Is Aliyah Boston primed to take the award once more this yr, or will another person step up for the crown?
More than six months in the past, Aliyah Boston and her teammates had been slicing down the nets in Minneapolis for the program’s second nationwide championship. With November proper round the nook, girls’s school basketball is sort of again.
Fans received’t get to see UConn sensation Paige Bueckers, who shall be out for the total 2022–23 season with a torn ACL, or Kansas State star Ayoka Lee, who underwent season-ending knee surgical procedure forward of this season. While each plan to return for ’23–24, it’s time to begin the course of of seeing which gamers this season will lead their groups to this yr’s Final Four and have fun a nationwide championship.
We check out the prime 10 preseason candidates who may very well be primed for National Player of the Year recognition.
Aliyah Boston, South Carolina
To describe Boston’s junior season as dominant can be an understatement. The Gamecocks’ star led South Carolina to its second nationwide championship, earned a slew of awards that included the Naismith Player of the Year, Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, Associated Press Player of the Year and the Wooden Award. She additionally broke the SEC’s document for the most consecutive double doubles final season, averaging 16.8 factors, 12.5 rebounds and a pair of.4 blocks per sport, and received SEC Player of the Year and the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Before her identify is named in the 2023 WNBA draft, will the three-time Lisa Leslie Award winner produce one other stellar marketing campaign in her senior season? She has plans to take action. South Carolina misplaced Destanni Henderson to the W and different gamers from final yr’s championship staff in the switch portal. However, coach Dawn Staley introduced in key items throughout the offseason to mesh with a returning core of Zia Cooke, Brea Beal, Kamilla Cardoso and Victaria Saxton. Boston will undoubtedly be the anchor of the group. While Staley instructed reporters throughout the league’s media day that she worries about this yr’s journey changing into stale, Boston has no need to relaxation on final season’s laurels. “When you think about becoming complacent, it’s going to stop you from your ultimate goal, so I don’t want anything to stop me from where I want to go with God’s help,” Boston instructed Sports Illustrated.
Caitlin Clark, Iowa
Clark was one of the most electrifying participant in school basketball final season—even NBA stars weighed in on her abilities. From nailing three pointers from the emblem to her capability to ship the ball to her teammates, Clark was the catalyst for the Hawkeyes’ success, averaging 27 factors per sport. Last season, Clark grew to become the solely Division I males’s or girls’s participant to prime the 650-level, 200-help and 175-rebound marks in her first 25 video games and registered 5 of her six profession triple doubles. But the sharpshooting guard continues to be looking for to steer Iowa to its first Final Four since 1993. With two seasons underneath her belt and the return of fifth-yr submit participant Monika Czinano, the AP first-staff All-American is primed for one other breakout yr with hopes of the program nonetheless taking part in in the first weekend in April.
Haley Jones, Stanford
Jones was just some possessions away from competing for her second nationwide championship in Stanford’s 63–58 Final Four loss to UConn, final yr’s NCAA event runner-up. The 2022 Pac-12 co-Player of the Year averaged 13.2 factors, 7.9 rebounds and three.7 assists in her junior marketing campaign. But earlier than that, Jones performed an integral half in the program’s profitable its first championship since 1992 in the 2021 season. As the AP All-American begins her pursuit for a second NCAA title in her senior season, issues will look totally different this time round with the departure of sisters Lexie and Lacie Hull and Anna Wilson. But with the return of the league’s Defensive Player of the Year Cameron Brink and a proficient roster underneath legendary coach Tara VanDerveer, Jones shall be the key to Stanford being amongst the greatest in the nation when the Big Dance rolls round.
Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech
Kitley was an enormous purpose why the Hokies completed in the prime 5 in the common season of a extremely aggressive ACC race. However, Florida Gulf Coast upset Virginia Tech, sending the reigning ACC Player of the Year and her teammates residence in the first spherical of the NCAA event. As Kitley embarks on her senior season, the AP and USBWA All-American places the Hokies in a supreme place to compete for an ACC title and make a run towards a nationwide championship, particularly with the addition two-time All-American Ashley Owusu (Maryland) and a premier scorer in Taylor Soule (Boston College) from the switch portal.
Last season, Kitley averaged 18.1 factors and 9.8 rebounds per sport. And, in accordance with Hokies head coach Kenny Brooks, the heart has expanded her sport and is energized to catapult the program to a brand new degree.
Cameron Brink, Stanford
Brink, the different half of the Pac-12 Player of the Year duo, returns for her junior yr having already put collectively two award-profitable seasons in a Cardinal uniform. In addition to sharing the POY honors with Jones, Brink was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, one thing that didn’t come as a shock after breaking the program’s single-season document for blocks as a freshman.
