Charli taking ASU women’s hoops to new heights – literally

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                </div>  Looks like Charli is re-planting the forest, and it should be in full bloom about this time next year. Charli Turner Thorne, the women’s head basketball coach getting ready […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Looks like Charli is re-planting the forest, and it should be in full bloom about this time next year.

Charli Turner Thorne, the women’s head basketball coach getting ready to begin her 18th year at Arizona State, just wrapped up her 2015 recruiting class by signing a 6’3″ forward from California who also uses three names. Charnea Johnson-Chapman picked ASU over a handful of suitors and joins a four-player class that includes a couple of guards from local high schools.

Armani Hawkins is from Mesa’s Mountain View High School and Sabrina Haines played at Desert Vista High in Phoenix.  The fourth recruit is a forward from Nebraska, Kianna Ibis.

Johnson-Chapman will soon become part of a stand of tall trees that ASU opponents will find filling the lane for the Sun Devils.

The towering Johnson-Chapman is the final piece to replacing a tall trio that protected the Sun Devil interior a couple of years ago.  That’s when Turner Thorne, who has taken Sun Devil teams into the post-season 14 of the past 15 years and twice to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, enjoyed the advantage of being able to put 6’5″ Joy Burke, 6’3″ Janae Fulcher, and 6’1″ Nisha Barrett on the floor together.

Burke and Fulcher combined for almost 19 points in their senior season in 2012-13, while Barrett worked 13 minutes a game as a valuable reserve.

Now it appears Turner Thorne is slowly, but diligently, upsizing her line-up again.

She added 6’4″ center Quinn Domstauder last year and planted her under the hoop for 27 of the 33 games.  The native Canadian came off the bench and contributed a couple of rebounds a game while averaging 2.6 points. But more importantly, she gained a wealth of experience as a freshman and has three more years to develop into a key part of the offense and defense.

This year Turner Thorne will bring on board another 6’4″ center to complete the twin-tower effect.  Ayanna Edwards is a four-star recruit ranked by ESPN HoopGurlz as the 15th-best high-school post in the country as a junior.

ASU recruiters snatched Edwards, who earned the nickname “Shaq” because of her size and shot-blocking, away from the clutches of teams like Kansas and Louisville, who had both made hard pushes to bring the big prize into their programs.

And next year, the Sun Devil coach will try to blend in her third ‘big’ to beef up the interior even further. Johnson-Chapman has been averaging 10 points and 11 rebounds for her Moreno Valley high school and her addition will give the Sun Devils a line-up that will feature three Division I-sized interior players for two full seasons.

Last year, the Sun Devils overachieved after being picked in the pre-season to finish in 10th place in the Pac-12 and then climbed to a No. 11 national ranking by February, and were nationally-ranked throughout the conference portion of the schedule.

A tailspin late in the season that included six losses in the final eight games of the regular season didn’t keep them from getting an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, where they beat Vanderbilt in the opener before being knocked out by Notre Dame in the second round.

That 2013-14 squad finished 23-10 overall and 11-7 in the conference despite being a young team that was plagued by nagging injuries throughout the season.

This year they will have matured a little and will be taller in the post.  But, of course, that height doesn’t necessarily equate to more wins.

We should point out that the team of Burke, Fulcher, and Barrett didn’t live up to expectations.  They went 13-18 that year and won just five conference games.

But it’s still interesting to think about the possibilities this added size could bring over the next few seasons.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)