Paige Bueckers was a highly-touted recruit and is now tasked with helping to bring a national championship back to Storrs, Conn. She has played extremely well thus far, but might there be another freshman in Iowa City, Iowa, who could give her a run for her money? And don’t forget about a certain Syracuse Orange center who has been coming up big, or that Washington State Cougar who has been wreaking havoc in the Pac-12.
Here’s how the Top 10 players from the 2020 Hoop Gurlz class are performing so far:
1) Paige Bueckers
Program: UConn Huskies
Stats: 21.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.5 steals
Bueckers had three-straight games with 30-plus points from Feb. 3 to Feb. 8 and already has had a couple of signature clutch moments this season. Against the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks on Monday night, she made a dagger 3-pointer that took a friendly bounce with 10 seconds to go in overtime. After returning from rolling her ankle against the No. 16 Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Jan. 21, she made a dagger 3-pointer that did not need a friendly bounce, with 25 seconds remaining in the fourth. Bueckers doesn’t just score either. She gets assists, rebounds and steals. And she doesn’t fall in love with her 3-point shot, as anticipated, even though she is shooting a blistering 35-of-63 (55.6 percent) from deep. UConn coach Geno Auriemma at one point was trying to get her to shoot more (not just from three but in general) because she has a passer’s mentality at times.
2) Angel Reese
Program: Maryland Terrapins
Stats: 13.3 points, 7 rebounds
Reese went down early on during Maryland’s fourth game of the season with a foot fracture and hasn’t played since. She played well in her first three games with 20, 15 and 16 points, respectively. She also had nine, nine and eight rebounds, respectively. If she is able to return for the NCAA Tournament, her size alone (6’3”) should help Maryland in the rebounding department and she has the potential to be versatile star alongside Diamond Miller on the wing.
3) Cameron Brink
Program: Stanford Cardinal
Stats: 9.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.7 blocks
Brink has had an immediate impact for Stanford off the bench. She has started in six of 18 games and is averaging 17.2 minutes per contest. She has been a great inside scorer and has showed off her mid-range game as well. Stanford has had great recruiting classes in recent memory, with more to come. Brink is currently teaming up with Haley Jones, 2019’s No. 1 overall recruit, who is leading Stanford with 14.1 points per game. Kiana Williams, Lexie Hull and Fran Belibi are all ahead of Brink in the scoring department, but Brink has carved out the perfect role for herself. She has helped keep Stanford in the national championship mix and should form a lethal duo with Jones in the years to come.
4) Caitlin Clark
Program: Iowa Hawkeyes
Stats: 26.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.4 steals
For starters, it’s worth mentioning that Clark is among the nation’s top scorers and first in the Power 5. So, she is not just one of the best freshmen in the country, but one of the best players. Before the season started, we placed Clark at No. 9 on our Fab Freshmen list. Needless to say she has put the nation on notice as even No. 4 in the Hoop Gurlz rankings seems too low now that we have seen her play at the college level. She received a lot less hype than Bueckers, Reese and Brink, but Clark is now the freshman star of the season along with Bueckers.
Clark’s 3-point shooting and passing abilities stood out from her high school highlights and at Iowa she has been able to score in a variety of ways, while also putting up phenomenal assist numbers. She is shooting 35.4 percent from beyond the arc with 51 makes and she has had seven games of 30-plus points, including a 39-point effort on Thursday night. Clark makes Iowa, currently an 8-seed in ESPN’s Bracketology, a competitive team against anyone in the Big Ten.
5) Kamilla Cardoso
Program: Syracuse Orange
Stats: 15.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.1 blocks
Cardoso has been a steady presence inside for the Orange. She is shooting 60.4 percent from the field (ninth the nation) and leads Syracuse in scoring. Along with Bueckers and Brink, she is the only other player on the Hoop Gurlz Top 10 list who leads her team in that department. Cardoso has lived up to expectations; she also has been the beneficiary of plenty of Tiana Mangakahia’s passes. While Syracuse has fallen out of the rankings, Cardoso has helped it to its current 7-seed status in ESPN’s Bracketology.
