Highland High School graduate Katie Hempen, a junior guard at Arizona State University, earned an Honorable Mention designation on March 3 when the Pac-12 Conference announced its awards for the 2014-15 season, as voted on by the league’s head coaches.
Hempen, a 2011 graduate of HHS, played a major role in helping the Sun Devils conclude the regular season with the No. 9 ranking in the nation and a 26-4 record.
With its 67-48 win over Washington State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, this year’s Arizona State team took over sole possession of the second place spot in the school record book for victories in a season with 27, behind only the 31 wins by the 2006-07 team that reached the regional final before falling to national runner-up Rutgers.
Hempen also helped Arizona State finish in sole possession of second place in the conference’s final regular-season standings with a stellar 15-3 record. ASU finished just one game behind Pac-12 champion and seventh-ranked Oregon State which finished with a 16-2 mark in league play.
Along the way to finishing second in the conference, Hempen helped Arizona State snap a 16-game losing streak to perennial national power Stanford when the Sun Devils won on the road in January. Then, Hempen assisted ASU in becoming the first conference team to sweep The Cardinal in the regular season since 1988, when the Sun Devils won 53-52 at home in early February.
All this was from a team that was picked to finish sixth by the media, and seventh by the coaches, in the Pac-12 preseason polls, despite returning most of its players from a 23-10, NCAA second-round tournament squad.
Hempen has started every game this season and finished the regular season leading the team in scoring at 12 points per game. She also totaled a team-high 67 3-pointers, which was good enough for the third most in the Pac-12. She also ranked second on ASU in the regular season in the following statistics: assists per game (2.5), free-throw percentage (75.0), free throws made (63) and free throws attempted (84).
In the 59-46 win over Colorado to end the regular season on March 1, Hempen netted 14 of her team-high 15 points in the second half, including drilling four 3-pointers to give her a grand total of 67 on the season to shatter the school’s single-season record of 65 knocked down by Brianna January in 2008-09.
“She works as much as on her shooting as anybody on our team and man, she’s come up huge for us all season long,” said Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne.
The ASU junior is quick to give props and kudos to her Sun Devil teammates.
“Playing with these girls is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, easily,” said Hempen, who transferred to ASU after being named the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and then had to sit out during her sophomore year of college per NCAA Divison I rules. “We’re a team that moves the ball and we make that extra pass. Everybody wants to see everyone succeed. We all listen to each other. It’s like we’re all little coaches, then we have our big coaches.”
Thorne, who has amassed 352 wins in 18 seasons at ASU, said this is her first team to negotiate an entire season without one or more “meltdown” defeats. The Sun Devils’ losses are to No. 7 Oregon State (twice), No. 24 California, Wisconsin-Green Bay and to No. 19 Stanford in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, all in the top 25 in NCAA ratings percentage index, a key measurement in the postseason selection process.
“They don’t just work on basketball, they work on their relationship,” Turner Thorne said. “They work on what it means to be a team. We always talk about who we are before we talk about what we do. They have seen probably more than any team I’ve ever coached how much that can separate you.”