Diminutive Tia Presley big star for WSU

Contributing WriterMarch 6, 2014 

Stanford Washington St Basketball

Washington State guard Tia Presley (5) has recovered from a knee injury that ended her sophomore season after 18 games. She ranks sixth in the Pac-12 Conference in scoring this season at 18.9 points per game.

DEAN HARE — The Associated Press

Most Washington State basketball fans only know scrappy Cougars guard Tia Presley as an athlete. A fearless, hard-nosed, relentless athlete.

It would be safe to say that most fans would be surprised to learn about the “other” Tia Presley.

“I’m pretty girly,” Presley said, a huge grin pasted beneath mischievous brown eyes. “I like to do my hair.

“I like to sit at home and watch Netflix. I’ll get hooked on shows and find myself staying up until 4 in the morning with practice at 7. I’m a big online shopper, too.”

WSU fans are grateful that Presley is also a big scorer. The junior from Spokane has scored 32 points three times in the past six games. Her 18.9 average ranks sixth in the Pac-12 Conference this season and third in school history entering this week’s

Pac-12 Conference tournament at KeyArena in Seattle. The Cougars open with Oregon on Thursday.

“She’s had a phenomenal season,” WSU coach June Daugherty said.

Said Presley: “My teammates have so much trust in me to score, so they always get the ball to me in places that’s easy for me to score.”

Presley is shooting the ball more often and more efficiently than just about anyone in WSU women’s basketball history. This prompts Presley to reveal another surprising fact about herself.

“Mom used to have to pay me to shoot,” Presley said.

Presley was referring to her grade-school days, when she first played basketball.

“I remember being terrible,” she said. “So bad. I remember not wanting to go in. Like sitting on the bench: ‘Please, don’t put me in.’ ”

Mom’s pay plan changed all that.

“Then you couldn’t stop me from shooting,” she said with a laugh.

Presley shot herself to fame at Gonzaga Prep, where she was named all-Greater Spokane League four times and set the GSL career scoring record that still stands. All of that resulted in surprisingly few scholarship offers, and not even a hint of interest from Kelly Graves, coach of the traditionally powerful Gonzaga Bulldogs.

“He just said, basically, I didn’t fit his system,” Presley said. “Which is fine. I’m happy here.

“His loss, not mine.”

Presley, who picked WSU over Oregon State, acknowledges that recruiters had trouble judging her college potential because, at 5-foot-7, she played down low in high school. She remains surprisingly effective in the paint, even though the lean-bodied Presley said she’s still just 5-7½ (despite being listed at 5-9) and 145 pounds.

“All the post stuff I learned in high school has actually benefited me in college,” Presley said. “I’m able to post up against smaller guards.

“I’m crafty inside the lane. I can get to the free-throw line, and that’s helped me.”

Presley now plays her natural wing position after two injury-shortened seasons at point guard. Daugherty, who labeled Presley “a fierce competitor,” recalled how Presley reacted when she tore her left anterior cruciate ligament in January 2013.

Quoting Presley, Daugherty said: “I will come back better than ever. I’ll come back quicker, and I’ll never wear a brace.”

Presley’s sterling play has been instrumental in one of the finest seasons in the sordid history of WSU women’s basketball.

The Cougars, bidding for their first winning season since 1995-96, are 15-15 overall (3-5 versus Top 25 teams) after finishing 9-9 in the Pac-12. A postseason berth is not out of the question.

“It’s a great start to something big over here,” Presley said, “but we’re definitely not satisfied.”

PAC-12 WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT

At KeyArena, Seattle; All games on Pac-12 Network except championship game on ESPN

Thursday’s games (with Pac-12 seeds)

Noon: No. 8 UCLA (13-17) vs. No. 9 Colorado (16-13)

2:30 p.m.: No. 5 USC (18-12) vs. No. 12 Arizona (5-24)

6 p.m.: No. 7 Washington State (15-15) vs. No. 10 Oregon (15-14)

8:30 p.m.: No. 6 Washington (17-12) vs. No. 11 Utah (11-18)

Friday’s games

Noon: No. 1 Stanford (28-2) vs. UCLA-Colorado winner

2:30 p.m.: No. 4 Arizona State (22-8) vs. USC-Arizona winner

6 p.m.: No. 2 California (21-8) vs. Washington State-Oregon winner

8:30 p.m.: No. 3 Oregon State (21-9) vs. Washington-Utah winner

Saturday’s games

6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. – Semifinals

Sunday’s game

6 p.m. – Championship game

Stanford (28-2, 17-1)

Coach: Tara VanDerveer

Key players: F Chiney Ogwumike (27.0 ppg, 12.1 rpg), PG Amber Orrange (10.1 ppg, 4.7 apg)

Scouting the Cardinal: Fourth-ranked Stanford has won 14 regular-season titles and seven tournament championships in a row in the Pac-12, so guess who’s favored? Conference player of the year Ogwumike, a candidate for national player of the year, is projected to go No. 1 in the WNBA draft.

