ASU Women’s Basketball: Freshmen class could be a difference maker

ASU women’s basketball welcomes in a talented freshmen class as head coach Charli Turner Thorne believes they are ready to contribute immediately.

Arizona State had a unique situation last year as they had no seniors on a roster of 10. Despite the lack of starting experience, the Sun Devils put together a nice season going 22-13 while making it to the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament and to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

This campaign, the Devils return that entire squad excluding senior Sabrina Haines (transferred) who missed most of 2017-2018 with a torn ACL.

Plus, head coach Charli Turner Thorne has four highly regarded freshmen to work in as well. Those newcomers are Taya Hanson, Jamie Loera, Iris Mbulito and Jayde Van Hyfte, and they each can add a new element to this auspicious Sun Devil team.

Hanson is Arizona State’s top new recruit according to ESPN, where she is ranked the 65th-best freshman in the country.

She is from British Columbia and the new Sun Devil represented Canada at the FIBA U18 Americas Championships earlier this year.

Through six games of that tournament, she averaged 11.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game and helped Canada win the silver medal.

The 5-foot-10 combo guard also thrived in high school. At Kelowna, she carried her school to an Okanagan Valley AAA championship in 2016.

She scored 24 points per game that year, as well as five steals per contest. An ESPN player evaluation complemented her ability to force turnovers by saying that she anticipates passing lanes well and shows effort on both ends of the court.

Hanson can also add what the Devils lacked last season, range. ASU shot 32.9 percent from deep, good for seventh in the Pac-12. The freshman has a smooth three-point shot, and in a transition offense, she could be a deadly weapon beyond the arc.

Loera was the team captain of the 25-1 Moses Lake Chiefs, the fourth-best team in Washington last year. She was named to the Columbia Basin 4A All-First Team and All-Defensive First Team.

Prospects Nation gave her a four-star rating and ESPN awarded her three stars and named her the 27th-best at her position in this recruiting class.

Loera is a pure point guard type. She is an excellent game manager and according to ESPN, she is great at handling a half-court offense as well as the transition game.

Mbulito is coming off of a tournament to remember. The 6-foot-1 forward scored 21 points and 15 rebounds to lead Spain to the FIBA U20 Championships title. She won the tournament MVP while scoring just under 10.0 points with 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.

She has the size and athleticism to wreak havoc in the lanes. Mbulito is not a strong outside shooter, as she only shot 1/13 from three during her MVP run. She thrives by cutting and driving to the basket, where she has a strong finish.

This could give ASU a whole other dynamic. ASU’s starting forwards last year (and probable starters for this season) were Courtney Ekamark, a deep threat, and Kianna Ibis, a post-up/pick-and-roll player. They did not have a forward who was great at driving from the outside to the basket. Mbulito could be that player.

Finally, forward Jayde Van Hyfte will provide ASU with some size and athleticism. At 6-foot-1, the Annawan High School (Illinois) product has great ball handling skills and shooting touch for her size.

She finished high school with 2,775 points, making her the top scorer in Annawan’s history. She is the third of her sisters to play division one basketball, but the new Sun Devil is the most decorated.

Not just in scoring either, as she also holds her school’s record for rebounds. She racked up 114 double-doubles during her high school career.

She led her team to many successes, including three sectional titles and a state championship. She earned multiple All-First Team honors in the process, so she has experience in high leverage games and she has thrived in them so far.

After a successful transition year, ASU could be dangerous in 2018-2019. This freshmen class has a lot of potential to be game changers, and with many Pac-12 powerhouses from last year having lost star players, ASU could prove to be a top team in the conference.