The 2022-23 season was rough for the Sun Devils in more ways than one. As last season wore on, it became downright painful. ASU finished last in the Pac-12 last season and ended with an 8-20 (1-17, Pac-12) record.
The first challenge was adjusting to a new head coach that followed an ASU coaching legend. Charli Turner Thorne retired at the end of the 2021-22 season as the winningest coach in Sun Devil history. She coached for 25 seasons and reached the NCAA or the WNIT tournaments in 22 of those 25 seasons. (Two weeks ago she was hired as an assistant coach for the WNBA Phoenix Mercury).
Arizona State brought in Natasha Adair in the unenviable position of replacing CTT. Regardless, I’m certain this will prove to be a savvy hire after the initial bumps of the first two or three seasons. After coaching the College of Charleston as head coach for a couple of seasons, Adair was brought on as the head coach for Georgetown for three seasons in 2014-15 to 2016-17, and then for five seasons at Delaware before being hired on at ASU.
At both Georgetown and Delaware, Adair found herself in the same situation as with the Sun Devils, where she followed coaches that had been in their position for 20 or more years. In her final two seasons for Georgetown, Adair led the Hoyas to WNIT appearances. In her last two seasons at Delaware, she led the Fighting Blue Hens to the WNIT semifinals and the NCAA tournament (picking up CAA Coach of the Year honors in the process).
When Adair was hired on at ASU, she brought assistants that she had worked with: Makayla Walker, who was an assistant at Georgetown and Delaware, and Darrell Mosely, who was an assistant in Adair’s final season at Delaware.
When a coach like Charli Turner Thorne leaves a program, there is an inevitable exodus of players, and this was the case for the Sun Devils as well. Following CTT’s retirement, ASU lost five players to the transfer portal: Jade Loville (Arizona) - who was their leading scorer, Taya Hanson (Oregon), Meg Newman (Northern Illinois), Ayzhiana Basallo (Santa Clara), and Katelyn Levings (Tulsa). They also lost two commits to the 2023 class when CTT announced her retirement. Losing these players meant losing ASU’s production core in 2021-22, because the five accounted for 52.4 percent of minutes played, 71.2 percent of 3PTs, and 57.0 percent of total points.
Adair had to get help from the transfer portal and brought in a quartet of impressive guards – sophomore Morasha Wiggins (North Carolina, who suffered season-ending injury in fall practice), juniors Tyi Skinner (Delaware) and Treasure Hunt (Kentucky), and fifth-year center Kayla Mokwuah (TCU).
Jaddan Simmons was the only starter left over from the previous season. All of the transfers started nearly every game they were able to play. Skinner, Simmons, and Hunt contributed to the vast majority of last season’s offensive production. Tyi Skinner’s 19.3 points APG was the highest by a Sun Devil in 34 years.
The pre-season injury of Morasha Wiggins would ominously portend to the injury struggles that ASU would be dogged with all season. Toward the end of the non-conference slate, the Sun Devils were fielding eight players with six injured on the bench.
And then it got worse.
Starting in the beginning of December and through the rest of the season, the Sun Devils went 2-23, with their only Pac-12 victory coming toward the end of the season against Oregon State. ASU had no depth and even got to the point where they had not enough scholarship players to put a team on the floor - on the weekend of 1/13-1/15 they forfeited games against Utah and Colorado because they only had four scholarship players that could play. Injuries partly contributed to ASU only being able to shoot 35.7% as a team. (by way of comparison, the top two teams in the Pac-12 - Stanford and Utah - shot above 45%. (Oregon shot 42.8%)).
Adair went to work during the season, recruiting 6-3 C/F Kiley Sours-Miller, 6-4 C/F Mallory Miller, 6-2 G/F Marina Radocaj, as well as JUCO transfers 6-1 F Hannah Miller and 6-0 F Sandra Magolico.
Adair is also making use of the transfer portal and in May brought in 6-0 Jalyn Brown (Louisville), and in June brought in 6-2 F Kadidia Toure (James Madison).
ASU returns their best players from last year in Tyi Skinner, Treasure Hunt, and Jadden Simmons. In total, 8 players from last season are on the roster for 2023-24.
Even a healthy Arizona State team will have to contend with the fact that Pac-12 conference play makes for a brutal schedule. If the Sun Devils can stay out of the cellar, they are still probably a bottom-third conference team...”probably” being the operative parameter here. ASU potentially has the talent to reach the middle third of the conference, and if that happens then they can consider 23-24 to have been a very successful season.