Ja’Tavia Tapley announced in April 2019 that she would be transferring from the University of Southern California to Arizona State University after spending three years there and receiving her undergraduate degree.
The decision for the 6-foot-3-inch forward came fast, as Kansas was the only other school she looked at before deciding that Tempe would be her new home.
“On the visit, my teammates really made me feel like I was at home and I was comfortable with a group of people that would take me in and accept me for me and help me on the way through things,” Tapley said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, which it wasn’t when I first started but everything came along because they were so welcoming.”
Last season, the Sun Devils lost top players Kianna Ibis, Charena Johnson-Chapman and Sophia Elenga to graduation. Their departure left a big gap in the program that would need to be filled for the next season.
Tapley joined the squad and has been able to fill the shoes of those that came before her.
“She brings a lot of things,” head coach Charli Turner Thorne said of Tapley. “She’s really a three-level scorer. She can shoot it, drive it and she’s got a little bit of mid-range game. She’s got step-back moves.
“She’s someone that people have to worry about, which at the beginning of the season I don’t think anyone had to worry about anyone on our team. We just weren’t scoring that well and now we are. She’s really become a go-to player.”
She has found her groove on the court, leading ASU in scoring (11.9 ppg), rebounding (7.1 rpg), and free throws made (41). Tapley is also second in steals among the team (1.3 spg) and third in field goal percentage (49.1).
Despite what the numbers say on paper, Turner Thorne said that she has been pushing Tapley to get better at rebounding. Turner Thorne wants her to become a more “relentless rebounder” which will be huge for the team.
Tapley played a key role in the Sun Devils making history last weekend by knocking off No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Oregon State. In the two wins, she led the team with scoring (15.0 ppg), rebounds (6.0 rpg) and field goal percentage (48.0). In the victory against Oregon State, Tapley led all players with 14 points and six rebounds.
Not only is Tapley a strong offensive player, she was impressive on the defensive end as well. Turner Thorne said that Tapley played some of her best defense of the season last weekend.
A stream of accolades began for Tapley following her successful weekend against the Oregon teams. She was named Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Player of the Week and U.S. Basketball Writers Association Player of the Week.
“It’s been great,” Tapley said of her accomplishments this season. “It’s something that I knew I could do since I’ve started college and now that I have the opportunity I’m really taking advantage of it and going for it all.”
Tapley’s commends her teammates for putting so much trust in her, despite being new to the program.
“It’s been great from the locker room to my coaches and their patience with me learning new things as well as the audience,” Tapley said. “The crowd they engage with me as well and how much I hear from them, my teammates and my coaches the positivity has been great.”
Earlier this season, Turner Thorne said that Tapley was the fastest 6-foot-3 player she has ever coached. Tapley’s achievements are far from done this season and the coach knows she is going to continue to bring it.
“I definitely think every week she gets a little more comfortable and confident with offense and defense, with what we’re doing and what we want her to do,” Turner Thorne said. “We’re on her and I’m excited for her. I think she can still give us more and I expect her too.”
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