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Women’s Basketball Is Awash With Standout Freshmen

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Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma has a concept on why anybody thinks there’s a greater freshman within the nation than his start line guard, Paige Bueckers.

“I’m not boasting, but if I talked to every single coach in America and they told you they’d rather have their freshmen than Paige, I would tell you they’re only saying that to be nice to their own players,” Auriemma advised a media gathering on Zoom final week. “In my mind, there isn’t anything Paige can’t do on the court.”

His reward for Bueckers is comprehensible, even when the assertion of dominance led to some anger across the Twittersphere from those that resent UConn’s claims to glory. (How anybody can deny them is one other story altogether.)

But Bueckers, the consensus prime recruit in her class, has greater than lived as much as her superior billing. In her first seven video games, Bueckers is averaging 18.9 factors per sport on 58 p.c capturing, together with making half of her threes. Even rarer for a freshman, she is a difference-maker on the defensive finish, with 2.7 steals per sport — a real two-way star from the second she stepped onto the courtroom.

It is not any reflection on Bueckers and her prodigious expertise that there’s a debate over who’s the perfect freshman on this class. Nor does it converse poorly of quite a few different rapid starters and contributors throughout the nation that every one of them are struggling to interrupt by means of in that debate.

Somehow, little has been mentioned about Te-Hina Paopao. All she’s accomplished since arriving at Oregon is take over the position Sabrina Ionescu held down, operating the Ducks’ offense at a comparable degree to when it contained three picks within the 2020 draft, whereas already amassing 2.6 win shares by means of 11 video games performed.

Paopao was the primary participant coach Kelly Graves cited again in mid-December, after the Ducks demolished their in-state rivals, Oregon State, 79-59.

“I thought Te-Hina really controlled that game from the point,” Graves mentioned. “Such a tremendous job.”

Paopao confronted off towards one other thrilling freshman final week when Oregon fell to top-ranked Stanford. The 6-foot-4 Cameron Brink is capturing higher than 62 p.c from the sphere, and her 16.Three block proportion ranks third within the nation, no matter class.

Even so, the most important problem to Bueckers as the perfect freshman this season doesn’t come from Brink or from Paopao. Nor does it come from the dynamic combo guard Diamond Johnson at Rutgers, who has scored in double figures in her first eight video games and not less than 18 in her previous 4 contests.

It’s not even the duo of Hailey Van Lith and Olivia Cochran of Louisville, a pair of newcomers each north of two win shares already, serving to Jeff Walz’s Cardinals to title competition as soon as extra alongside participant of the 12 months candidate Dana Evans. Nor is it Lexi Fleming, the nation’s chief in win shares amongst freshmen, hitting 37.Three p.c of her threes with a 7.6 turnover proportion as a 5-foot-5 level guard for Bowling Green.

No, it’s Caitlin Clark of Iowa, who’s staking her declare as not solely freshman of the 12 months, however participant of the 12 months as properly.

Who’s the perfect freshman this season?

Top 10 ladies’s faculty basketball freshmen in Win Shares, by factors per sport within the 2020-21 season

Caitlin ClarkIowa6.96.445.9%25.7
Lexi FlemingBowling Green4.82.546.819.6
Paige BueckersUConn5.
Charlisse Leger-WalkerWash. St.
Diamond JohnsonRutgers3.92.053.617.8
Hailey Van LithLouisville6.61.644.412.6
Lauren GustinBYU13.
Te-Hina PaopaoOregon2.44.550.012.2
Olivia CochranLouisville7.01.060.811.9
Cameron BrinkStanford6.90.962.311.0

Source: Her Hoop Stats

After her 27-point, 10-rebound efficiency in Wednesday’s extra time loss to undefeated Ohio State, Clark is averaging 25.7 factors per sport, good for third within the nation amongst all gamers. She is capturing 53.1 p.c from two and 37 p.c from three, however even these lofty numbers undersell her offensive worth, as she is a quantity shooter from all three ranges on the ground. Her ending on the rim is pro-ready, and she or he’s taking 8.Four threes per sport — reflecting an Iowa crew that’s completely dedicated to giving her the reins.

Her teammate, Monika Czinano, has a joint perspective on the good Bueckers vs. Clark debate, as a Minnesota native like Bueckers. She’s not able to declare a winner simply but.

“They’re both really amazing, and I’d say they play very differently,” Czinano mentioned of the duo. “I think a lot of the freshmen in this class, they have different things, different niches, different things that they’re really good at. And I do think that with this team at this time, Caitlin is kind of what we needed — and things are moving and flowing really well.”

Like Paopao, Clark took over a place beforehand occupied by a now-WNBA level guard, in Iowa’s case Kathleen Doyle, and the offensive manufacturing of the Hawkeyes actually hasn’t suffered in any respect — actually, Iowa’s offense has improved considerably up to now, producing 113.7 factors per 100 possessions in comparison with 106.9 in 2019-20. That’s largely as a consequence of Clark’s capability to seek out her teammates, regardless of her quantity capturing — her 37 p.c help fee ranks 25th within the nation, whereas her turnover fee of 18.2 p.c, within the 52nd percentile nationally, reveals a capability to keep away from dangerous selections properly past her years.

In what’s finest chalked as much as the distinction between the brashness of a Philly man in Auriemma and the Midwesterner inside Lisa Bluder, Clark’s coach, the bragging on behalf of her participant has a couple of extra caveats.

“Well, I think you could give an argument for that,” Bluder mentioned. “She’s certainly producing as she is one of the best freshmen in the country, and to be quite honest, I haven’t paid attention to a lot of the other ones. That’s just not on my radar right now. … So I’m really not in tune with what’s going on around the rest of the country with the rest of the freshmen, but I will just say just now obviously watching her, coaching her for the past few months, that she is certainly producing like she’s one of the best, if not the best, freshmen in the United States.”

Clark will not be one to draw back from the second. Here’s what she did towards in-state rival Iowa State:

That’s a Diana Taurasi transfer. That’s not a freshman transfer.

But it’s. That’s the extent Clark is enjoying at.

So does she suppose she’s the perfect freshman within the nation?

“I’m not going to comment on if I’m the best because there’s just so many talented ones and a lot I got to play with, for sure, that I know really well,” Clark mentioned. “And I think that’s great for women’s basketball as well. You want those good players, you want great freshmen, and I think that’s just great for the game and brings a lot of attention to the game for sure.”

Her extra holistic view of it’s maybe the perfect prescription for anybody within the Twittersphere who needs to make it about Clark or Bueckers, Johnson or Brink, Paopao or Van Lith. It’s all of them.

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