- Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.
Sophomores on some of the top teams around the country are off to an impressive start in the 2020-21 women’s college basketball season.
They didn’t get to experience what was to be their first NCAA tournament last season, as it was canceled because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic is still wreaking havoc with scheduling, with so many questions about the rest of this season — including what the 2021 NCAA tournament will look like — looming.
It’s early, and many teams have had games postponed or canceled, but here are 10 top sophomores to keep an eye on as the season continues (listed in order of their teams’ rankings):
Haley Jones, G, No. 1 Stanford: Last year’s top recruit had her freshman season shortened by a knee injury, but she has been very good so far as part of a strong sophomore class for the unbeaten Cardinal (4-0). Fellow Stanford sophomore Fran Belibi threw down a one-handed dunk in the first half of Sunday’s win over Cal.
Jakia Brown-Turner, G/F, No. 4 NC State: The Wolfpack are undefeated at 6-0, and Brown-Turner has had a lot to do with that, averaging 12.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 3.7 APG.
Zia Cooke, G, No. 4 South Carolina: We know how great Cooke and the rest of the rookie class, including forward Aliyah Boston, were for the Gamecocks last season. They aren’t letting up. Cooke currently leads South Carolina in scoring (16.6 PPG).
Dre’una Edwards, F, No. 9 Kentucky: A redshirt sophomore who transferred from Utah, Edwards was the Pac-12 freshman of the year, but her 2018-19 season was cut short by a knee injury. She sat out last season and is now leading the undefeated Wildcats in scoring (14.5 PPG) and rebounding (8.7 RPG).
Charisma Osborne, G, No. 11 UCLA: She is the Bruins’ leading scorer (19.2 PPG) and is averaging 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
Rickea Jackson, F, No. 12 Mississippi State: She was fifth in the SEC in scoring average last season as a freshman and is currently leading the Bulldogs in scoring (17.7 PPG) and rebounding (7.0 RPG).
Makayla Daniels, G, No. 13 Arkansas: The Razorbacks have a ton of experience at guard, with four redshirt seniors, yet Daniels (14.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.3 APG) is still making an impact.
Diamond Miller, G, No. 14 Maryland: She is second on the Terps in scoring (17.8 PPG) and leads the team in rebounding (7.3). Just behind her in both categories is another sophomore guard, Ashley Owusu, who was Big Ten freshman of the year last season.
Elizabeth Kitley, C, Virginia Tech (receiving votes): The Hokies are off to a 6-0 start with Kitley a major reason for that. Last season’s ACC freshman of the year, she is averaging 18.2 PPG, 12.7 RPG and 2.3 BPG while shooting 64.5% from the field.
Maddy Siegrist, F, Villanova: The Wildcats are also 6-0, and Siegrist — the Big East freshman of the year last season — leads the team in scoring (22.8 PPG) and rebounding (11.5 RPG). She is also a redshirt sophomore, having sat out 2018-19 (ankle).
Player of the week: Caitlin Clark, Iowa
The freshman guard had a big week, including a win over an in-state rival (more on that below). Clark had 34 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in beating Iowa State, and then she had 35 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in a loss to Michigan State.
Team of the week: Utah
The Utes got victories over No. 15 Oregon State and Montana State. In the 85-79 victory at Oregon State, another of the nation’s notable sophomores, guard Brynna Maxwell, led the way with a career-high 34 points. It was Utah’s first win over the Beavers since 2013 and the first in Corvallis, Oregon, since 2000.
Coach of the week: Sue Donohoe
We’ll use this space this week to pay tribute to a former assistant coach who found her calling in administration. Sue Donohoe, who died Sunday at age 61, was one of most important figures in women’s basketball during her stay with the NCAA from 1999 to 2011. Much of that time, she was vice president in charge of Division I women’s basketball. Then she became executive director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
No matter her role, Donohoe was one of the friendliest, most approachable administrators you could meet, and she was a great listener who worked constantly to improve the sport.
As her former boss at Stephen F. Austin and Arkansas, current Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, said, “She was a giant in our industry and is a Hall of Famer because of all the great things she has done for our game. She always put what was best for women’s basketball at the forefront.”
Win of the week: Iowa 82, Iowa State 80
Iowa rallied with a massive fourth quarter, outscoring Iowa State 26-7, to beat the Cyclones 82-80 on Wednesday and finish 3-0 against the state rivals. The Hawkeyes defeated Northern Iowa and Drake to open the season.
The game-within-a-game pitted two superstars from the state: Iowa State junior guard/forward Ashley Joens (35 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist) and Iowa’s Clark (34 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists). They played on the same club team, and they were teammates on a USA Basketball Under-19 squad in 2019.
Joens, who is from Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa, chose to go a couple of hours west to Iowa State in Ames. Clark, who is from West Des Moines, about a half-hour down Interstate 35 from Ames, opted to go east to Iowa City.
The ending of the game came down to those two: Joens made two free throws with 52 seconds left to put Iowa State up 80-79. Then Clark hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left for the winning basket.
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