Year 3 of the Kamie Ethridge Era at Washington State begins with more uncertainty than she’d like, but that’s life in 2020.
“It’s been such a bizarre time in this world,” Ethridge said Wednesday in her first news conference of the season. “It feels like we’re in a routine that’s a little different than we’ve ever had before, and it’s hard to imagine that we’d be doing Zoom meetings with our team in the summer.
“And yet we are seeing some positives.”
Oddly enough, the biggest might be the nonconference schedule; there’s isn’t one yet. That’s good news for a team in rebuilding mode.
A year ago, the Cougars were playing the likes of Baylor, South Carolina and Gonzaga, followed by 18 games in the toughest conference in the nation, the Pac-12.
This year, it appears the Cougars will play perhaps three home games before the Pac-12 gantlet. And because of scheduling conflicts, they also won’t face Gonzaga this year.
It’s a mixed blessing, because the lack of nonconference games means more practice time for a young team.
Ethridge must replace two of the best players from a team that went 4-14 in the Pac-12 and 11-20 overall.
Gone are forward Borislava Hristova, the leading scorer in program history; and guard Chanelle Molina, the Cougars’ first and so far only five-star recruit.
Together, they averaged 32 points a game last year, or just over half the team’s production. They also combined for 11 rebounds and an untold quantity of senior leadership.
Ethridge also lost forward Jovana Subasic (8.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg), who transferred to conference rival Oregon State; and guard Johanna Muzet, who left for Rhode Island.
That leaves plenty of room to grow for the returnees and newcomers. The most intriguing is point guard Krystal Leger-Walker, a graduate student who prepped in New Zealand before playing for Ethridge at Northern Colorado.
A three-year starter at Northern Colorado, Leger-Walker is “more of a true point guard” than Molina, according to Ethridge.
“She’s more of a pass-first guard, and she also has the experience,” Ethridge said.
Leger-Walker finished her third season at Northern Colorado averaging 8.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists.
Her younger sister Charlisse, also a guard, is the youngest player to lace up for the New Zealand women’s national basketball team, having joined the Tall Ferns at just 16 years old. In 2018, she helped her homeland win bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
“She’s going to be a star, and she has an otherworldly IQ,” Ethridge said.
Also in the mix to start in the backcourt is Johanna Teder, a native of Estonia who played last year at a junior college in Texas.
“She has an amazing skill set and can shoot it,” Ethridge said. “She’s special.”
In the frontcourt, Ethridge will count on the progress of 6-foot-5 post Bella Murekatete, a sophomore from Rwanda who appeared in 29 games and started 21 while averaging 5.4 points and 4 rebounds. She played at Genesis Prep in Post Falls.
A sure starter inside is 6-1 junior forward Ula Motuga of Australia. The only player besides Hristova and Molina to average at least 30 minutes per game, Motuga averaged 7.4 points and four boards.
Junior Shir Levy, who started 28 games last year, also figures to get plenty of playing time.
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