The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

April 5, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Bussie eyes life after WVU basketball

MORGANTOWN — The end, right now, is a blur for Asya Bussie.

In her dreams it was supposed to be a vivid memory, a run deep into the NCAA Tournament, certainly as a No. 2 seed to the Elite Eight but with a team she was sure was good enough to go even further.

And she was having her way, having placed the West Virginia team on her back and carried them through the second half of their second-round game.

Difficult?

It doesn’t get much more difficult. They were playing on their opponent’s home floor, turning what was supposed to be a tournament atmosphere into just another road game before a hostile crowd.

What’s more, she had been stopped cold in the first half and WVU, without its senior center leading the way, just wasn’t the same dominating team that it had been.

In the second half, though, coach Mike Carey went right to the heart and soul of his team, feeding Bussie over and over and while she wasn’t scoring a lot of baskets, she was scoring a lot of points. Seemed like every time she took a breath she was being fouled, sending both of LSU’s big players to the bench with four fouls.

With 4:54 to play WVU led, 63-56, and was pulling away … but now the two bigs were back for LSU and somehow the Mountaineers simply forgot about Bussie, rushing outside shots that went clank in the night.

By the time it was over — the game, the season and Bussie’s WVU career — it had become a disaster, outscored 20-4 during those five minutes.

Now, that was history, a week old, and Bussie was being asked what it was like to be standing there inside, the ball going over her head to the basket rather than being fed to her until she fouled out the two big players, until she built upon the 13 of 15 free throws she had connected on in a 21-point farewell performance.

“Honestly,” she said, “the end of the game is like a blur for me. I was like in a zone. I was just trying to get to the Sweet 16. I was so focused I really don’t remember the last few possessions in the game.

We didn’t execute down the stretch. We didn’t defend and the game ended the way it did.”

Maybe she was just being kind, ever the good teammate, not knocking those who failed to get her the ball or the strategy of her coach.

Or maybe she really was in a basketball trance, caught up in the biggest moment of her playing career and not sure what was going on around her, aware only that the dream was slipping away and she could do nothing to stop it.

So now here she was, a day after being named honorable mention All-America by the Associated Press, a huge honor for someone who spent all of the previous year rehabbing a serious knee injury, coming back to complete a memorable career on a memorable team.

This was the only WVU women’s team to win 30 games. It was the team that tied for the Big 12 regular season title. It was the team that won at Baylor, ending its 35-game streak of home Big 12 victories.

That win was the highest of the highs, followed not much later by the loss to LSU, the lowest of the lows.

“When we beat Baylor, especially on their home court, it was such a great feeling,” she recalled. “Everyone was against us. It was a great feeling of satisfaction. That was on the streak toward becoming Big 12 champions.

“Then losing in the NCAA Tournament it was the lowest point and I took it a lot worse knowing that I can’t come back to college, that I can’t change this game and this is the end of my career.”

She has reached the moment all college graduates reach, the time when there are no more fraternity or sorority parties, no more schedules that say be in class at this time, practice at that time. Ahead is the future and adulthood and it is all so uncertain, so clouded.

“I have a lot of spare time now,” Bussie said. “I’m trying to figure out what to do with the time. I’m getting more into school work that I neglected during the season. I’m just trying to prepare now so it won’t be a shock when I actually do leave West Virginia. I’m trying to put things in place so that I’ll be ready to leave here.”

The future plans are to play professionally, either in the WNBA or overseas.

“We’ve been talking to different people and different agents and trying to figure out what’s best for me, financially and living-wise,” she said. “I don’t know exactly where I’ll be until after the draft on April 14. After the draft I’ll make my plans.”

But wherever they take her, she has the experience of playing at WVU and helping build the program into a national contender.

“Even though it was a sour end to the season, I’m proud of myself and the team. We set a ton of records for women’s basketball here at West Virginia. We just had a great year. We didn’t want it to end but it ended that way. I’m still proud of the team,” she said.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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