Swish Appeal takes you through the power conferences’ players to watch entering the 2022-23 NCAAW season. Here’s the fifth installment in our series: the SEC.
6-foot-5 senior forward for the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks
Of course this list begins with Aliyah Boston, the reigning queen not only of SEC women’s basketball but also of all of women’s college basketball. After accumulating a number of national player of the year awards and winning a national title, in addition to being SEC Player of the Year and capturing the conference regular-season championship, what will Boston do for a encore in her (expected) final season at South Carolina?
6-foot-4 senior forward for the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks
Numerous other Gamecocks also deserve to make this list. There’s senior guard Zia Cooke, with her wicked handles and silky scoring. That 6-foot-4 senior Victaria Saxton might play the 3 this season intrigues. Or, what about redshirt freshman guard Raven Johnson, one of the top recruits in the class of 2021 who missed almost all of her first season in Columbia due to a knee injury? Yet, Laeticia Amihere deserves close observation. Last season, with point guard Destanni Henderson out of the lineup due to injury, Amihere assumed point guard responsibilities for the Gamecocks. This level of skill versatility, in combination with her enviable physical tools, makes Amihere one of the most interesting talents in the sport.
6-foot-2 senior guard for the No. 5 Tennessee Lady Vols
Last season, the Lady Vols had begun to cool from their hot start before Jordan Horston suffered a season-ending injury in mid-February. Without Horston, any hopes for a throwback tournament run was out of the question. To meet, much less exceed, the expectations of their No. 5 preseason ranking, the Lady Vols do not simply need Horston—they need her to be the best version of herself. As a junior, she began to approach her upside, with 16.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and four assists per game. Can she reach a higher level this season?
6-foot-2 senior forward for the No. 5 Tennessee Lady Vols
Rickea Jackson taking the court on Rocky Top can help Horston and the Lady Vols prove that the optimism about Tennessee’s ability to return to the summitt of women’s college hoops is not misplaced. At Mississippi State, where she spent the first three seasons of her collegiate career, Jackson instantly established herself as an elite scorer, leading the Bulldogs in scoring all three seasons. Her bucket getting should boost a Lady Vol offense that had a tendency to get stuck in the mud last season.
6-foot-3 sophomore forward the No. 16 LSU Lady Tigers
Of all the talented players in the SEC, Angel Reese, arguably, most rivals Aliyah Boston as the league’s supreme talent. In two seasons at Maryland, Reese showed off a skillset that approaches the ideal of a modern big, with the ability to dribble, pass and shoot with proficiency. During her time at Baylor, head coach Kim Mulkey had success maximizing bigs, albeit cultivating their dominance as more traditional, low-post threats. How will Mulkey optimize the modern, multidimensional Reese?
5-foot-10 freshman guard for the No. 16 LSU Lady Tigers
Is Flau’Jae Johnson the avatar of the next generation of a women’s college hooper? No, most top recruits are not budding rap superstars. However, in the age of NIL, it can be expected that players will enter college with established brands that emphasize their off-court appeal in tandem with their basketball talent. Johnson, who inked a shoe deal with Puma, offers a preview of this brave new world. Expect Johnson’s moves, both on and off the court, to attract much attention, whether garnering praise from those supportive of a college sports culture that now empowers student-athletes or inspiring criticism from traditionalists pining for the imagined “purity” of yesteryear.
6-foot-2 redshirt freshman guard for the Arkansas Razorbacks
Even strict SEC partisans must admit that the UConn imprimatur matters. Hence, the interest in Saylor Poffenbarger, a highly-ranked 2021 recruit who enrolled early in Storrs, but, due to injury, only played 12 mostly forgettable games for the Huskies. Touted as a big guard with a deep 3-ball and some off-the-dribble pop, Poffenbarger’s theoretical skillset could be unlocked in head coach Mike Neighbors’ fast-paced, 3-point-happy offensive system at Arkansas.
6-foot-5 redshirt senior for the Mississippi State Bulldogs
After years of stability under former head coach Vic Shaefer, instability has defined Mississippi State in recent seasons, headlined by the unexpected resignation of head coach Nicki McCray prior to last season and the subsequent departure of multiple players via the transfer portal. Yet, following all this change, Jessika Carter is back on the court for the Bulldogs. After redshirting last season, Carter has an opportunity to remind everyone that she is one of the conference’s most productive players.
6-foot-4 freshman forward for the Texas A&M Aggies
When Texas A&M lured new head coach Joni Taylor from Athens to College Station, Janiah Barker, 2022’s No. 3 recruit who originally committed to Georgia, followed, becoming the highest-ranked recruit in A&M history. On an Aggie squad with an unsettled hierarchy, look for Taylor to empower Barker, whose athleticism, energy and three-level scoring ability should allow her to immediately make her mark in the SEC.
5-foot-8 fifth-year senior guard for the Georgia Lady Bulldogs
Taylor’s replacement at Georgia, head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, also arrived at her new gig with a potential program star. After a standout senior season at UCF, where she was named the AAC’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, before also being named the Most Outstanding Player of the conference tourney, Diamond Battles opted into a fifth season, coming with her coach to the SEC. Despite the tougher competition in the SEC, Battles’ all-round game positions her to succeed.
6-foot-1 senior forward for the Missouri Tigers
Missouri scored the conference’s biggest upset last season, taking down No. 1-ranked South Carolina just before the calendar turned to 2022. In that improbable victory, Hayley Frank tied for a game-high 21 points, propelled by a 3-of-4 performance from deep. For the season, Frank was the conference’s best long-range markswoman, converting 46.2 percent of her 3-pointers. If the Tigers are again to topple one of the conference’s top teams, Frank’s shooting and scoring prowess will be a big reason why.