Preseason award watch lists are beginning to trickle out which means college basketball is right around the corner. With UConn women’s basketball slated to be one of the best teams in the nation (again), the Huskies should be well-represented on these lists.
Here’s how the selection process works: 20 players are named to the preseason watch list. Then in mid-February, that is cut in half to 10 players. The five finalists are chosen in March and finally, the winner is announced during the Final Four in April.
Paige Bueckers: Nancy Lieberman Award
Expectations are already mounting for Paige Bueckers. UConn’s highly-touted freshman was named Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year during the conference’s media day and is now on the watch list for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the nation’s top point guard.
Bueckers’ inclusion on the list is a bit of a surprise considering she isn’t guaranteed to be UConn’s starting floor general at the start of the season. She’ll be competing with redshirt junior Evina Westbrook and fellow freshman Nika Muhl for minutes at the point.
Crystal Dangerfield was a finalist for the honor each of the last two seasons but lost out to Sabrina Ionescu both times. Four different Huskies has won the award seven times: Sue Bird (2000, 2001), Diana Taurasi (2003, 2004), Renee Montgomery (2009) and Moriah Jefferson (2015, 2016).
Christyn Williams: Ann Meyers Drysdale Award
For the second-straight year, Christyn Williams made the watch list for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, which goes to the best shooting guard in the country.
Despite a rocky sophomore season, Williams is expected to be one of UConn’s best player and is the favorite to be the team’s leading scorer. With Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker both gone, the offense will likely revolve around Williams. Though she struggled with the brighter spotlight last year, all signs point to the Arkansas native being more prepared to carry the load as a junior.
The award is in just its fourth year of existence and no UConn player has ever won it. Katie Lou Samuelson was a finalist in 2018 and made the watch list again the following season.
Aubrey Griffin, Evina Westbrook: Cheryl Miller Award
Two Huskies land on the watch list for the Cheryl Miller Award, the top small forward in DI basketball: Aubrey Griffin and Evina Westbrook.
Griffin is coming off a solid but inconsistent freshman year. She did most of her damage on defense and on the boards, where her athleticism made life difficult for opposing teams.
Westbrook’s inclusion is a bit more bizarre. By most accounts, the Tennessee transfer is either a point guard or at least a 2-guard — not a small forward. UConn’s roster lists her as a guard as well.
It’s reminiscent of Gabby Williams’ won the award in 2018 despite playing center for the Huskies. With the award in just its third year of existence, she’s the only UConn player to earn the hardware so far.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa: Lisa Leslie Award
Olivia Nelson-Ododa lands on the Lisa Leslie Award watch list for the second-straight, which goes to the best center in the country.
National Player of the Year watch lists
UConn landed four players on the Naismith watch list and the Wooden Award watch list: Paige Bueckers, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Evina Westbrook and Christyn Williams. For both lists, the Huskies lead all schools with four picks.
Meanwhile, the three juniors — Nelson-Ododa, Westbrook and Williams — made the watch list for the Wade Trophy.
Naismith High School Trophy watch list
Five UConn commits are on the watch list for the Naismith High School Trophy — which awards the best high school player in the country.
All four players in the Huskies’ 2021 class — Amari DeBerry, Caroline Ducharme, Azzi Fudd and Saylor Poffenbarger — along with 2022 commit Isuneh Brady made the list. 50 players are on the initial watch list, which will be whittled down until the winner is announced in March 2021.
Last year, Paige Bueckers won the trophy, one of 10 former or current UConn players to do so along with Christyn Williams, Megan Walker, Katie Lou Samuelson, Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Maya Moore (twice), Ann Strother, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Williams.
We’ll continue to update this page as more watch lists are announced.