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From Beyond The Arc: Wazzu Women’s Basketball 2023 Preview

The Cougars look to improve upon their best season ever

NCAA Womens Basketball: Washington St. at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas State v Washington State
Kamie Ethridge
Photo by Scott Taetsch/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

WSU head coach Kamie Ethridge returns for her sixth season coaching the Cougars. Under her guidance, Wazzu has steadily progressed from going 9-21 in her first season to 23-11 (9-9, Pac-12) last season. Her efforts have seen WSU reach the NCAA tournament for the past three seasons, and last season’s 23 wins was the most in program history.

The majority of the Cougars’ offensive output last season came from 5-10 G Charlisse Leger-Walker (17.7 PPG), 6-3 C Bella Murekatete (13.8 PPG), and 6-2 G Tara Wallack (9.4 PPG). These three, as well as 5-8 G Johanna Teder and 6-2 F Ula Motuga were seasoned veterans that brought a good deal of experience as starters.

Washington State v UCLA Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Wazzu’s season culminated with an unlikely run that no one saw coming: winning the Pac-12 tournament - a 65-61 victory over UCLA. This core group of veterans is what made the unlikely possible. Even though the Cougars lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament (so far, WSU has never won a NCAA tournament game), the 22-23 season was wildly successful. Also, the success of last season earned Ethridge a contract extension through the 28-29 season.

If the Cougars are feeling bullish going into the next season, it’s because they only lost Ula Motuga from the starting rotation. Leger-Walker, Murekatete, Wallack, and Teder all return for the 23-24 season, and will likely be the Pac-12’s most veteran team. With this core coming back, WSU will be dangerous this season.

The Cougars signed three newcomers and brought in two from the transfer portal. As Pac-12 teams get taller, WSU is also looking to add talent and height and at least on paper appears to have risen to the challenge. The three freshmen are:

Jenna Villa is a 6-1 G out of Arlington, WA. She is a 4* prospect according to HoopGurlz Recruiting. In her junior year in high school, Villa averaged 20.9 PPG and had a game where she hit 10 threes. She looks to be a very impressive shooter.

Also signed was 6-6 C Alex Covill, who is the tallest player signed in the Ethridge era. Covill played high school ball in Missoula, MT.

Wazzu also picked up some height from 6-3 C Candice Kpetikou. Originally from Niger, Kpetikou played high school ball at St. Joseph HS in Santa Maria, CA. She has only played basketball for five years but appears to have some gifted talent and is a quick study.

In May, Ethridge signed two players from the portal. One is an Italian player, 5-8 freshman Eleonora Villa (no relation to Jenna Villa). The other is a graduate transfer that could be a significant player next season.

Beyonce Bea is a 6-1 G/F that graduated from Idaho before signing with WSU. Bea has very good offensive and defensive skills and should be a solid addition to the Cougars.

Last season, WSU was picked to be 7th in the Pac-12 preseason poll, and that’s where they ended up in the rankings. This is a team that will carry veteran confidence into the next season, so don’t be surprised if they rise a rung or two in the 23-24 rankings when the dust settles at the end of the season.