California (21-8, 13-5)

Coach: Lindsay Gottlieb

Key players: F Reshanda Gray (17.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg), PG Brittany Boyd (14.7 ppg, 5.9 apg, 2.9 spg)

Scouting the Bears: The 20th-ranked Golden Bears make up for erratic shooting with athleticism. Cal could open against Washington State, which pushed the Bears to overtime last week in Berkeley. Gray scored a career-high 43 points on 17-for-20 shooting in the OT win; her teammates shot 7-for-49 (14.3 percent).

Oregon State (21-9, 13-5)

Coach: Scott Rueck

Key players: PG Sydney Wiese (13.6 ppg, 4.0 apg), C Ruth Hamblin (10.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.8 bpg)

Scouting the Beavers: The Beavers have won nine in a row — all by 10 points or more — capped by a 66-43 rout of then-No. 20 Arizona State. Wiese ranks among the national leaders in 3-point field goals (94 made, 44.1 shooting percentage). Sophomore guard Jamie Weisner, a Clarkston High grad, leads the team in scoring (13.8).

Arizona State (22-8, 11-7)

Coach: Charli Turner Thorne

Key players: G Deja Mann (11.1 ppg), F Kelsey Moos (7.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg)

Scouting the Sun Devils: ASU was a Top 25 team before losing five of its past seven games. Mann is the only Sun Devil averaging more than 8.5 points. Moos, a Reardan High grad and the niece of WSU athletic director Bill Moos, leads in rebounding.

USC (18-12, 11-7)

Coach: Cynthia Cooper-Dyke

Key players: F Cassie Harberts (16.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg), PG Ariya Crook (15.8 ppg, 2.3 apg)

Scouting the Trojans: Harberts and Crook are regulars at the free-throw line, and they are the only Trojans averaging more than 8.5 points.

Washington (17-12, 10-8)

Coach: Mike Neighbors

Key players: PG Jazmine Davis (19.2 ppg, 3.2 apg), G Kelsey Plum (20.9 ppg, 2.9 apg)

Scouting the Huskies: UW is the only Pac-12 team with a win against Stanford, and the Huskies finished conference play with a win at second-seeded Cal. The Huskies are 0-2 against WSU, but Washington is tough to beat when Plum and Davis light it up. A purple-tinted crowd won’t hurt Washington’s chances one bit.

Washington State (15-15, 9-9)

Coach: June Daugherty

Key players: W Tia Presley (18.9 ppg, 1.8 spg), W Lia Galdeira (17.7 ppg, 2.5 spg)

Scouting the Cougars: Presley and Galdeira give WSU two all-conference players (excluding honorable mention) in the same season for the first time in Pac-10/12 history. The Cougars want to make more history by posting a winning record for the first time since 1995-96.

UCLA (13-17, 7-11)

Coach: Cori Close

Key players: F Atonye Nyingifa (18.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg), G Nirra Fields (17.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg), G Thea Lemberger (15.0 ppg, 4.0 apg)

Scouting the Bruins: Injuries have slowed the Bruins — Lemberger has hardly practiced since early January because of a leg stress fracture — and UCLA ranks last in the conference in field-goal shooting percentage at 38.5.

Colorado (16-13, 6-12)

Coach: Linda Lappe

Key players: F Arielle Roberson (12.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg), F Jen Reese (12.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

Scouting the Buffaloes: Colorado started 9-0, but injuries have taken a toll. Roberson is the sister of former Buffaloes star Andre Roberson, who now plays for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

Oregon (15-14, 6-12)

Coach: Paul Westhead

Key players: F Jillian Alleyne (21.6 ppg, 15.7 rpg), G Chrishae Rowe (21.7 ppg)

Scouting the Ducks: Oregon leads the nation in scoring (93.3), but it gives up 89.2 points per game — last place in the Pac-12. The Ducks announced Tuesday that Westhead, a former NBA and WNBA coach, will not have his contract renewed after the season. Westhead loves to run, gun and press, just as he did during his glory days as the men’s coach at Loyola Marymount three decades ago. Alleyne is the nation’s No. 1 rebounder, and Rowe is second in the conference in scoring and second in the nation among freshmen.

Utah (11-18, 4-14)

Coach: Anthony Levrets

Key players: F Michelle Plouffe (18.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg), F Emily Potter (10.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg)

Scouting the Utes: Utah opens against UW, a team that has won both games against the Utes this season by one point. Plouffe, a two-time honorable mention All-American, put together another strong season for a team decimated by injuries.

Arizona (5-24, 1-17)

Coach: Niya Butts

Key players: G Candice Warthen (11.2 ppg), G/F Kama Griffitts (9.5 ppg)

Scouting the Wildcats: Arizona, last in the conference in scoring (58.0 ppg) and rebounding (34.1), has scored fewer than 50 points four times during a six-game losing streak. The Wildcats’ only Pac-12 victory came in a 68-49 stunner over Arizona State.

Howie Stalwick, contributing writer

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