Arizona State women's basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne spoke with Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM as part of Newsmakers Week about building the women's basketball program in the state and keeping it at a competitive level.
"I've been in the state for 20 years and girls' basketball has come an amazing way," Thorne said. "ASU only had a fall and spring season when I first came here, and now we finally play as a winter sport."
Thorne's 11th ranked Sun Devils (20-4, 9-3) are second in the Pac-12 Conference behind Stanford (22-2, 11-1) - Thorne's alma mater. After taking a year off from the team, Thorne came back to her coaching position of 17 seasons and has proven why she is the winningest coach in Sun Devil women's basketball history.
Thorne spent three years as the coach of Northern Arizona's women's basketball coach before coming to ASU. Her two consecutive winning seasons with the Lumberjacks marked the first time in school history it was accomplished.
"It has gotten a lot better," Thorne said about in-state basketball. "We aren't a power state in terms of recruiting but I think club ball is actually the way to go. Whereas high school you can't really control your coach or your teammates."
Three of Thorne's current players are from the Valley, including junior guard Promise Amukamara, who leads the team in steals this season. Six other players were recruited from Pac-12 Conference states.
"College coaches recruit a lot out of club basketball because we're in season when high school is in season, so we can't do a lot of evaluating," Thorne said. "That's where we can see them play at a higher level against and with better players."
The latest game between ASU and Arizona (5-18, 1-11) may be a good example of how far the state has come. Even though Arizona is ranked last in the conference, a 68-49 victory by the Wildcats over the Sun Devils shows how the women's game is improving.
"For athletic directors out there, girls' basketball is going to be what you make it," Thorne said. "If you hire the math teacher that has never coached, then girls' basketball is not going to be that strong at your school. There's a lot of time, energy and money that goes into hiring your boys basketball coach and a football coach and if there is that commitment to girls' basketball then usually the program is really strong."