Are we beginning to see some fallout from Charli Turner Thorne‘s decision to step away from coaching the Arizona State women’s basketball team next season?
The news came out last week that Karina ‘Kiki’ Alofaituli, a four-star recruit that committed to ASU last June, has changed her mind about becoming a Sun Devil. ASU has allowed her to re-open her recruitment.
A six-foot wing, Alofaituli was one of the jewels in Turner Thorne’s 2011 recruiting class that included two Top 50 players. Now that number is down to one – Eliza Norman, a 6’1″ guard from Colorado ranked No. 28.
The No. 26 prospect coming out of Mater Dei High School in California, the No. 1 high school team in the country, Alofaituli was expected to bring the quickness of a perimeter player and the strength and agility to defend a big player.
She combines interior scoring with a mid-range jump shot and would likely have been an impact player for the Sun Devils, who won 20 games last year but had an early exit in the Pac-10 Tournament and then lost to Temple in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
According to the information released to the media by her mother, Patricia, Alofaituli left for “personal reasons” and wanted to be able to play closer to her home in Newbury Park, CA.
However, when she committed to ASU last year, her club coach pointed out that one of the reasons she liked ASU was its close proximity to California. George Quintero told the HoopGurlz website: “It’s a great choice for her. She gets to stay close to home and her family gets to see her play.”
But there is also a case to be made for the importance of the head coach to that comfort level she felt before last season. Her mother says Kiki likes the school and told ESPN in an email sent out with the de-commitment announcement that “She was very comfortable with the coaching staff and that is one of the reasons why she chose ASU.”
Turner Thorne asked for an unpaid leave of absence that will begin July 1 and run for nine months, enabling her to return for the 2012 season. In her own words, the 15-year head coach at ASU said she “wants an opportunity to re-center myself, have more family time, and improve as a coach.”
In addition to the head coach’s temporary leave, her assistant, Laura Hughes, has also departed the staff to take over as the new head coach at Cochise College, a community college in southeastern Arizona.
And Amy Wright joined the staff from Cleveland State, filling the void left on the bench by Hughes. She joins Joe Anders, Turner Thorne’s assistant who will serve as the interim head coach, and Meg Sanders, who just completed eight years on the ASU bench.
So there’s been a little shake-up in the Sun Devil program this year, and you can never predict how that’s going to effect the recruiting. And each new recruit usually bonds with a particular coach, most often the one or two that spent most of the time trying to woo her into the program.
Perhaps that was the case with Alofaituli. Or perhaps she really just wants to be even closer to home.
However, the chances are not good that her new team will be from one of the California colleges in the Pac-12. ASU did not grant her a full release to another conference school, which means that, if she wants to play in the Pac-12 she will have to submit an appeal to the National Letter of Intent Steering Committee, asking for a release on the basis of extenuating circumstances.
However it all comes down, for ASU it simply means they have another scholarship available. And have lost a piece of a strong recruiting class.