The All-American—acknowledged by the AP, USBWA and WBCA Coaches—averaged 13.5 factors, 8.1 rebounds and a pair of.6 blocks final season whereas ending No. 6 in HerHoopStat’s PER rating and No. 14 in its participant defensive ranking. Defense is a vital half of Stanford’s success. As Brink and her teammates pursue the program’s fourth NCAA title, her consistency and defensive impression will play an enormous half in the course of in what needs to be one other yr of elevation for her underneath VanDerveer.
Hailey Van Lith, Louisville
Last season’s success in addition to the disappointing finish to the season—a 72–59 loss to eventual champion South Carolina in the Final Four—might function a blessing in disguise for Van Lith. She discovered beneficial classes about management from Emily Engstler and Kianna Smith. But with Engstler and Smith gone, Van Lith enters her junior marketing campaign, one that can discover her being extra of a pacesetter this season. “I think me having the confidence and the ability to step up and have a voice is going to be very important on us being able to be cohesive as a group,” she mentioned throughout the 2022 ACC Tipoff occasion.
Van Lith, a 2022 first-staff All-ACC choice, led the staff in scoring (14.4 factors per sport) and was the solely participant in the NCAA event to submit 20-plus level video games. The proficient guard, who was just lately named to the ’23 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award (prime taking pictures guard in Division I) watchlist, shall be the catalyst in the success of a Louisville program that additionally consists of the addition of Florida State switch Morgan Jones and Syracuse switch Chrislyn Carr.
Ashley Joens, Iowa State
When it involves elite scorers, Joens belongs in the dialog. Many thought the Iowa State star would enter the WNBA draft after final season, one during which she grew to become the program’s all-time main scorer (20.3 factors per sport) and led the Cyclones to the Sweet 16 for the first time at school historical past. However, the two-time Cheryl Miller Award winner (honoring the nation’s greatest small ahead) enters her fifth, COVID-19 yr of eligibility in Ames with goals of constructing on final season’s success, in addition to constructing her case for a prime choose in subsequent yr’s WNBA draft. In addition to Joens, the Cyclones function a backcourt of Emily Ryan and Lexi Donarski. However, Iowa State’s lengthy-time period success in the postseason and its aspiration to achieve its first Final Four in program historical past shall be on the shoulders of Joens.
Olivia Miles, Notre Dame
As a real freshman, Miles emerged on the scene and didn’t disappoint in her first season at Notre Dame. While she and her teammates suffered a Sweet 16 loss to NC State, the trajectory for Notre Dame stays excessive with Miles being an enormous purpose. Miles, who earned first-staff All-ACC honors final season, has the capability to assault the basket, convert the midrange jumper and facilitate the offense in addition to discover the open participant at the proper second. Last season she led Notre Dame in scoring, completed No. 2 in the nation in assists per sport (7.4) and have become the first freshman to submit a triple double in the historical past of the males’s or girls’s tournaments. With Miles main the manner alongside guards Sonia Citron and Dara Mabrey, hold a detailed eye on the Fighting Irish this season.
Diamond Miller, Maryland
Miller has an opportunity to solidify herself as the most impactful participant at Maryland after the program misplaced 5 gamers to the switch portal, together with Owusu, Angel Reese and Mimi Collins. She didn’t have the junior marketing campaign she needed, taking part in by way of a knee damage that sidelined her for 10 video games. Despite being restricted to 22 video games, Miller nonetheless averaged 13.1 factors, 4.0 rebounds and a pair of.8 assists final season.
As she enters her senior yr, Miller’s manufacturing will doubtless resemble what it appeared like in her sophomore season when she averaged 17.3 factors and 5.3 rebounds per sport. She can be seen as the chief on a Maryland staff that features the additions of Ivy League Player of the Year Abby Meyers (Princeton), Lavender Briggs (Florida) and Elisa Pinzan (South Florida). If she stays wholesome, Miller may very well be primed for a stellar season in College Park.
Jordan Horston, Tennessee
Tennessee missed Horston’s manufacturing in the ultimate stretch of the season in addition to in its event run that led to a Sweet 16 loss to Louisville. Before Horston dislocated and fractured her elbow in February, she led the Volunteers in scoring (16.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.4) whereas holding the highest proportion in utilization (34.4%). When wholesome, Horston has all the attributes of a proficient guard who can shoot from three-level vary, drive to the basket, rebound and discover her open teammates. In addition to Horston, Vols coach Kellie Harper has a robust roster of expertise this season that features Mississippi State switch Rickea Jackson, Tamari Key returning at heart and freshman wing Justine Pisott, who shall be thrilling to observe.
During the SEC media day, Harper mentioned she was impressed together with her staff’s size, depth and athleticism, even citing the battles between Jackson and Horston in follow. As iron sharpens iron and Horston hopefully stays wholesome, count on to see her amongst the most elite gamers to observe this season.I
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