Pac-12 basketball media days show hype for ASU basketball, future of conference

After down years for both programs, ASU's basketball programs will bring in new faces and new identities

The Pac-12 conference held its women's and men's basketball media days in San Francisco, California on Oct. 12 and 13, respectively. Two players and a head coach representing each team in the conference spoke to the media about reflections from the previous season and what to expect from this coming year.

Women's 

On day one, the Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff focused his remarks on gender equity in the conference. Following the release of the NCAA External Gender Equity Review, Kliavkoff said he supports almost every point addressed in the report.

"The one area I need more information about before we come to a conclusion as a conference about whether we support it is whether or not we are going to co-locate the men's and women's Final Four," Kliavkoff said. "My gut tells me that may actually be doing a disservice to the women, not a service, so we're doing all of the work necessary to get input to take a position as a conference."

ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne started her media session by saying she "took a trip with SpaceX" and "came back with a new offense." 

Turner Thorne's team is in a much different position than it was a year ago. Last year, the team returned zero starters. This year, all five from last year will be back, Turner Thorne said.

Senior guard Taya Hanson and sophomore guard Jaddan Simmons will be leading a much more experienced backcourt. Four guards are seniors, three guards are sophomores and there are no freshman guards.

Hanson pointed out how difficult it was last year with the limited contact with other players and the COVID-19 breakout in the team.

"We're just going to hit the reset button and say, 'We're going to be tough and love each other and play with one heartbeat,'" Hanson said.

The experiences gained from last year will help the group's chemistry and leadership compared to last year, Simmons said.

"We've had a lot of time to get our chemistry together," she said. "I think this year is going to be more fun, we have more time (and) we can be closer to each other."

The numerous returners will be joined by four incoming transfers who bring shooting and college-level experience.

"Ayzhiana Basallo is coming back from a knee injury, but she's playing really well," Turner Thorne said of one of the new transfers.

ASU women's basketball will open up its 2021-22 campaign on Nov. 9 against University of Northern Colorado at 8:00 p.m. MST in Tempe.

Men's 

Kliavkoff and Pac-12 Deputy Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich led the men's media day, touching on the topics of name, image and likeness (NIL), the NCAA's recent constitutional convention and the historic alliance between the Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten conferences.

"The alliance provides three opportunities: one, to provide additional support for our student athletes; two, to positively impact the future of college sports; three, to create new excitement for our fans through creative scheduling and a creation of new college sports events," Kliavkoff said. 

The Pac-12 also agreed to a four-year scheduling agreement starting in the 2022-23 season with the Southwestern Atlantic Conference, composed of historically Black colleges and universities.

"This is a very proud moment for the conference and our schools to address issues of anti-racism and social justice," Zaninovich said. "The notion being to play (the) first-ever home-and-home series between a major conference and a historically Black college and university conference."

ASU head coach Bobby Hurley spoke at the conference after finishing with an overall record of 11-14 last season.

"Certainly we want to get a better vibe in the locker room; a more connected group if we could," Hurley said. "Guys that want to share the ball and just play the right way. At times we had some issues with that. We're just trying to turn the page."

Sophomore forward Marcus Bagley and graduate student forward Kimani Lawrence also spoke at the conference about NIL and the ability to compete at March Madness. Lawrence said the team was "right there" with the other Pac-12 teams that made deep runs in the NCAA tournament this past March.

When talking about the Pac-12 conference as a whole, Hurley said he has been impressed with the recent success of the conference in the NCAA tournament.

"I'm really excited for the league overall, just what we've accomplished in the NCAA tournament," Hurley said. "That's what we've been talking about in head coaches' meetings for years ... I think the way people are viewing us is different based on that success so we have some good momentum and hoping to capitalize on that."


Reach the reporters at ascott43@asu.edu and drodish@asu.edu and follow @AustinScott_16 and @david_rodish on Twitter. 

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