ASU WBB: Four takeaways from the Sun Devils' first three games

Following ASU's loss to Minnesota, let's check up on the state of this new-look ASU team

It’s early, but the 2019-20 ASU women’s basketball season has presented both pleasant surprises and potential areas of concern.

To recap it all, here are four takeaways from the first three games of the new season.

1.  Ja’Tavia Tapley is the most important player on ASU’s team.

Prior to this season, Ja’Tavia Tapley’s highest season averages in points and rebounds per game were at six and five respectively. When the Sun Devils added her as a graduate transfer from USC this offseason, the move was geared toward adding extra depth to a shallow frontcourt.

But through the first three games of the new season, Tapley’s addition has been much more. She is averaging 15 points per contest while shooting 66.7% from the floor.

“It kind of amazes me sometimes the things that she does. It’s like, ‘Did she just do that?’” ASU head coach Charli Turner Throne said. “She’s definitely one of the people that we’re looking to go to for scoring.”

As a front court player who can handle the ball and run the floor with ease, Tapley fits perfectly into Turner Thorne’s run and gun system.

“I’m very comfortable. I really love it here,” Tapley said. “My coach told me that she trusts me. I’ve never heard that from my head coaches.”

2.  Aside from Eboni Walker, Turner Thorne won’t rely on ASU’s freshman class much.

Freshman forward Eboni Walker certainly will find herself on the floor a lot given the Sun Devils' smaller front court. But it’ll be tough for freshman guards Sara Bejedi and Sydnei Caldwell to find consistent playing time in a backcourt that is returning every player from last season.

After scoring 12 points in her collegiate debut, Bejedi has only scored two points in the Sun Devils' last two contests. The Finland native is certainly talented, but ASU already has Reili Richardson and Kiara Russell as its two primary ball handlers.

As for Caldwell, she didn’t play this past weekend at Minnesota and seems to be behind Bejedi on ASU’s depth chart.

3.  The Sun Devils' lack of size could come back to bite them during Pac-12 play.

Oddly enough, at 6-foot-3-inches, Tapley is ASU's tallest player. 

In a conference as strong as the Pac-12 (four teams ranked in the AP Poll's top 11), ASU's smaller unit could become troublesome down the road, especially against No. 1 Oregon and No. 7 Oregon State.

The pair of top 10 teams present size unlike any other in the Pac-12. Nearly half of the Ducks' roster is comprised of players over 6-foot-3 while the Beavers have five players that are taller than ASU's Tapley.

On the other hand, the roster makeup of No. 3 Stanford and No. 11 UCLA resemble that of ASU. It remains to be seen how the Sun Devils' lack of frontcourt size will impact their ability to score and defend inside. 

4.  Taya Hanson has developed into a reliable perimeter scoring threat.

A season ago, Taya Hanson was a work in progress. 

Clearly behind Richardson and Robbi Ryan on ASU’s depth chart, Hanson struggled her freshman year, shooting 27.4% from the field and averaging just over two points per game.

But now, with a year under her belt, Hanson’s confidence has blossomed. The sophomore guard hit four 3-pointers and tied a career-high with 14 points against Minnesota.

Hanson’s offensive improvements have made her an intriguing scoring piece for ASU moving forward.

“When I load right, I can let it fly,” Hanson said. “I’m in the gym working on it with the coaches and I want to be that consistent shooter for my team to be able to rely on me with that.”


Reach the reporter at kbriley@asu.edu and on Twitter @KokiRiley.

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