Pac-10 preview: Arizona State University

Prior to the commencement of the 2009-2010 college basketball season, Hoopism will profile various NCAA teams. Today, the seventh installment of the Pac-10 previews: the Arizona State Sun Devils.

by Daniel Uribe

After an Elite Eight finish last season, Arizona State women’s basketball is coming off a great high. But they shouldn’t get too comfortable, as the rest of the conference is chasing them, and their task this season is to avoid falling back to the pack.

The Sun Devils, ranked #16 in the preseason AP poll, are personified by their head coach Charli Turner Thorne in that they are hardworking and scrappy and are determined to best teams and players with their effort. Yet, they will need every ounce of their fortitude as as they lose the most experience of any Pac-10 team to graduation last year. Gone are starters Briann January and Sybil Dosty, as well as key reserves Lauren Lacey, Kate Engelbrecht and Kirsten Thompson. Add to that the fact that Dymond Simon, last season’s leading scorer (13.8 ppg), will redshirt this season, and ASU will find itself with a lot of new pieces to work with.

Returning to help shore up the lack of experience will be seniors Danielle Orsillo (9.3 ppg, 2.4 apg) and Kayli Murphy (5 ppg, 4.2 rpg). Orsillo, who finished third as California’s all-time career scorer with 3,340 points, behind only Charde Houston and Cheryl Miller, has the ability to pick up the slack on offense. A big concern will be how often teams will focus their defenses on Orsillo and force the Sun Devils to have other players on the team score.

On a positive note, Murphy and junior Becca Tobin (4.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg), will lead a strong post game for the Sun Devils which may lack experience, but not height and numbers. Also returning will be sophomore guard/forward Kimberly Brandon (1.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg) who’s playing time should go up markedly. Newcomers to the team include freshmen 6’5″ forward/center Joy Burke from Tempe, AZ, and redshirt freshman 6’3″ Janae Fulcher, from La Jolla, CA. Joining them will be redshirt sophomore, 6’5″ Kali Bennett who transferred from Washington and has already sat out the requisite year.

The big question for the Sun Devils will be, who is going to handle the point guard duties? With January and Simon gone, ASU will be challenged to to find someone to step up and lead. For the interim, a trio of newcomers is expected to share the position, according to Turner Thorne. The freshmen guards include Deja Mann, 5’7″ guard out of Merced, CA, and Sabrina McKinney, a 5’5″ guard from Arlington, TX. Joining them in the backcourt will be junior college transfer Tenaya Watson, a 5’9″ guard from Long Beach, CA, and Central Arizona College.

Newcomers to the backcourt will be sophomore guard Alex Earl, senior guard Gabby Fage and redshirt freshman Haley Parsons from Tucson.

Arizona State will open it’s season at home on Nov. 15 with a stern test versus South Dakota State, the defending Summit League Champions.

(Daniel Uribe is a Los Angeles native, former reporter and Pac-10 expert).