By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
September 18, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Touted as the nation’s 47th-best prep player last year by ESPN.com, freshman Asya Bussie is anxious, excited and ready to contribute to a West Virginia University women’s basketball team that boasts three top 100 recruits and a top 20 recruiting class.
||Freshman center Aysa Bussie is part of a touted recruiting class Mike Carey has brought in for the '10 season.
WVU Photographic Services/Brian Persinger photo
Known as one of the country’s best post players during her successful career at Seton Keough High, Bussie comes to Morgantown with an opportunity to make an immediate impact. She is the type of player that can become a true fixture in the low post for the next four years, something that Coach Mike Carey was looking for following the departure of graduated senior Olayinka Sanni in 2008.
It was Carey and the rest of the WVU coaching staff who sold Bussie on her visit to Morgantown, giving her plenty of reasons to come to one of the BIG EAST’s fastest rising programs over the last five seasons. The campus’ proximity to Bussie’s hometown of Randallstown, Md., was also a factor when she was weighing between WVU and a certain Atlantic Coast Conference school.
“I came here because it’s not too far from home, it’s only about three hours,” Bussie said. “It’s in the BIG EAST, we have a nice coaching staff and I got along with the players on my visit. I felt like this was the place I should come to.
“The two schools I was choosing between were Miami (Fla.) and West Virginia. I like Miami but it was too far from home. I really liked it here.”
Bussie adds talent and depth in the paint for this year’s team. Forward Madina Ali, whose junior season was cut short by a shoulder injury early in the year, is returning. A noticeably improved Natalie Burton also highlights a trio of players in the paint that can rack up plenty of points, rebounds and blocked shots.
Since setting foot on campus, Bussie has noticed a tremendous team bond that has already formed in such a short span of time. The collective mood, she believes, can contribute to another banner year for WVU, which has posted a near-.600 winning percentage (150-101) since Carey took over in 2001.
“We have great chemistry,” Bussie said with a smile. “We all get along well. We laugh, joke; go out together. I feel like we get along so well. We call each other a family.”
The West Virginia faithful are hoping the team’s communal nature translates to on-court success. Like many Division I basketball programs, the student-athletes that comprise this year’s squad have spent countless hours in the gym refining their skills.
The same can be said of Bussie, who joins guards Akeema Richards and Antishia Wright to form a talented nucleus of young players that the program can build around. Known for her fluidity when she gets the ball in the paint, Bussie expends plenty of time in the gym while adjusting to college-level academics.
“It’s taken up my whole day,” Bussie said when asked how much she spends in the gym. “After class, I’m in the Coliseum from 12-7 sometimes just working out (on her own) and going to study hall. If it’s not in the gym, it’s in study hall.”
Although she possesses the physical attributes and mental edge to outwork her defenders, the former student government participant will undoubtedly have some nerves when WVU opens its regular season against Towson in the Preseason NIT at the Coliseum. Many basketball greats have been known to have butterflies before each game, most notably NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell and his pre-game antics, but Bussie’s high school statistics reflect someone who exudes plenty of confidence.
“I get nervous before every game so I’m definitely going to be nervous,” Bussie admitted. “We’re playing a team from near my hometown in Towson, and it’s only about 45 minutes away from my house. It should be a good game.”
Bussie’s team success in high school suggests that she enters her freshman campaign with a winning attitude. The McDonald’s All-American nominee averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds and 71 blocks as a senior. The all-Metro Player of the Year led her team with a 21-point, 14-rebound performance over then-No. 1-ranked St. Frances in the Class A championship.
Although her 1,620 career points scored and 1,189 rebounds on varsity are impressive, perhaps her most eye-popping figure is the 300-plus blocks she had. More importantly, her prominent play guided her team to multiple runs at the state championship.
Modest to her abilities, Bussie plans on improving certain aspects of her game. Although she has no problem finishing in the lane or utilizing her post moves, the three-time Baltimore Sun Player of the Week knows that there are areas where she can only get better.
“My mid-range jump shot needs improvement,” Bussie said. “My footwork (needs to improve) as far as getting quicker and going up for offensive rebounds and being aggressive.”
Once Bussie becomes well-versed through the seasoning of the WVU coaching staff, she has the chance to become one of the more skilled centers in the BIG EAST in the coming years. But for now, she is ready to make an impact on a Mountaineer squad that has high expectations for the upcoming season.