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Wed, Dec. 11

Tapley has excelled in new home with ASU women’s basketball

Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne has raved about Ja’Tavia Tapley. Tapley is averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game in the first four games of the season. (Photo courtesy of Nhan Doan)

Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne has raved about Ja’Tavia Tapley. Tapley is averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game in the first four games of the season. (Photo courtesy of Nhan Doan)

TEMPE – With the front court trio of Kianna Ibis, Charena Johnson-Chapman and Sophia Elenga out of eligibility, Arizona State women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne knew she had to add size and athleticism in the offseason.

“In a perfect world, we wanted to just find a (6-foot-3) graduate transfer that could play (power forward and center) and would fit into our system and our culture,” Turner Thorne said.

That happened on April 23 as ASU announced forward Ja’Tavia Tapley would join the Sun Devils as a graduate transfer from Pac-12 foe USC for her final season.

Turner Throne said that the addition was exactly what ASU needed because Tapley has size, athleticism and experience.

Tapley was what Turner Thorne envisioned and hoped for as she searched for potential transfers throughout college basketball, including Division I and the junior college system.

“She absolutely completes our team for next season with her tremendous athletic ability to guard inside, talent to score in multiple ways and ability to play in a fast paced system,” Turner Thorne said in her initial statement after the announcement. “In addition to having a proven track record of success playing in the best conference in the country, she will also bring a great foundation of knowledge of the league’s returning personnel.”

Tapley – who was originally the No. 68 overall recruit in the 2016 ESPN HoopGurlz rankings – was happy to join the Sun Devils.

It was a quick process. Kansas was the only other school that Tapley visited before she made a decision. Since she arrived in Tempe, her transition has been seamless, she said.

“I just really liked that it all worked out with me graduating in my third year and being able to play (immediately) because I didn’t want to sit out,” Tapley said. “At the moment, I just wasn’t satisfied or happy with where I was at, so I went on my visits and when I got here, I immediately knew after the visit that ASU was the place for me. It was just very positive and family oriented and I really love it.”

Although Tapley is still getting acclimated to Sun Devils basketball, Turner Thorne said, she will be a tough matchup for any opponent this season.

The coach believes that Tapley is the quickest 6-3 player that she has ever coached, saying that she “can shoot a gap like an NFL running back.” She has impressed her teammates, including senior forward Robbi Ryan.

“Ja’Tavia is super athletic,” Ryan said. “She also has an extremely good basketball mind.”

Tapley opened some eyes when she had 18 points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals in just 15 minutes on the court against Army.

Tapley is averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game in the first four games of the season. She has also shot 67 percent from the field.

“She is getting better every game,” Turner Thorne said. “It kind of amazes me sometimes with the things that she does. Sometimes I am like, ‘Did she just do that?’ I think the biggest thing for Tap is consistency and discipline, especially on the defensive end.

“She is definitely one of the people that we are looking to for scoring. … We didn’t really know if she would be a go-to player or not, but she is certainly developing in that and she has the mindset for that.”

Tapley is ready for the challenge as the Sun Devils open the Florida Gulf Coast Showcase at 3 p.m. Friday against Maine.

“I definitely want to play as hard as I can,” she said. “I have a big chip on my shoulder, so I definitely want to continue to up my stats and for the team to go as far as we can. I am focused and hungry and we are working very hard.”

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