I have 15 elite players you should have on your radar in the 2021-22 women's college basketball season.
Each player brings something special to the court, so I'm going to break down their game. But instead of ranking them by skill, I’m going to rank them in alphabetical order, by first name.
Here we go!
Aliyah Boston, South Carolina
Boston is a 6-foot-5 nightmare in the paint and is one of the best centers in the nation coming into her junior year. In fact, she has earned back-to-back Lisa Leslie Center of the Year for her elite interior game. The SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year is an elite shot blocker that ranked No. 7 in the nation in total blocks. Boston can also produce a double-double on any given night and led the nation in rebounds last season. She will be in the Player of the Year conversation...once again.
Ashley Joens, Iowa State
Joens had one of her best seasons last year and woke up the entire league. Her ability to score in a variety of ways has helped her set a school record of 24.2 points per game. Joens can attack the basket, is great in midrange, can hit the 3-pointer and work in the post. The Cheryl Miller Award winner is known for her ability to finish through contact, leading the nation in free throws. Her hustle is remarkable, especially on the offensive boards.
Ashley Owusu, Maryland
Owusu is one of the top guards in the country. As one of the ball-handlers for Maryland, she tortures her opponents with her crossover, making it difficult for any defender to stay in front of her. Maryland had the No. 1 scoring offense in the country last season, with Owusu as its top scorer. But the game doesn't end at scoring, especially when she has multiple scoring weapons surrounding her. Owusu’s ability to create for her teammates put her at No. 4 in assists last year.
Caitlin Clark, Iowa
Iowa's Caitlin Clark is a certified bucket. Clark led the nation in points, 3-pointers, assists and field goals made in only her first year in college. As a scoring threat, Caitlin's range is limitless, she can attack or get a shot off effortlessly using her elite ball-handling skills, and her court vision is even more breathtaking. Iowa advanced to the Sweet 16 with the No. 2 scoring offense, and Clark will be expected to help her team make a deeper run. It was a no-brainer that the Big Ten Freshman of the Year should've been in the National Player of the Year conversation, but that will change this season in her sophomore campaign.
Christyn Williams, UConn
Christyn Williams shined bright in the NCAA tournament last season, providing dominant scoring for UConn. She played a crucial role in providing the spark and experience the Huskies needed in each round of the 2021 NCAA tournament in order to advance to the Final Four. Throughout the regular season, Williams made an incredible backcourt with Paige Bueckers as UConn's second-leading scorer. But what I love about Williams' game is that she can find the best shot selection in her teammates and her energy is unmatched.
Diamond Miller, Maryland
On a team of endless scorers, Diamond Miller is the top-two scorer on Maryland who doesn't get talked about enough. On any given night, Miller can give you double-figure scoring, but her game is endless as an elite rebounder, shot-blocker, defender...you name it. Miller thrives off of getting the ball off the offensive glass, while pushing the ball in transition to attack the basket. Her length and athleticism makes her tough to handle as she's able to finish over her defenders.
Elissa Cunane, NC State
NC State loves to run its offense through Cunane, who brings an incredible inside presence as the Wolfpack's leading scorer and rebounder. Cunane does a phenomenal job using her length and size to her advantage to get in getting in perfect position and finishing at the rim, while absorbing the contact. But don’t sleep on her outside game, because Cunane can easily stretch the floor by popping out and knocking down a 3. The main thing I love about Cunane's game is the positive energy she creates as the Wolfpack's leader and you can tell her team thrives off her energy.
Paige Bueckers, UConn
Needless to say...watch out for Paige Bueckers in her sophomore campaign. The National Player of the Year was a walking highlight in her first season. Bueckers came in with the pressure as the No. 1 overall recruit in the country, and she proved that she was made for the moment every single night. She trademarked "Paige Buckets" for a reason, being able to score anywhere on the court in a crafty fashion. As a freshman, Bueckers led UConn in points, assists, steals and 3-point field goal percentage. Plus, her elite passing ability sets up her team for success. She set UConn's single-game assist record at Butler, dishing out 14 and is the freshman season recorder-holder for assists with 168. I'm excited to see what clutch performances are in store from Paige in year two.
NaLyssa Smith, Baylor
NaLyssa Smith is one of the most athletic players in the country. Having Smith out in the floor is equivalent to having another guard for Baylor by the way she can run run the floor in transition as a post. It was fun watching the lobs her teammates would throw to Smith to tip up and finish at the rim. Smith can finish through any contact, her mid-range game is unstoppable, she can face-up and she’s a phenomenal rebounder. There's no doubt that Baylor's lead scorer and rebounder should be in the National Player of the Year conversation again.
Hailey Van Lith, Louisville
Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith is a pure shooter who works great off the dribble. But what's remarkable is her hustle plays. Van Lith will bang with the best to grab a rebound and is the top-three rebounder on Louisville as a guard. In her first year, Van Lith made an immediate impact, starting all 30 games. Now that WNBA champion Dana Evans is gone, head coach Jeff Walz will look to Louisville's new young star to step up and takeover.
Haley Jones, Stanford
It’s no secret that you need to watch out for Stanford’s Haley Jones. The 2021 Most Outstanding Player and national champ is one of the most versatile players in the NCAA. Jones has an unstoppable midrange jumper, can attack the basket well and has elite footwork to get her shot off using a killer pivot. We saw her 3-point game shine during the NCAA tournament in clutch moments, so adding a consistent 3-pointer to her arsenal will make her even more dangerous.
Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech
Lorela Cubaj is another player who woke up the ACC and the country last season, leading the Yellow Jackets to the Sweet 16. The good news is that Cubaj is coming back to use her extra year of eligibility in hopes to make a deeper run in the NCAA tournament in her super senior year. This brings back elite defense and inside scoring to Georgia Tech. Did I mention Cubaj was a top-10 rebounder last season? She is a force to be reckoned with in the paint.
Naz Hillmon, Michigan
Naz Hillmon put the entire nation on notice last year when she dropped a 50-piece in a rivalry battle against Ohio State. From that point, Hillmon never let up. Hillmon was the top-7 scorer in the nation and was second in the Big Ten in scoring. Her incredible footwork makes her unstoppable in the paint to get her shot off despite being smothered by defense. Hillmon elevates her game every season as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year in her sophomore year, and The Big Ten Player of the Year as a junior. I'm excited to see what else is in store for Hillmon in her senior campaign.
Rhyne Howard, Kentucky
Rhyne Howard versatility is remarkable and can score with ease, but her game goes beyond points. The back-to-back SEC Player of the Year was the only player in the conference to lead her team in all three categories: scoring, rebounding and assists. Howard's all-around game is also equipped with elite defense making her opponents pay for their mistakes on the other end as Kentucky's leader in steals. Howard will be on the National Player of the Year radar again as she takes on her senior year.
Shakira Austin, Ole Miss
As a transfer from Maryland, Shakira Austin made an immediate impact for Ole Miss. Austin was a key factor of bringing a winning culture to the program and knocking off some ranked teams. As the Rebels' focal point, Austin is their leader in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. The 6-foot-5 center is a versatile player who can score, rebound, can dribble from baseline to baseline and produce in the post despite the double-team. Keep Austin high on your radar as one of the best centers in the country.