot on any WNBA squad.
“Sophie has two things, humility and confidence, it is a wonderful combination,” Hohenadel said. “She won’t express any disappointment (if she doesn’t get drafted,) but she will have the confidence to go to a training camp, and if you just give this young lady a chance, she’s going to earn a spot.”
One thing is guaranteed, however. If Brunner is one of the 36 players selected on Thursday, there will be joy and satisfaction in the hearts’ of anyone who has been a part of her upbringing.
“If she’s drafted, I will breakdown and have tears in my eyes, of pride, for the hardest-working girl I have ever coached," Hohenadel said.
Brunner will look to keep her emotions more in check.
"Whatever happens, happens," she said.