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SEC update: Handing out one-month awards to the best players in the Southeastern Conference

Approximately one month into the 2023-24 season, let’s hand out some way-too-early honors, recognizing the SEC players who have helped their teams succeed through the non-conference schedule.

Colorado v LSU
Is LSU’s Aneesah Morrow the early favorite for SEC Player of the Year?
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Approximately one month into the season, let’s check in on the SEC by handing out some one-month awards, celebrating players from different classes who have started the season strong.


Freshman: Taliah Scott (Arkansas)

Although she has not gotten as much shine as freshmen playing for starrier squads, Taliah Scott might be the best of an impressive bunch. Instantly, she has been a prolific offensive engine for a 7-2 Arkansas team that, until a rough Sunday afternoon showing against No. 2 UCLA, had exceeded expectations.

While modern basketball analysis, understandably, values efficient offensive production, raw production, even if not optimally efficient, still matters—and that’s what Scott has provided. Through the first nine games of her college career, she’s scored no less than 17 points, exceeding 20 points in six of nine games. She’s fourth in the nation in total points produced with 184. And even when her shot is not falling, she manages to put points on the board, ranking sixth nationally in free throws attempted and second in free throws made. For example, Scott made only six of her 21 field goal attempts against UCLA, yet she got to the line for nine free throws, helping her finish with a game-high 23 points.

Honorable mention: Mikaylah Williams (LSU), MiLaysia Fulwiley (South Carolina)

Sophomore: Saylor Poffenbarger (Arkansas)

Saylor Poffenbarger is cleaning the glass like a basketball germaphobe.

If a ball bounces off the backboard during an Arkansas game, there’s a good chance Poffenbarger is chasing it down. After grabbing 11 percent of available rebounds when she was on the court last season, she’s increased her rebounding rate to 18.2 percent. On the defensive end, she’s corralling more than 30 percent of missed shots. In terms of raw numbers, Poffenbarger is pulling down 2.1 offensive, 9.9 defensive and 12.0 total rebounds per game. In Arkansas’ victory over FSU, she unleashed a rebounding tour de force, securing a school-record 23 boards.

Poffenbarger’s enhanced activity extends beyond the boards, as she’s disrupting things on the defensive end with 1.4 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. Offensively, she’s chipping in 10.8 points per game for the high-scoring Hogs.

Honorable mention: Raven Johnson and Ashlyn Watkins (South Carolina), Flau’jae Johnson (LSU), Ashton Judd (Missouri), Janiah Barker (Texas A&M)

Junior: Sara Puckett (Tennessee)

With injury and illness limiting Rickea Jackson to just two games, Sara Puckett has increased her production for the 4-4 Lady Vols. After starting 15 of 37 games last season, Puckett has been elevated into the starting lineup this season, seemingly finding more confidence in a secure starting role.

As a freshman and sophomore, Puckett mostly was shoehorned as a 3-point shooter, even as her 3s did not fall as often as expected. This season, not only are the 3s are falling, as she’s hitting 37.9 percent of her 3.6 attempts per game, but she’s also experimented with more inside-the-arc offense, making 53.6 percent of her 7.0 2-point attempts per game. Her expanded offensive versatility has resulted in her leading the Lady Vols in scoring at 13.5 points per game. She’s also playing with added aggression, increasing her rebounding to a career-best 6.1 boards per game.

Honorable mention: Bree Hall (South Carolina), De’Mauri Flournoy (Georgia)

Senior: Aliyah Matharu (Florida)

Aliyah Matharu is making up for lost time. After transfer restrictions delayed her debut for the 6-2 Gators, she’s done a little bit of everything during her first month on the court in orange and blue, including draining a buzzer-beating 3 to give Florida the victory over Columbia at the Pink Flamingo Championship.

Assuming a heavier burden than she did in two season at Mississippi State or one season at Texas, Matharu has shown herself capable of serving as an offensive fulcrum, with her usage at a career-high 37.0 percent. That usage has been particularly effective when directed towards 2-point shots; she’s taking a career-high 9.4 2-pointers per game and converting them at a career-best 58.7 percent rate. Considering Matharu’s just 5-foot-7, her inside-the-arc proficiency speaks to her craft and creativity. Matharu’s 4.0 assists per game also more than doubles her previous average. And she’s also making an impact on the defensive end, with a career-best 2.5 steals per game.

Honorable mention: Kamilla Cardoso (South Carolina), Madison Scott (Ole Miss), Jerkaila Jordan (Mississippi State), Ajae Petty (Kentucky), Sarah Ashlee Barker (Alabama)

Fifth-Year: Javyn Nicholson (Georgia)

Javyn Nicholson’s five seasons in Athens have been characterized by slow and steady progress. A bit player for the 6-2 Lady Bulldogs as a freshman, averaging just over two shots and three rebounds in about 10 minutes per game, Nicholson has evolved into a nearly 30-minute-per-game player who is leading her team in scoring and rebounding, with 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. That she is earning 5.4 free throws per game is further evidence of her maturation, suggesting she has developed a composed, controlled and proactive offensive process.

It’s also worth noting that Nicholson’s approach and effectiveness is unchanged whether she starts or comes off the bench. Through UGA’s first eight games, she has four starts to four games as a reserve.

Honorable mention: Rickea Jackson (Tennessee), Hayley Frank (Missouri), Jordyn Cambridge (Vanderbilt), Honesty Scott-Grayson (Auburn)

Transfer: Aneesah Morrow (LSU)

Aneesah Morrow has to be the leader in the clubhouse for SEC Player of the Year. While the uncertainty surrounding 8-1 LSU seems to be simmering down, things could have burbled over if not for Morrow.

At the Cayman Islands Classic, she uncorked two-straight double-doubles—28 points and 10 rebounds against Niagara before 37 points and 16 rebounds against Virginia—to ensure the Lady Tigers escaped without an ignominious loss. Back in Baton Rouge, Morrow continued to cook, posting a third-straight double-double—19 points and 15 rebounds—as LSU dominated Virginia Tech. She leads the defending champs in points, rebounds and steals per game: 18.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.4 steals.

And it’s just great to see Morrow showing off the breadth of her skills on a bigger stage. She plays with a powerful precision that’s rare, combining swiftness and strength as she executes her array of offensive moves. She’s also been essential to LSU’s defense, ranking third nationally in defensive win shares. As she indicated after LSU’s win over Virginia Tech, she had no doubt that her success would translate to the SEC.

Honorable mention: Hailey Van Lith (LSU), Te-Hina Paopao (South Carolina), Jewel Spear (Tennessee), Lauren Ware (Texas A&M)