The Calvary is coming. And it looks like it’s arriving from Coolidge. Again.
The Arizona State women’s basketball team has just signed what may be a key piece to its resurgance next year. Olivia Major, a sophomore guard on the five-time national champion Central Arizona College Vaqueras, is riding in with her 20 points per game (sixth best nationally) to help next year’s ASU squad get back to the NCAA Tournament.
The Devils went to the WNIT this year and were eliminated in the second round. Their 18-14 record wasn’t enough to get a ticket to the Big Dance this year, where they have been very successful in recent years. The Devils made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight two of the previous three years.
ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne has turned the two-year school in Coolidge into her farm system. Major is the third player she has recruited from the national power in the past two years. And all three will make a difference next year.
Major, the ACCAC Player of the Year, joins two other recent arrivals in Tempe, Tenaya Watson and Markisha Patterson, who both played with her at CAC in the 2008-09 season. The trio played major roles in CAC’s 35-0 record and 2009 NJCAA D-I national title, the school’s fifth.
Watson averaged 17 points her freshman year at CAC and 14 her sophomore year and was the MVP of the 2009 NJCAA Tournament, scoring 30 points in the championship game. That caught Turner Thorne’s attention. This year she had to play a shooting guard for the Devils to fill in at the point for the injured Simon, but may get to move back to shooting guard next season, which will be a more natural fit for her talents.
Patterson was the third component to that national championship backcourt for CAC, a scorer, rebounding guard, and a lock-down defensive player. She had to redshirt this year due to an injury, but is expected to be a major contributor next year.
If that isn’t enough to make the 14th-year head coach absolutely giddy about next season, she should have Dymond Simon back in the line-up for her senior year. Simon, an All-Pac 10 guard from Washington HS, led the Devils in scoring last year before injurying her knee in the final game of the 2009 season at Stanford. She was also second on the team in assists and set a new school single-season record for compiling an 88.2 percent free throw mark.
But wait, there’s more. Turner Thorne also found a gem still in high school, plucking 5’9″ Adrianne Thomas from a Fontana, Calif., school. The incoming guard is an All-CIF Southern Section First-Team selection who averaged 18 points a game and four assists in her senior year and led her team to the state semi-finals.
And to fill in the paint, ASU will have its top rebounding post player, Becca Tobin, back again. The 6’5″ Tobin corraled 6.4 rebounds a game this year, and then kicked in 10 points per outing. She will be joined by 6’2″ Kimberly Brandon, who will likely fill the power forward role next season; they will provide some of the senior leadership that will be needed in their attempt to return to the Dance.
And to fill out the stand of trees beneath the basket, throw in 6’5″ Kali Bennett, a junior next year who should be ready to blossom.
An added benefit will be the local ties that many of these contributing players bring to the program. Nothing like familiar faces to help fill the seats in Wells Fargo Arena. Major is from Washington HS and Simon went to St. Mary’s HS, both in Phoenix. Patterson attended Tolleson HS and Tobin is from Cactus HS in Glendale.
Turner Thorne will have 12 returning players to build on next year – and a treasure chest of new talent coming on board.
Don’t punch ASU’s ticket to the 2011 Dance just yet. But you might want to warm up the bus.
(Photo: ASU Athletics/Tom Story)