With core intact, WSU women’s basketball eyes history

84% of scoring from last season returns, strong freshmen join

WSU+guard+Charlisse+Leger-Walker+%285%29+dribbles+around+USC+guard+Rayah+Marshall+%2813%29+during+the+second+half+of+an+NCAA+college+basketball+game+in+Beasley+Coliseum%2C+Feb.+13.

HAILEE SPEIR

WSU guard Charlisse Leger-Walker (5) dribbles around USC guard Rayah Marshall (13) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Beasley Coliseum, Feb. 13.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports editor

With a real shot at edging themselves into the WSU record books again, WSU women’s basketball begins their march toward March at noon on Monday at Beasley Coliseum.

Entering her fifth year as head coach, Kamie Ethridge has assembled perhaps her most talented roster yet. A roster prepared to tell their own story in chapter five of Ethridge’s storybook accent.

In 2021-22, WSU women’s basketball won more conference games (11) and games period (19) than any other team in program history.
They made the NCAA Tournament for the second time in a row and the third time in program history. Although they were a one-and-done team in both the Pac-12 Conference tournament (losing to Utah after a first-round bye and in the NCAA tournament to Kansas State) last season was, by and large, the most successful season ever for WSU.

With 51 wins, Ethridge has won more games in her first four years than any other coach in program history.

The past has been plentiful for the Cougs, but what is next?

When the Cougars hit the hardwood on Monday, they will do so with 84% of their scoring from last season still on the roster. The Cougars only lost three players from last season, each to graduation. The most significant loss is Krystal Leger-Walker, the poised court general who followed Ethridge from her previous job at University of Northern Colorado to WSU.

With Krystal on to bigger things as a professional player in her home country of New Zealand, the stage is set for her sister Charlisse Leger-Walker and her squad to write their own story.

Even when she was playing alongside her sister in Pullman, Charlisse was already writing her own story.

The junior played the third-most of any Pac-12 player last year with 907 minutes and was third in Conference with 452 points.
She will be joined by senior center Bella Murekatete, a player who has received rave reviews from her coach for the new approach and mindset she picked up in April.

“I really expect Bella to be a double-double player night in, night out,” Ethridge said.

In Sunday’s exhibition versus Westmont, she recorded 26 points and 10 rebounds, something that would have been a career night if it had been a regular season game.

Starter Johanna Teder was on fire from beyond the arc down the stretch of last season. If the Cougs wish to not only make the NCAA Tournament but win and advance, they will need Teder to be at her best.

Tara Wallack is another player Ethridge expects to take a larger role. Wallack played for Canada’s national team over the summer.

“Tara Wallack is a tremendous player, she had a great summer and is going to be a big factor for our team,” Ethridge said.
WSU women’s basketball’s emphasis on international recruiting means that seven out of 13 players on their roster play for their respective country’s national team.

Among new faces on the Cougs, Astera Tuhina is in a prime position to succeed.

“She earned all these minutes and she is going to play big minutes for us. Really poised. She will be a surprise for the league I think this year,” Ethridge said.

Tuhina is in a great position to succeed. She has a great court awareness and will help replace Krystal’s production.

Although the loss of Krystal is significant, the Cougars hit the court with an overall more talented roster than last season.
In-state recruits Kyra Gardner and Lauren Glazier will compete for meaningful minutes in the new season.

“Kyra Gardner is one of the best athletes I’ve coached,” Ethridge said. “We need her in a million reps and she needs to help us this year because she is really different than a lot of the players on our team, just her ability to make it look easy almost in how she runs the floor.”

WSU women’s basketball opens their season versus Loyola Marymount at noon on Monday at Beasley Coliseum.