Anders carries the torch forward

The ASU women's basketball team underwent a major change in the off-season, when head coach Charli Turner-Thorne took a one-year personal leave of absence in July. Her top assistant, Joseph Anders, was named new interim head coach. This shake-up may be a recipe for a trying season, but Anders is optimistic of his squad's prospects for the 2011-2012 season.

"We want to make this season be a complete reflection of how we love the game", states Anders. "We plan to walk out into this season and represent our brand, Sun Devil Women's Basketball".

With four new players joining the squad, Anders is expecting to have a very exciting year. Micaela Pickens, Eliza Normen, Promise Amukamara, and Jada Blackwell are among the newest Lady Sun Devils.

Micaela Pickens, a 5'8" guard from Cypress College in California, is the only transfer student joining the team. Pickens was a first team all-Orange Empire Conference selection for Cypress College in 2010. She started 28 of 30 games her sophomore year, lead the team in scoring last season, and was picked as the Southern Section MVP from Cypress College. Anders referred to Pickens as a very humble player.

"Pickens will have a significant impact on this team", Anders said.

Freshman Eliza Normen joins the Lady Sun Devils this year from Monarch High School in Louisville, Colorado. The 6'0" guard has not been cleared for full contact yet, (patellar tendon graft reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament), but still has great character, heart, and skill-set, which is the reason for the overall excited-ness for her to play, according to Anders. Normen was named the number 28 player in the 2011 HoopGurlz Hot 100.

Joining Normen in the freshman class is 6'1" forward Jada Blackwell. Blackwell, out of Etiwanda High School in Etiwanda, California, averaged 13.0 points a game her junior year of high school. Blackwell was named First-Team All-San Bernardino County, First-Team All-Baseline, and First-Team All-CIF last season.

"Blackwell is the best skilled player on the team…" Anders stated, "…She has excellent ball skills. "

Anders is very impressed with Blackwell's understanding and knowledge of the game, which undoubtedly is a great trait to have.

A highly anticipated player joining the Lady Devils is Promise Amukamara. A freshman out of Apollo High School in Glendale, Arizona, Promise helped Apollo reach the Class 4A state final her senior year, the first time Apollo had done that in more than 30 years. Apparently athleticism runs in the Amukamra family, as Promise is the sister to the New York Giant's 1st round draft pick, Prince Amukamara.

"Promise is one of the best athletes we've had in our program", Anders commented.

Amukamara averaged 22 points during her senior season at Apollo, and was named the 2010 Arizona Fall Prep MVP. Promise was named Apollo High's Athlete of the Year twice throughout her high school career, while also being named the Region Athlete of the Year for track and field in 2009.

"The way she (Amukamara) athletically can play this game will be very, very fun for our fan base to watch her develop over the years," Anders said.

Although the Lady Devils have a stacked roster for the 2011-2012 season, the loss of Dymond Simon is substantial. Simon, who was all PAC-10 twice during her career at ASU, is currently playing ball for the Australian Women's National Basketball League. Simon averaged a team high 13.2 points, with 78 assists and 91 turnovers her senior year. During the '10-'11 season, Simon led the Lady Sun Devils to the NCAA Tournament with a 20-11 season. "You never replace a Dymond," Anders confessed. "Dymond was so gifted in so many ways. You would hope to reload, but in terms of ‘replace', you can't."

When asked who would play point guard considering the loss of Simon, Anders mentioned Adrianne Thomas and Deja Mann.

"You have to look towards Mann as well as Thomas," Anders explained. "Thomas, however, has been dealing with a little bit of a setback from surgery she had over the summer, so right now she is not even able to practice. That allows for Normen to get more reps right now.

The feature that Normen gives us is she is a player who can play all three perimeter spots where Adrianne is more of a true point, as well as Deja who is a little bit of a combo."

When discussing the players with the most improvement thus far, Anders talked about the phases that the team has been going through. The Lady Devils are currently in a "growing phase", where all players have stepped forward.

"I love the spirit that this team has right now," says Anders. "We hope to begin to see players who will rise above rest, but we do not have that right now."

With the conference expansion into the PAC-12, adding new members Colorado and Utah, Anders does not believe these new teams should be overlooked.

"They're both quality components", Anders said. "Colorado is a team that has rich tradition. They were not as competitive in the Big 12 over the last year as they went through coaching changes, but they have definitely made considerable strides in the right direction."

Arizona State Women's Basketball will play an exhibition game against Azusa Pacific on November 3rd, followed by their home opener against UC Riverside on November 11th.

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