Washington State guard Charlisse Leger-Walker lands on All-Pac-12 team; Cougs have NCAA tournament resume ahead of conference tourney
Feb. 28, 2023 Updated Sat., March 11, 2023 at 3:28 p.m.
Washington State guard Charlisse Leger-Walker, the team’s scoring leader, dribbles by Washington’s Emma Grothaus on Jan. 8 in Pullman. (Courtesy of WSU Athletics)
An essential piece in Washington State’s women’s basketball program turnaround, Charlisse Leger-Walker has been one of the Pac-12’s top performers since she joined the Cougars in 2020.
The guard from New Zealand earned a spot on the all-conference team for the third consecutive year when postseason awards were announced Tuesday.
Leger-Walker leads the Cougars and ranks third in the conference with 18 points per game. She scored 20-plus points in nine games, including a career-high 40 points on Dec. 11 in a loss at Washington. Leger-Walker paces the Cougars and ranks second in the Pac-12 with 4.4 assists per game.
She played a starring role during her first two collegiate seasons and helped lift the Cougars to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances – before that, the team had only one NCAA tourney appearance to its name (1991). As a junior, Leger-Walker improved her numbers as WSU (19-10) extended its most successful stretch in program history with another impressive regular season under fifth-year coach Kamie Ethridge.
Leger-Walker is shooting 40% from the field, 33.7% from 3-point range and 84.6% from the foul line – all single-season career highs – while averaging personal bests in rebounds (5.9 per game) and assists. She adds 1.5 steals per game. Leger-Walker was also named Tuesday to the all-conference defensive team as an honorable mention.
Leger-Walker is the second player in team history to capture All-Pac-12 honors three times, joining Borislava Hristova (2015-20), the program’s all-time leading scorer.
Center Bella Murekatete landed on the All-Pac-12 honorable mention team. The fourth-year starter from Rwanda had a career year, averaging 13.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Murekatete ranks 13th in the Pac-12 in scoring, ninth in rebounding, seventh in blocks, sixth in double-doubles (seven) and 12th in field-goal percentage (47.6%).
WSU guard Astera Tuhina was named to the all-conference freshman team as an honorable mention. The true freshman from Kosovo, the first player off the bench for WSU, averaged 7.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 44.2% from the field in 27.2 minutes per game.
The seventh-seeded Cougars open the Pac-12 Tournament against No. 10 seed California (13-16) at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Las Vegas. Powered by Leger-Walker’s 25 points, WSU beat the Golden Bears 70-60 on Feb. 5 in Pullman in the teams’ only meeting this season.
Cal has lost four of its past five games. The Bears are one of the Pac-12’s worst defensive teams, while WSU ranks in the upper half in each of the conference’s defensive stat categories.
The Cougars are looking to achieve their first 20-win season in the NCAA era and improve their standing in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee. WSU has all but clinched a spot in the NCAA tourney field, but a few wins in Vegas couldn’t hurt.
WSU is coming off a double-overtime loss at USC on Saturday, during which the Cougars squandered a 19-point second-half lead. Before falling in their regular-season finale, the Cougars won three games in a row to effectively guarantee themselves a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. WSU completed a season sweep of the Oregon schools, then claimed its first win of all time at Pauley Pavilion, upsetting No. 17 UCLA on Thursday in Los Angeles.
According to ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme, the Cougars are projected to be a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. WSU, ranked No. 39 in the NCAA’s NET, is one of seven teams from the Pac-12 predicted to make the tournament.
Third-ranked Utah and No. 6 Stanford lead the pack. The Utes and Cardinal took home the top honors from the conference’s coaches. Utah forward Alissa Pili was named player of the year and Stanford center Cameron Brink earned defensive player of the year. Utah’s Lynne Roberts received the coach of the year award after guiding her team to a 25-3 record and a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title.
If WSU beats Cal on Wednesday, the Cougars will advance to a quarterfinal-round matchup against No. 2 seed Utah.
The Utes swept WSU this season, but the Cougars nearly upset Utah on Dec. 30 in Pullman despite Leger-Walker missing the game due to a personal matter.
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