6) Diamond Johnson
Program: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Stats: 17.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.9 steals
Johnson has made the most of Rutgers’ 10 games this season with double-figure points in each contest. She is second on the team in scoring, trailing only preseason Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Arella Guirantes; Johnson is shooting an impressive 22-of-46 from beyond the arc (47.8 percent). Even more impressive, she is scoring better in conference games than in nonconference games. Johnson scored 18 points, dished out three assists and swiped three steals against Maryland on Dec. 14, a contest in which the Scarlet Knights gave the Terps a run for their money, losing by just four points. She also had 14 points and five helpers in Rutgers’ upset win over Northwestern on Thursday night.
7) Hailey Van Lith
Program: Louisville Cardinals
Stats: 11.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.1 steals
Van Lith has played a key role in Louisville’s backcourt alongside reigning ACC Player of the Year Dana Evans, who averages 20.6 points per game. Van Lith has stood out as a fierce competitor and her numbers should increase in the seasons to come as she becomes more of the focal point of the offense. One of the big parts her game that she has wanted to work on is 3-point shooting. Already an aggressive driver and great ball-handler, Van Lith has done well from distance — shooting 36.7 percent with 33 makes. Only she and Evans have started all 20 games for the Cards. Van Lith is fourth on the team in scoring, just 0.2 behind forward Olivia Cochran, who was the No. 18 recruit in the Class of 2020.
8) Sydney Parrish
Program: Oregon Ducks
Stats: 6.5 points, 3.2 rebounds
Parrish has been a solid contributor off the bench, but she has yet to become a star. Averaging 16.1 minutes per game, Parrish has shot a decent 15-of-46 (32.6 percent) from distance. On an Oregon team that spreads its minutes out (nobody plays more than 27.4 per game), she is eighth in minutes per game. Fellow freshman Te-Hina Paopao (No. 11 on Hoop Gurlz) leads the team in playing time, and is third in scoring (10.5 points per game) and first in assists (4.4).
9) Priscilla Williams
Program: Syracuse Orange
Stats: 9.9 points, 3.4 rebounds
Williams has been hit or miss in big games. She scored just two points in her collegiate debut on Nov. 29, but followed it up with 24 points on Dec. 2. Her other big game came on Jan. 17, when she scored 26 points in a win over the Miami Hurricanes. However, all of her other performances have been of 14 points or less. Williams has started in 14 of Syracuse’s 15 games and is averaging 22.5 minutes per contest — good for sixth on the team. She has hit 30 of her 73 shots from downtown (41.1 percent), though she is best known for her physicality.
10) Deja Kelly
Program: UNC Tar Heels
Stats: 9.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists
The Tar Heels had a 16-14 (7-11 ACC) record last year and likely would have missed the NCAA Tournament. Kelly is tasked with bringing this program back to national prominence and so far she has done well individually. Kelly has started in 16 of 17 games, she is fifth on UNC in scoring and she is fourth in minutes (26.2) per game. With their win over the No. 4 NC State Wolfpack on Sunday, the Tar Heels have placed themselves as the last team in ESPN’s projected bracket, though Kelly played just 12 minutes with zero points in that game.
Stepping up for NCAA Tournament contenders
11) Te-Hina Paopao (Guard), Oregon Ducks
10.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.5 steals
14) Lexi Donarski (Guard), Iowa State Cyclones
11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds
18) Olivia Cochran (Forward), Louisville Cardinals
11.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 blocks
20) Maddy Westbeld (Forward), Notre Dame Fighting Irish
14.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals per game
23) Aaliyah Edwards (Forward), Connecticut Huskies
9.4 points, 4.4 rebounds
50) Darrione Rogers (Guard), DePaul Blue Demons
10.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.7 steals
Not included in the Hoop Gurlz Top 100:
Charlisse Leger-Walker (Guard), Washington State Cougars
18.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.4 steals per game