“In terms of just numbers, the six-player Cougar class is the biggest in the conference,” Hansen told Cougfan.com in an email interview. “While there is no obvious superstar all-conference candidate in the group, this class helps build the depth, especially on the perimeter where the team struggled with injuries (this past season). This class I would say is sixth-best in the Pac-12 regardless of need.”
The Cougs lost five seniors at season’s end and will lose two more (Katie Grad and Carly Noyes) following the upcoming season, so head coach June Daugherty truly stocked the pipeline with the class that will arrive on campus this summer. Adding six will also prevent a repeat of 2011-12 when a disastrous number of injuries kept WSU’s most talented women’s team in recent memory from making a run at the postseason. Despite being short-handed, Daugherty & Co. still engineered an inspired run to the Pac-12 Tournament’s semifinals before falling to California.
“The advantage to a size of this class is it immediately gives you depth and allows the injury bug to bite without wiping out your roster and ability to practice,” Hansen said.
Of the new kids, Hansen says he’s most intrigued by Emalia Galdeira, a 5-8 point guard from Kona, Hawaii. He says she has a chance to “break out” this season.
With Rosetta Adzasu, April Cook and Jazmin Perkins graduated, her shooting and handling skills put her in position to contribute right away, he said.
“She has an aggressive, scorer’s mentality, a terrific build to take the physicality of the Pac-12 and a flare for the dramatic play,” he said. She averaged 17 points, 5 steals and 3 assists per game last season for state champion Konawaena High.
“If the coaching staff can live with some of the typical freshman mistakes and be okay with some learning on the fly, she has the potential to be a fan favorite the way Louisville fans love Shoni Schimmel,” he said.
While Galdeira may surprise the rest of the Pac-12, incoming three-star guard Alexas Williamson won’t. The 5-9 guard is the highest-rated player in WSU’s 2012 class and comes from a national powerhouse in Mater Dei High of Santa Ana, Calif.
“Williamson is a dependable ball handler and can really shoot from range, and seeing how the (injury) loss of Ireti Imojo this (past) season and her shooting ability impacted the rest of the offense, Williamson comes at a perfect time,” Hansen said. “It is hard to keep the defense spaced out for the posts to work without that perimeter threat and this is a role she can fill right away.”
Williamson benefitted from playing alongside the best high school women’s players in the country, according to Hansen.
He also said she won’t hesitate to knock down a jumper with the game on the line.
“She's not afraid to take the big shots or make clutch plays. She'll need to get stronger but really she just needs to get court time and adjusted to the speed and physicality,” Hansen said. “She can handle, can defend, shoot it, her skill set is pretty diverse.”
The Cougars have four other notables in the class:
Whitney Tinjum, a 6-1 power forward from Stacy, Minn., who was ranked the 40th-best player at her position in the country. “She comes to Pullman with a sense of what spacing, setting good screens, making passes in traffic and simply knowing what good offense is,” Hansen said. This past season she was named All-State, as well as conference player of the year for the fourth straight season, after averaging 24.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
Mariah Cooks, a 6-0 guard/forward from Righetti High in Santa Mariah, Calif., who earned league and country MVP honors after averaging 21.7 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Dawnyelle Awa, a teammate of Galderia’s at Konawaena High on the Big Island. A 5-8 guard, she was named the Hawaii Gatorade Girls High School Player of the Year for the third time after averaging 11.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals per game. She was first-team All-State four straight seasons. Led by Awa and Galderia, Konawaena won two consecutive state titles and also posted wins over nationally ranked teams such as Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas.
Taylor Edmondson, a 5-11 guard from Carlsbad, N.M., who earned All-State and District Player of the Year honors after leading her team in scoring (10.7 ppg), blocks (32) and assists (88). She is also a standout in volleyball and track and field.
"The talent pool has been expanded due to the recent success of our program," Daugherty said when she announced the nationwide scope of the class.
The Pac-12 is moving its Women’s Basketball Tournament to Seattle's KeyArena starting this season and running through 2015. It will be played March 7-10.