Rebuilding Cougars picked 12th in Pac-12

Washington State head coach Kamie Ethridge speaks with Oregon head coach Kelly Graves in an NCAA college basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Collin Andrew)

Washington State received the fewest votes — by quite a bit — from league coaches and media members in the Pac-12 women’s basketball preseason polls released Tuesday, and the Cougs couldn’t sneak a player onto the list of 24 all-conference honorees.

Just a byproduct of being an unknown in the country’s best league.

Wazzu, after losing two program mainstays to graduation, has hit full-on rebuild mode for third-year coach Kamie Ethridge.

The Cougars were tabbed last in the Pac-12 for the first time in Ethridge’s tenure. No. 2 Stanford, which returns most of last year’s star-studded roster, was the overwhelming favorite in a conference that’s been the NCAA’s top-rated in three of the past five seasons, and No. 1 last year.

“Everyone in the gym is just hungry, tired of losing, tired of being picked last, tired of just not rising to the challenges,” Wazzu point guard Krystal Leger-Walker said. “That’s a big thing — I think everyone in the gym is more hungry, and just wants that to be translated into results.”

Ethridge, the former Olympic point guard who kick-started Northern Colorado in the 2010s, has voiced confidence in the balance and hoops IQ of her under-the-radar bunch, which represents eight different countries and owns boatloads of experience at the international level.

All-time Cougar scoring leader Borislava Hristova and all-league point guard Chanelle Molina now are overseas in the pros — and a couple of other contributors have transferred — but Ethridge has high hopes for some of last year’s youngsters, and a heap of newcomers headlined by sisters Krystal and Charlisse Leger-Walker.

Krystal, a graduate student, hopped ship from Northern Colorado to join Ethridge two years ago, sitting out last season because of transfer rules. Charlisse, a freshman, was the youngest player to ever suit up for New Zealand’s national team.

The older of the two will bear most of the Cougars’ leadership duties.

“On paper, we might not look all that great, but we definitely have a lot of undercover surprises and strengths,” Krystal Leger-Walker said.

Also, WSU revealed its opponents and approximate dates for its Pac-12 schedule this week. The Cougs, who play a school-record 22 Pac-12 games this season, open the nonleague portion of the schedule Nov. 25, but other details aren’t yet finalized.

Pac-12 preseason media poll

First-place votes in parentheses

1) Stanford (19) 248

2) Arizona (1) 225

3) Oregon 201

4) UCLA 200

5) Oregon State (1) 174

6) Arizona State 135

7) USC 130

8) Utah 94

9) California 76

10) Colorado 75

11) Washington 53

12) Washington State 27

Pac-12 preseason coaches poll

1) Stanford (10) 120

T2) Arizona (2) 103

T2) Oregon 103

4) UCLA 88

5) Oregon State 83

6) USC 69

7) Arizona State 61

8) Utah 52

9) Colorado 43

10) California 31

11) Washington 24

12) Washington State 15

All-Pac-12 first team

Oregon F Erin Boley

Oregon State F Kennedy Brown

Oregon State G Aleah Goodman

Stanford G Lexie Hull

Stanford G Haley Jones

Oregon State F Taylor Jones

Utah G Brynna Maxwell

Arizona G Aari McDonald

UCLA F Michaela Onyenwere

UCLA G Charisma Osborne

USC F Alissa Pili

Oregon F Sedona Prince

Arizona F Cate Reese

Arizona F Sam Thomas

Stanford F Kiana Williams

Clark may be reached at cclark@lmtribune.com, on Twitter @ClarkTrib or by phone at (208) 848-2260.

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