ASU women’s basketball showing poise, promise in rebuild under coach Natasha Adair

ASU women’s coach Natasha Adair instills resilience through a season of growth and improvement ahead of the team’s move to the Big 12 Conference. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

TEMPE – Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was a women’s college basketball program.

The patience demonstrated by Arizona State is already paying off in better returns from a season ago.

Registering only eight wins last season, the Sun Devils have already surpassed that total with 10 wins this season, while going 2-7 record in conference play compared to a 1-17 mark in 2022-23. After a discouraging start littered with many obstacles, the team didn’t bow out. Instead, it dug in and have continued chasing improvement each week.

ASU’s next opportunity comes in the form of a rivalry Sunday against the Arizona Wildcats.

“When those adversities come or when the plan is that you just have to pivot or detour, we still make sure there is a plan,” Sun Devils coach Natasha Adair said. “We still make sure we prepare for all things, so I’m proud of their fight, I’m proud of their resilience and just watching them grow.”

This rings true for sophomore guard Jalyn Brown, who has hit her stride this season. The transfer student is averaging 17.5 points and 3.7 rebounds in 34 minutes per game, and has played every minute in the last four of five games. It marks a complete turnaround from her average of five minutes per game just last year at Louisville. She has two games this season where she has scored more than 34 points, the most for the ASU women’s team since 2000.

In just her first season with Arizona State, Brown is quickly becoming a rising star on this team and stepping into a leadership role for her teammates.

“The leadership part hasn’t always been easy for me,” Brown said. “I think just me genuinely caring about my teammates kind of takes me into that leadership role, intentional or not.”

At its core, quality recruiting landed Brown at Arizona State from Louisville, with Adair being a key piece in making that happen.

“It was more so the family part. I felt like if I wanted to be part of a winning program, I would have stayed where I was,” Brown said. “I’m the type of player who needs to be surrounded by love, so knowing coach (Adair) and her staff prior was big time for me because I know they have a system where I can play. There is an opportunity there for me to play, but overall, I’m going to be mentally sound and happy. I will be surrounded by people who know what’s best for me.”

Connected through their shared East Coast roots, Adair, from Silver Spring, Maryland, has high praise and admiration for Brown, who’s from Baltimore, Maryland.

“She’s electric. She lights up the room with her personality,” Adair said. “She’s just not short on personality and charisma. I’m just excited for her, obviously, and what she brings to our team and just her as a person, and to continue to watch her grow and develop excites me and makes me proud and honored.”

In addition to Brown, ASU sophomore guard Trayanna Crisp has also started to find her way on the court. She has played every minute in three out of the last five games while averaging 11.3 points, 2.2 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals this season.

In Sunday’s win over Cal, five players scored double figures, including Crisp. She is becoming a force on this team and feels herself growing into another leader of this young group, modeling after some of her teammates, such as senior guard Jaddan Simmons.

“I would consider myself emerging as a leader,” Crisp said. “Jaddan is paving the way for us, and I’m just following in her footsteps and also trying to be myself within those standards.”

The team has been faced with adversity this season but carries a “next person up” mentality. They have been hit with injuries and numerous lineup changes, on top of being a young group still learning each other and building chemistry. However, the pieces are starting to mesh.

“This has just been us,” Crisp said. “I feel like we’re just more so coming together as a family and building our culture at the same time. Everybody is still young, so we’re all still trying to get to know each other. We’ve been able to piece together 40-minute games, resulting in wins.”

With eight games remaining in the season, there’s still room for improvement with this team and an opportunity to further expand on the steady progress the team has made toward being a top competitor again. Closing in on the final games of the Pac-12 era and a new one on the horizon, the team has a chance to continue to build on the foundation they’ve laid and start anew in the Big 12 against competitors like Baylor, Colorado, Kansas State and West Virginia.

“I’m very optimistic about it. I think it’s a great opportunity for our team and our university just to show who we are and be who we are,” Crisp said.

With Adair at the helm leading the charge and Brown and Crisp emerging as stars in their own right, the future is bright for ASU women’s basketball.

“We are a very relentless team. This team is never going to quit,” Brown said. “I think that as long as we keep putting the pieces together and we’re doing what we’re told to do, we’re going to get the outcomes we want.”

Jayla French(she/her)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Jayla French expects to graduate in December 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. French has reported and written for the East Valley Tribune.