NCAA women’s players to watch for the 2023-24 season
While the potential 2024 WNBA draft class consisting of the likes of Caitlin Clark, Paige Bueckers and Angel Reese will get a lot of attention this season, there are plenty of other players who have the ability to become bigger stars as the season goes on.
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From rookies making their NCAA debuts, to transfers looking for a fresh start as well as burgeoning stars aiming to take the next step, here are 10 players to watch out for this season.
Aneesah Morrow – LSU
Aneesah Morrow DePaul
After a strong sophomore season at DePaul where she averaged 25.7 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 33 games with the Blue Demons, Morrow has taken her talents to LSU, transferring to the defending NCAA champions.
The Chicago product was named USBWA and WBCA freshman of the year in 2022. Morrow is just one of a couple high-profile transfers arriving on LSU campus, joining shooting guard Hailey Van Lith, who averaged 19.7 points as a junior last year at Louisville.
“I think Morrow is going to be a massive piece for LSU,” said Kia Nurse. “LSU won their championship in the transfer portal last year and it seems like they’re going to win their championship with the transfer portal again, on top of having the No. 1 overall recruiting class as well.”
Azzi Fudd – UConn
Fudd had an injury-riddled season in 2022-23, missing chunks of time with two separate injuries to her right knee. The former No. 1 recruit of the 2021 class averaged 15.1 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists as a sophomore while averaging just over 28 minutes.
With Paige Bueckers returning after missing all of last season after ACL surgery, a lot of eyes will be on UConn if they can stay healthy and return to the program’s previous heights.
“Azzi, other than her injury time from last year, spent quite a bit of time carrying the offensive load with Aaliyah [Edwards],” said Kia Nurse. “A big piece of UConn’s game and the way they run their offence is very based on spreading the ball around and finding the best open shot for whatever that person is as long as it’s in the position where they have the most success.”
Lauren Betts – UCLA
The No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class, Betts came off the bench in her rookie season at Stanford, averaging 5.9 points and 3.5 rebounds while averaging under 10 minutes of playing time.
After just one season with the Cardinal, Betts transferred to Pac-12 rival UCLA in the off-season where the 6-foot-7 centre is expected to be a big piece on a Bruins team that also boasts Kiki Rice and Charisma Osborne.
“Betts actually played against Canada in the AmeriCup, I was watching a couple of those games and she played really well,” said Kia Nurse. “Her alongside Kiki Rice at UCLA I think will be a good 1-2 punch for them.”
Kiki Rice – UCLA
The second-ranked recruit in the 2022 class behind Betts, Rice averaged 11.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in her rookie year at UCLA and was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team.
Kiki Rice UCLA
One of her biggest performances of the season was a season-high 22 points in a 69-65 upset win over Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. They would reach the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament before losing to No. 1 seed South Carolina.
“There’s some flair to it,” said Kia Nurse of Rice’s game. “There’s a cadence to it, an understanding, a high basketball IQ.”
Shayeann Day-Wilson – Miami
The Miami Hurricanes boast four Canadian players in Shayeann Day-Wilson, Latasha Lattimore, Lashae Dwyer and Lemyah Hylton but Day-Wilson has the opportunity for a fresh start after transferring from Duke.
After a solid rookie season where she averaged 12.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists while averaging just under 28 minutes of playing time, Day-Wilson’s numbers took a step back last season. She averaged a little over 24 minutes as a sophomore and her stat line (8.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists) all declined.
“She had a sophomore season [that] was probably not her favourite, going from ACC freshman of the year to a little bit of dips,” said Tamika Nurse. “Now she transfers, she reunites with her high school teammates and she gets a fresh look on college basketball at Miami.”
JuJu Watkins – USC
The No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class, Watkins will make her NCAA debut this season with a rebuilding USC squad after a high school season where she averaged 27.3 points and 13.8 rebounds and won Gatorade National Player of the Year and Naismith Prep Player of the Year.
“She’s going to be asked to do a lot, she’s going to have to score a lot to help them out in a tough conference,” said Tamika Nurse.
Qadence Samuels – UConn
Another rookie making their NCAA debut this season, Samuels made a good impression on UConn’s European tour, when she led the Huskies with 16 points in a game over the Italian All-Stars.
Tamika Nurse notes that even on a stacked UConn squad with national championship aspirations, Samuels, who is 6-foot-2 and plays more of a wing position, has an opportunity to carve out a role for herself.
“She’s really good on defence,” said Tamika Nurse. “She only started playing basketball in Grade six, has a lot of room for development and I think in that structure, she can really prosper.
Te-Hina PaoPao – South Carolina
PaoPao entered the transfer portal in the off-season after three years at Oregon and landed with South Carolina, a team that’s entering a new era after Aliyah Boston graduated to the WNBA this year.
The senior guard averaged 13.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 35 games last season for the Ducks.
“She’s got a nice flashy game, good game manager, can score the ball,” said Kia Nurse. “Point guards tend to thrive under Dawn Staley, obviously part from her pedigree as a player, as a point guard.”
Georgia Amoore and Elizabeth Kitley – Virginia Tech
The duo of shooting guard Georgia Amoore and centre Elizabeth Kitley was a big reason why Virginia Tech made it to the Final Four of the 2023 tournament before losing a close 79-72 game to eventual champion LSU.
Amoore, who is heading into her senior season, had a career year as a junior, averaging 16.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists while averaging nearly 37 minutes of playing time.
“I think Amoore was somebody that turned a lot of heads last year in terms of a scoring point guard with a deep three-point threat,” said Kia Nurse.
Kitley, a 6-foot-6 centre heading into her fifth NCAA season, averaged 18.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists last season. Nurse believe there’s room for a traditional centre like Kitley in the WNBA.
“As much as our game is transferring over to all of these hybrid players that everybody wants to play with, there’s still that inside dominance, that if you can find a good inside centre, like a Teaira McCowan, you’re not going to go away from that traditional centre like an Aliyah Boston as well,” said Nurse.