basketball-women-d2 flag | January 29, 2018

10 sensational sophomores making their mark in 2017-18

  Jodi Johnson is second on the Eagles in scoring, rebounding and assists while tops in steals.

There are plenty of sophomores who are making big impressions this season. Some are contributing to their team's overall success in the rankings, while others are stuffing the stat sheets, finding themselves amongst the leaders in many categories. As we approach the stretch run for the postseason, here's a look at a few sophomores that have stood out thus far in 2017-18.

RELATED: A new look Top 10 and other takeaways from the latest poll

Jodi Johnson, Ashland

  Johnson is one of the key contributors in Ashland's record-setting streak.
Ashland is on a run of historic proportions. Both Johnson and fellow sophomore Renee Stimpert have left their mark on this team, but Johnson is quietly becoming one of the leaders, which speaks volumes of her play.

RELATED: Ashland’s streak by the numbers

She is second on the team in scoring, dropping 19.1 points per game for an offense that is averaging 102.0 points per night. She’s also second on the team in rebounds (5.6 per game) and assists (3.5 er game), and a DII-best in steals, averaging 3.9 per game.

"Jodi is an incredibly dynamic player in that she impacts the game in every possible way and has the ability to play every position on the court,” Ashland head coach Robyn Fralick told “She has taken a big leap from her freshmen year because she has put in the work and loves to play the game." 

Emma and Ivy Wallen, North Alabama

  Ivy Wallen is leading DII in assists, and North Alabama to the Top 25.
The Wallen triplets have made an impact since they stepped on the court in Florence, Alabama. The Lions improved from a five-win to 19-win team last year, and are currently 18-2 and the No. 22 team in DII women's basketball.

MORE: Wallen heads up the January All-Stats Team

Emma is second in the Gulf South Conference, scoring 18.7 points per game. Ivy Wallen has become one of the premier point guards in the division, scoring 17.5 points per game and leading DII in assists with 9.4 per game. The third Wallen, Ella, plays a more limited role off the bench, but her contributions can't be overlooked.

“They’re all completely different,” Lions head coach Missy Tiber told at the end of last season. “Ivy is a true point guard and then you got Emma and Ella as wing players. Ella is the only lefty out of the group, which is kind of funny how that worked out. Ella is definitely in charge of the group. She does a lot of the talking for them. Ivy may have been thrown into a leadership role because she is the point guard, but I really think Ella is in charge and gets stuff done.”

Kallie Bildner, Lindenwood

  Kallie Bildner has been a rebounding force for Lindenwood.
It shouldn't be a surprise to see Bildner's name on this list. She's coming off a freshman campaign that ended with Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Freshman of the Year honors. This year, she's taken it to another level.

Bildner is second in the MIAA in scoring, dropping 18.8 points per game. She's fifth in DII in rebounding, ripping  down 12.7 rebounds per game. 

“Kallie’s talent on the court and the numbers she puts up speak volumes in regards to her basketball abilities," head coach Tony Francis said. "Even more impressive is her consistency of effort to make those around her better.  Kallie is an exceptional teammate and is respected by all members of her team. Her 3.94 cumulative GPA demonstrates her drive to pursue excellence in all endeavors.”

Hailey Diestelkamp, Drury

  Hailey Diestelkamp has been a leader for No. 10 Drury since she stepped on the court as a freshman.
The Drury Panthers have been ranked in the Top 25 for 73 consecutive weeks. This is a powerhouse program, so the fact that Diestelkamp is one of the Panthers leaders is very notable.

By the end of this season, she'll be in Drury's Top 10 in a few all-time categories. She's second on the Panthers in scoring (12.9) points per game), and tops in rebounding (8.1 per game) and steals (2.75 per game) as a sophomore.

MORE: The best arenas in DII basketball

"I think her athleticism puts her on another level compared to the competition," head coach Molly Miller said. "That and her buy in to a "defense-first" system has translated to some early success in her career. Off the court there is always laughing and smiling where ever Hailey is, sure mostly at her expense, but she takes that in stride and makes a great time out of any situation. She really is fun to coach. Hailey and I are pretty close and creating that bond off the floor has developed a great relationship on the floor. To say I demand a lot from Hailey and challenge her often would be an understatement. But I love the way she responds and works so hard to do what is asked of her. She is authentic, wears her heart on her sleeve, and one heck of a basketball player."

