The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

WSU women’s basketball in a world without Charlisse Leger-Walker

A seemingly impossible task daunts Kamie Ethridge’s team
Charlisse+Leger-Walker+waves+to+the+crowd+during+senior+night%2C+Feb.+25%2C+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.
BRANDON WILLMAN
Charlisse Leger-Walker waves to the crowd during senior night, Feb. 25, in Pullman, Wash.

Winning college basketball games is not easy, especially in the Pac-12 and especially when your star player who has broken all sorts of program records misses the second half of the season with a season-ending ACL injury. 

WSU has been dealing with that complication. Charlisse Leger-Walker went down during the Cougs’ historic win against then-No. 2 UCLA in Pauley Pavillion. Since then, the team has been just 2-6 and needed historic performances in those two wins. 

“It’s definitely not business as usual,” freshman guard Jenna Villa said. “Obviously, she’s irreplaceable, and we just have to do everything we can to try to somehow fill that role.” 

Their first win without their star, a 74-46 thumping of Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona, saw Tara Wallack go off for a career-high 23 points. Eleonora Villa added 17 of her own and as a team, the Cougs were on fire from deep, shooting 47.6% from three. 

Forcing a terrible shooting night from the Sun Devils, 29.7% from the field and just 9.1% from three, the Cougs snapped a five-game Charlisse-less losing streak with the win. But, the losing did not stop there. Oregon State beat WSU Friday night by a score of 65-52, continuing a troublesome trend in post-Charlisse land. 

Playing so many ranked Pac-12 opponents, the Cougs have usually played close basketball in the first 20–30 minutes before faltering in the late stages. Sometimes, the Cougs have even had leads into the fourth, but each time, they lose without their clutch New Zealand star. 

“I feel like we all just know that like a piece of us is missing. She’s still at practices and games, but it’s not the same. There’s still that New Zealand voice we’re not hearing. That accent we’re not hearing,” Jenna said. 

In their most recent match, the Cougs beat Oregon on senior night, but again they needed dominant performances. Astera Tuhina scored a career-high 24 points, Eleonora tied her career-high with 20 and Beyonce Bea added 10 points to complete the trifecta of double-digit scorers.  

Like Jenna said, the team has looked to their young guards to have to step up in the wake up the injury, despite the impossible task of actually supplementing her missing skills. Both Jenna and Eleonora, Kyra Gardner and Astera Tuhina are guards with increased roles due in part to both the injury, and their own increased production independent of said injury. 

“We all surround ourselves with her. She’s not just a player, but she’s family. She doesn’t just play for herself she plays for the whole team. She helps everyone get better every day,” Gardner said. 

Leger-Walker’s loss is clearly felt on the court. But, the impact she has goes far beyond that. She is still around the team, despite it being a different role. Making what has been a relatively seamless transition, she has essentially become an assistant coach, a natural progression for the respected senior. 

“I don’t think that’s anything abnormal at all. They’ve always heard from her. She’s just on the court doing it and now she’s on the sideline,” Ethridge said. “She just has the ultimate respect from every teammate and everyone within our program.” 

Ethridge said that quickly after her injury, Leger-Walker started attending coach’s meetings to share her opinions and make points about what the team could do to gameplan without her holding the ball.

She said Leger-Walker knows the program inside and out, continuing to make an even larger impact on the program’s history. From the time she first stepped foot on campus, she said she has been a multi-faceted game-changer. 

“Charlisse walked into this program as a freshman and and impacted it and changed it forever,” Ethridge said. 

Jenna expressed the same sentiment, as she said that Leger-Walker’s knowledge of how the program should operate and thrive is what has made her an important part of her individual journey as a Coug. 

“She knows everything about the program. She knows everything about everything that we do. If you need anything, you know that she has your back. I think she’s better at that than pretty much anyone I’ve ever met,” Jenna said.

Although the Cougs have posted a seemingly abysmal 2-6 record this season since the season-altering ACL injury, it is not a wash quite yet. Given the strength of the Pac-12, a couple more Conference wins and a win or two in the Pac-12 Tournament could prove vital in the Cougs’ bid to extend their NCAA Tournament appearance streak. 

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About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.