Article after article has passed and I have looked for mentions of the names of players that are to follow and though I have found them in spots, I truly believe that by the end of the year, writers will regret not mentioning these young ladies in the All-America conversation. Now, the first three players are all coming off injuries in the last two years that many feel will nullify or minimize their effect but as a player that has gone thru an ACL tear, once you get that confidence in the knee back you go after it a lot harder because that's a second chance that many aren't guaranteed. (Note: I excluded freshman intentionally as I like to give all freshman a year to prove their ability on the NCAA floor.)
1. LaSondra Barrett #55, LSU: The 6'2 forward out of Jackson, MS is primed for a breakout year. Adding 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason and making a move to more time on the wing where her shooting and ball-handling ability will be showcased and pay dividends for the defensive minded Lady Tigers out of Baton Rouge. With a coach in Nikki Caldwell that will not allow her to disppear on offense as has happened in the past, "Boogie" will play at a level that I knew was coming when she was spending time shooting free throws an hour after practice ended at our alma mater Murrah High School. With stopper ability and a drive to carry her team to the top, Barrett is my choice for SEC POY and I truly think that the SEC title will run thru Baton Rouge as opposed to Knoxville.
2. Elena Delle Donne #11, Delaware: A 6'5 guard with the ability to get to the basket and shoot the three with ease, this is the best player in the nation. After leaving UConn during the summer session of 2008, she took a year off from basketball after a "burnout" that turned out to be homesickness. She led the US World University Games team to a gold medal on a team that featured Skylar Diggins, both Ogwumikes, and the two-some of Glory Johnson and Shekinna Stricklen from Tennessee. The key for Delle Donne will be staying healthy. After battling Lyme disease last year and an ankle injury the year before, if she stays healthy I think she will be POY and if she chooses, she'll be in LA next season in the WNBA.
3. Caroline Doty #5, UConn: Think back. November 30, 2008. A game that I, as an Oklahoma WBB, fan was looking forward to as a defining game in the final year of a Paris era that I thought was going to conclude with a championship. This was the day I fell in love with Caroline Doty. As a freshman, in a Auriemma program, Doty played 32 minutes and shot 6-9 from the field and going 6-6, YES COUNT THEM SIX from the 3. Doty will be healthy and ready to play. She is the vocal leader and will be the heart and soul of this team. Without her, this team wouldn't even be in contention because Tiffany Hayes has yet to tap into the potential that she has and in a time where the question is "what have you done for me lately" I don't expect that to change in 2011-12.
4. Jacki Gemelos, #23 USC: Take a look at the 2006 USA Today All-USA Prep Girls team. You have Maya Moore (2011 ROY & WNBA Champ, 3-time Wade trophy winner) Tina Charles (2010 WNBA ROY, 2010 Big East POY) Monica Wright (2010 ACC POY & DPOY, National DPOY, 2011 WNBA Champ) & Amber Harris (2-time A-10 POY, WBCA All-American, WNBA Champ). The fifth player on that team? Jacqueline Ann Gemelos. Compared to the best women's basketball player ever (Diana Taurasi, and rightfully so) coming out of high school, Gemelos has returned from five, count 'em FIVE ACL tears to lead this year's Women of Troy. Picked to finish second in the Pac-12, Gemelos is the motor that makes this team go and I feel that the only thing that will stop her from claiming the Pac-12 POY award is that Nnemkadi Ogwumike plays in the same conference and will likely average 30 points and 15 rebounds.
5. Sasha Goodlett #45, Georgia Tech: Take a look at the posts for the top teams in the ACC this year. Cierra Bravard has been inconsistent. Lynetta Kizer has been indefinitely suspended. UNC and Duke will have mainly young rotations. Miami's starting posts are both 6'2 and shorter and Pepper Wilson still hasn't found the fundamentals to make a layup. If Goodlett can stay out of foul trouble and demand the ball, a first team All-ACC nod is hers to take home. With range out to 18 feet and a chip on her shoulder as the GT program has gotten better each of the last four years, People also forget that she held 4-time Oklahoma All-American Courtney Paris to one of the few games she didn't finish with a double-double. Goodlett will be on a mission to prove she's a force on the East Coast. And it definitely helps that her best friend, who's also the author of this article, will be in her ear all year.
6. Whitney Hand #25, Oklahoma: Hand's coming out party would definitely be defined in her performance against Tennessee on February 2, 2009 when she helped the Lady Sooners deny Pat Summitt her 1,000th win. Hand played 40 minutes and finished 8-9 from the field, 4-5 from 3 for 20 points. She will be back to 100% this year and will flourish as she shares the wing rotations with another great shooter in Morgan Hook and a stud in Aaryn "Vegas" Ellenberg making defenses have to decide who they will focus in on. A shooter never truly loses their touch but with an ability to put the ball on the floor and make great decisions, Hand will lead a talented Sooner team to big things this year in Norman.
Thanks for those that read! Feel free to leave a comment. Also, check back tomorrow as I do a feature on a player that none of you have probably ever heard of!!