ASU women's basketball's senior class readies for next steps

After having their season cut short, the group has been preparing their post-graduation plans

Now that it’s been more than a month since the remainder of the ASU women’s basketball’s season was canceled due to concerns of COVID-19, its senior class has used the time to look at their post-graduation futures.

Guards Reili Richardson, Robbi Ryan and Kiara Russell, along with forwards Jamie Ruden and Ja’Tavia Tapley, were all veteran pillars for a Sun Devil team that went 20-11 and finished the season ranked No. 25 in the AP poll. 

Each player provided something unique to the team. But most importantly, they were all steady hands for ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne.

Richardson, Ruden, Russell, and Ryan entered the program in 2016 and played a crucial role in ASU reaching the NCAA Tournament their first three years with the program. Tapley, who played her first three collegiate years at USC, fit in seamlessly as a transfer, leading this year’s team in both scoring and rebounding.

Now, with their college careers in the rearview mirror, the group has been able to reminisce and gain a little more perspective on just how special their run was even despite the untimely finish.

“I mean college basketball is just a special experience and I really enjoyed my time at ASU," Ryan said. "To have the season just taken away when you are not expecting is a weird feeling. It’s sad. It’s a lot of things and I have definitely gained perspective with the time away.”

Russell echoed a similar sentiment to Ryan on gaining more appreciation of her time wearing maroon and gold.

“For a game just to be taken away from you just like that really puts in perspective how fast anything can be taken away from you,” Russell said. “I really appreciate my time at ASU. I’m gonna miss it greatly and miss all the memories that I have built with my teammates, because those are things I’m always gonna cherish and be grateful for.”

The 2020 WNBA Draft took place virtually this past Friday, but no Sun Devils heard their names called. Despite this, at least three Sun Devil seniors intend to keep playing at the professional level.

Ryan, Richardson, and Tapley have all hired agents and are keeping their options open when it comes to the future of their basketball careers and where they continue.

“I hired an agent, he’s been working on getting stuff together,” Tapley said. “He’s talked to a few coaches. Places like Switzerland and Spain might be options for me.”

Richardson also mentioned that she will likely continue her career overseas, although she doesn’t exactly know where.

“I’ve gotten an agent and she’s been doing great for me reaching out for coaches,” Richardson said. “I have to look at what teams are going to offer me, what my contract is going to be like and the little details in each contract.”

Russell, on the other hand, is preparing for life without basketball.

“I’d like to get a nine-to-five job working within a construction company called 'Kitchell,'” Russell said. “Coach Meg (Sanders) came to me with the idea of playing with a team in Ireland and getting my master’s degree at the same time. Then also just being a GA (graduate assistant) somewhere and getting my master’s degree is something I looked at, too."

Assuming the 2020-21 season begins as scheduled, ASU will rely on a roster mainly comprised of underclassmen. Not having five seniors to lean on will be an adjustment for Turner Thorne, but one she will have to make nonetheless.

"We have four four-year players who just have built an incredible legacy," Turner Thorne said after the group's final home game. "They've had four 20-win seasons, four straight NCAA appearances, and that's no small accomplishment. 

"I think anybody that has spent any time with them knows they are just great women, and they've given everything they've had in their time here."


Reach the reporter at ltochter@asu.edu and follow @Leo_Toch on Twitter.

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