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'Best freshman class we've ever had': Boise State's newcomers shining early

Boise State has won a Mountain West Freshman of the Week award six times this year. Head coach Gordy Presnell said "it's the best freshman class we've ever had."

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise State women's basketball team is on a roll, riding a three-game winning streak where each contest has been decided by five points or less. The Broncos have already picked up four more wins than last season, with six games left in the regular season. 

Boise State has found its stride, after starting out the season 3-7. The Broncos (12-3, 7-5 MWC) struggled to close out tight games early, with a pair of losses during a five-game skid coming in overtime. 

Head coach Gordy Presnell's squad is entering the thick of Mountain West play, back at home on Thursday and Saturday to take on two of the best teams in the conference in New Mexico and first place UNLV.

As the Broncos look to keep the momentum going, Presnell credits Boise State's recent surge to the teams unselfishness and attention to the little details, both on and off the hardwood.

"I think people are buying into what we're trying to do as a team. No one seems to care if one person does better than the other at certain moments," Presnell said. "I think that's what you look for in a team and I think they're really getting involved in understanding our opponents, scouting and that sort of thing. Those are all measures that they're starting to buy in and really get after it."

A major part of Boise State's mid-season growth has been its freshman class. The newcomers have wasted no time jumping right into the mix, finding ways to elevate the team. 

The first-year players are also grabbing regional attention and accolades. The Broncos have taken home six Mountain West Freshman of the Week honors, awarded to three different players. 

On Monday, Boise State guard Natalie Pasco picked up her third MW Freshman of the Week award of the season, after scoring in double figures in three-straight contests.

Pasco and her teammates did not imagine they would make an impact this quickly.

"A little unexpected but I just knew coming in I wanted to help the team anyway I can and just focus on how to improve altogether," Pasco said.

Presnell said he did expect the immediate success, because "they have great resumes and they're very talented kids."

With fellow Bronco freshmen Mya Hansen and Dani Bayes earning starting roles, the class has turned out to be something special.

"We feel really fortunate to have them," Presnell said. "We think it's the best freshman class we've ever had here at Boise State."

Bayes earned Mountain West Freshman of the Week on Jan. 2 and Jan. 23, while Hansen grabbed the honor on Dec. 5, 2022. The Broncos are the only team to have three different freshman win the award since the start of last season. 

The Broncos are also seeing the benefits of freshman guard Tatum Thompson's return. She scored a career-high 13 points on Saturday after breaking her foot in the preseason. 

Boise State's freshmen are extremely mature as well, celebrating the individual accolades as team accomplishments. 

"We love to celebrate those for each other cause it reflects the whole team. I mean, you can't score if someone's not dishing the ball to you," Hansen said. "We all work together and each point, we don't count as individual points, we like to think of it as a team win and a team score."

On the court, each Boise State newcomer is a threat from the three-point line, shooting at nearly a 40% clip. The boost from deep is something that has helped the Broncos get back to the mantra of the 'City of Threes.'

"We didn't have that last year and we really struggled," Presnell said. "It also spaces the floor for our post players. They've really benefited from these kids coming in and being able to shoot from the perimeter."

While the focus remains on finishing 2023 strong and making a postseason run, the Broncos cannot help but feel confident about the bright future to come.

"One thing that you kind of check in recruiting a little bit is, 'are they passionate about the game?' And I think all four of them are very passionate about the game," Presnell said. "So, they all have goals, big goals, and they want to do great things for Boise State."

Between their big goals, early success and a handful of upper classman with additional years of eligibility remaining, Bayes told KTVB there is "a lot of success coming."

Junior forward Elodie Lalotte is leading the Broncos in scoring, averaging 10.3 points per game, to go along with 6.3 rebounds per contest. Fellow junior forward Abby Muse is nearly averaging a double-double, with 9.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per outing.

The Broncos host New Mexico at ExtraMile Arena on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and UNLV on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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