Briann January Goes In-Depth on Playing Overseas, Charli Turner Thorne’s Legacy at ASU

Former Sun Devil women’s basketball great and current Seattle Storm guard shared her unique perspective with Sports360AZ on two huge stories in the Arizona basketball community. January’s former Phoenix Mercury teammate Brittany Griner was detained in a Russian airport when hashish oil was found in her luggage. Given the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine currently, this could complicate the proceedings with Griner.

It’s a complicated situation in which a great deal is still not known. January, who is currently playing in Hungary during the WNBA offseason, hopes her former teammate can get back to the U.S. as quickly as possible.

“(My focus) is my concern for her and her well-being,” January said. “Things are a little crazy in Russia, and to be in that situation by yourself…my heart just broke for her. I just wanted to know she was safe and doing well. That’s where I’m at right now.”

There was also a massive surprise out of Tempe last week when Arizona State women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne announced her retirement from coaching after 25 years leading the Sun Devil program. During January’s four years, the Sun Devils won 104 games under Turner Thorne and reached the Elite Eight twice. 

January saw the impact the head coach had in Tempe as both a player and an assistant coach during the 2017-18 WNBA offseason. While the guard would love to take over the program one day, she still wants to focus on her playing career.

January believes all the pieces are there to maintain the high standard Turner Thorne set and to build upon that foundation.

“I think the biggest thing — for me – for the person coming in is the awareness that it’s bigger than basketball. You have to give everything you have. It’s a tough job to take over and you have really big shoes to fill but (ASU) has everything you need in a university. It’s a top-notch university with great academics, great location, great sports all around. They have the tools to get a competitive team together.”

She does know the right person for the job will need to make an impact off the court as much as one does on the court, much like Turner Thorne did for a quarter-century.

“I also think that culture of building strong women, building strong leaders and showing the importance of impacting your community off the court…that’s just a huge part of Sun Devil women’s basketball, and I want that to continue. That giving spirit will transfer over to the court. Those are the type of players that are going to give it all, lay it on the line and will be competing at the highest levels.”