Lexy Hightower, West Texas A&M

  Lexy Hightower is leading the Lady Buffs in scoring this season.
The No. 17 Lady Bluffs may be in a rough patch, but Hightower is one of the driving forces behind a team that has been to three Elite Eights in the past four seasons.

She's averaging a team-best 14.2 points per game. Hightower is playing her best basketball of late, averaging 21 points and five rebounds per game over the last three outings.

"One of her greatest strengths is her ability to prepare for the moment," head coach Kristen Mattio said. "She never gets too high or low. She just always shows up! Her focus and drive to succeed as a player is what makes her special. She is a selfless teammate and truly puts the team first in all she does.”

“Lexi is the epitome of a student-athlete," Lady Buffs SID Brent Seals added. "She carries a 3.68 GPA, while leading one of the most storied programs in Division II Basketball. Her high basketball IQ and natural feel for the game is apparent every time she steps on the court, you can always find her putting up extra shots and working on her game in the arena while leading the team off the court as one of the captains.”

Savanna Hanson and Zoe March, Azusa Pacific

  Savanna Hanson is one of two impact sophomores on No. 19 Azusa Pacific.
This dynamic duo has the Cougars out to a 21-3 start. Both Hanson and March are the only two Cougars to start every game. March is leading DII in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.11) and Hanson leads the team in rebounding.

Hanson puts up the bigger numbers, scoring 14.9 points and pulling down nine rebounds per game. She's third on the team in assists, steals and blocks as well. March puts up 9.3 points per game, but her ability to distribute the ball evenly and not turn it over is invaluable. 

"We run a very fast offense and [Hanson's] versatility allows her to do a wide variety of things within the offense," APU SID Stephen Hinkel said. "She can put the ball in the hoop on the drive, from the catch-and-shoot or pull-up for a mid-range shot. Also, she draws defenders to her and she can find the open teammate."

"Savanna is a coaches dream," head coach T.J. Hardeman added. "Savanna spends hours outside practice working on her ball handling and shooting. She is relentless while playing. Her ability to handle the ball and score from 3 makes her a hard guard for bigs and her size is a tough match up for anyone small. She leads us in rebounding because her motor is always going."

Karen Donehew, North Greenville

  Karen Donehew is leading all sophomores in scoring.
North Greenville may not be heading to a postseason run, sitting at 4-15, now into Conference Carolina play. But Donehew's name will likely end up on a few lists when the season concludes.

Donehew made an impact last season, walking away with Conference Carolina Freshman of the Year honors. This year, her 19.4 points per game are tops amongst all sophomores, second to only Mount Olive's Felicity Havens 22.9 per game in the conference. She also leads the Crusaders in rebounds (7.6 per game) and assists (2.7 per game).

"I'm not sure I've watched a basketball game in which Karen does not give 100 percent," Crusaders' SID Robbie Gawrys said. "Which shows a lot considering she plays the entire game. Karen is always the first one to the floor to chase a loose ball, or crashing the lane from outside to grab a rebound."

Morgan Greene, Cal State East Bay 

  Morgan Greene is tied for second in DII with 14 double-doubles.
Greene has become one of the dominant presences in the paint in all of DII basketball. She's coming of a redshirt-freshman campaign in which she led the California Collegiate Athletic Association in rebounding, and has transformed into a double-double machine.

The 5-foot-10 forward is leading all sophomores in double-doubles with 16, good for second in all of DII. Greene is leading the Pioneers in points (15.1 per game) and rebounding, her 13.0 per game best in the CCAA once again. 


Kayla Marosites, Carson-Newman - The sophomore guard is fourth on the No. 5 Eagles in scoring (12.5 points per game), while leading the South Atlantic Conference with 10.0 rebounds per game.

Destiny Castro, Chaminade - Castro was the PacWest Freshman of the Year, and has picked up right where she left off. Her 18.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game are both team-bests for the Silverswords.

"Destiny is a talented athlete with a big up side," head coach Art King said. "She is quick with and without the ball. She has great hand-eye coordination that helps her be one of the leaders in steals in our conference. Destiny is a coachable athlete and one of the better student-athletes on our team."

Shannon Ryan, St. Anselm - Ryan leads the Hawks in points, rebounds and blocks averaging 18.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game.

DII women's basketball programs with the most NCAA DII national championships

Here's a look at the programs that have won multiple DII women's basketball championships.

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