Evidently, the prospect of winning another national championship wasn’t enough to keep Courtney Ekmark from leaving the UConn women’s basketball program.
The former star player at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix announced last week that she will be transferring to Arizona State University to play for Charli Turner Thorne. She was part of two national championship teams while playing for the University of Connecticut, but wasn’t satisfied with her own limited playing time.
That likely won’t be a problem at ASU. “She was one of the greatest high school players ever to come out of the state of Arizona and we are ecstatic beyond words that she is joining our program,” said Turner Thorne in announcing her commitment to the Sun Devil program. “Courtney is a player who can do it all and she will have an incredible impact in every part of the game.”
ASU was among the major programs on a long list of suitors when Ekmark came out of high school. The Sun Devils were up against offers from schools like UConn, Duke, North Carolina, and Stanford. This time around, it reportedly came down to a face-off with Stanford.
The opportunity to play at home for her final two years appeared to be the deciding factor in coming to Tempe instead of taking her game to The Farm. She had wanted to stay home after high school, but said at the time that she saw the UConn offer as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so she committed to the Huskies the summer before her junior season.
Ekmark played three years for St. Mary’s, a small Catholic school in downtown Phoenix, where her father, Curtis, was the head coach. She played a key role in helping the 2012 squad to a USA Today No. 1 national ranking, exposure that no doubt caught the eye of UConn head coach Geno Auriemma.
While she was there, the school claimed three straight Division I state titles and Ekmark became the first Arizona player to become the top scorer in three consecutive state championship games. She elected to home-school her senior year.
The school also ran a streak of 49 straight wins on the way to an 87-3 record during those three seasons.
During Ekmark’s final season, as a junior, she averaged a shade under 20 points a game, while adding four steals and five rebounds an outing. She was considered one of the better shooters in the country at the high-school level.
The step up to the college level was just a continuation of playing for a team in the spotlight. But this time the 6-foot guard wasn’t center stage any longer. She played in 61 games at UConn, but averaged just nine minutes a game, a situation that developed in part during her freshman season when she suffered a stress fracture in her foot and missed six weeks of play.
But when she was on the floor, she hadn’t lost any of her accuracy. She shot 45 percent from the field last season, and 36 per cent from three-point range.
Ekmark will be joining a program that won 26 games and a share of last season’s Pac-12 regular-season title. The Sun Devils finished with a No. 11 national ranking and were a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest placement in program history.
To satisfy NCAA transfer requirements, she will sit out next season. But Turner Thorne sees that more as an advantage. “It’s so exciting to think what a kid with that talent could do with a redshirt year,” said her new coach.
And next season’s team should be fine without her. The Devils will return three starters – Quinn Dornstauder, Sophie Brunner, and Kelsey Moos – and boast an incoming group of five freshmen that was ranked as one of the top 10 recruiting classes in the nation.
Ekmark’s timing is good from another standpoint, which is probably only important to her. Dornstauder will graduate after next season, which means her jersey number, 22, should become available.
The transfer with two national championship rings will surely make a play for it. That’s the same number Ekmark wore at St. Mary’s and then at UConn.
However, that will require a new uniform for the incoming guard. Dornstauder is the team’s 6’4″ center.