Washington’s Kelsey Plum became the leading scorer in NCAA-era women’s basketball this season, breaking Jackie Stiles’ 16-year-old record. That alone would be qualification for her to be named our espnW national player of the year.
But let’s be frank: For the first time in a few years, this award wasn’t a foregone conclusion before the season started. That was pretty much the case the last three years as Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart was the best player on the best team.
This season, unbeaten UConn remains the best team. And you could debate which of UConn’s tremendous trio — Napheesa Collier, Katie Lou Samuelson and Gabby Williams — is the best. (It might depend on which day you ask that question. Collier and Samuelson shared American Athletic Conference player of the year honors, with Williams getting defensive POY.) The debate might be even difficult next season when transfer Azurá Stevens is added into the mix.
SEC player of the year A’ja Wilson of South Carolina was another strong candidate espnW considered for the national award. Wilson — who, like the UConn trio, led her team to conference regular-season and tournament titles — also will be back next season.
But Plum won’t; she’ll head to the WNBA this summer, taking her spectacular array of scoring skills — and her level-headed, hard-working determination — with her. While every player mentioned thus far shares those same qualities, they are things that helped Plum take not just her game but her program to unexpected heights.
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