The postseason is less than one month away, and with it comes a slew of awards, including Freshman of the Year.
DePaul forward Aneesah Morrow won the award last year after a breakout season. In 2020-21, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark of Iowa and UConn’s Paige Bueckers were co-recipients. This year’s recipient will join some elite recent company.
Just Women’s Sports breaks down the top six candidates for 2023 Freshman of the Year.
There have been some great freshman performances so far this season, but it’s hard for many of them to truly compare with Florida State’s 5-foot-8 guard. Not only is Latson leading the freshman class in scoring, she’s also No. 8 among all players in the country with 21.9 points per game. She also contributes 4.5 rebounds and three assists per game, while shooting 46 percent from the field. She’s led Florida State to a No. 19 ranking and wins over ranked ACC teams Duke, NC State and North Carolina.
Latson is a prolific scorer, but her best attribute this season has been consistency. The guard has scored fewer than 10 points just once this season, while also hitting the 30-point mark six times in 27 games. Highlights include 31 points in an overtime victory over NC State and 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals in Florida State’s upset of UNC.
Several players have cases for Freshman of the Year, but none mean as much to their team as Latson does to Florida State. With less than a month left in the regular season, she is the frontrunner for the award.
The No. 2 recruit in the country came to UCLA with a lot of hype and has handled it with poise. Rice knows she isn’t the main option for the Bruins (that mantle belongs to senior guard Charisma Osborne), but she plays her secondary role in a positive way, doing a bit of everything for her team. Rice is averaging 11.5 points per game, 4.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and a team-high 1.3 steals.
Kiki Rice. That's it, that's the tweet.📺: Pac-12 Networks📲: https://t.co/FONoGTkJ32 #GoBruins | @kiki_rice0 pic.twitter.com/bhBCKAYiMq— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) February 12, 2023
Kiki Rice. That's it, that's the tweet.📺: Pac-12 Networks📲: https://t.co/FONoGTkJ32 #GoBruins | @kiki_rice0 pic.twitter.com/bhBCKAYiMq
Rice has been a starter for UCLA since Game 1 this season, and she adjusted to the college game seamlessly. On Nov. 20, against a long, athletic Tennessee squad, Rice responded with 15 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals to help her team secure an upset win. The guard also held her own in a close contest with South Carolina, recording 16 points and five rebounds.
Despite coming in as a highly-touted recruit, McMahon likely wasn’t expecting to play such a big role this season on a stacked Ohio State team. But injuries to Jacy Sheldon and Madison Greene meant the Buckeyes didn’t have time to ease McMahon into a bigger role. She had to take it right away, and the forward has delivered. In 26.4 minutes per game, McMahon is averaging 14 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
Q3 | @cotiemcmahon23 splits the defenders for an old-fashioned three-point play!#GoBucks pic.twitter.com/VnlPQGJlky— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) February 14, 2023
Q3 | @cotiemcmahon23 splits the defenders for an old-fashioned three-point play!#GoBucks pic.twitter.com/VnlPQGJlky
The forward has done everything Ohio State has asked of her while adding a new element to their offense. She brings physicality to the court and is able to drive and create, serving as a good complement to shooters like Taylor Mikesell and post players like Rebeka Mikulasikova. Even in games where Ohio State has struggled, McMahon has often been a bright spot. She held her own in losses to top opponents, Iowa and Indiana, recording 21 points in each contest.
Oregon has had a steep decline in recent weeks, dropping 10 of their last 14 games after starting the season 10-1 and climbing into the Top 25. But while the Ducks have had trouble in a difficult Pac-12 conference, Vanslooten has not. She’s second on the team in scoring with 14.5 points and second in rebounds with 6.2 per contest. The 6-3 forward has produced those numbers in a league with experienced post players defending her.
VanSlooten doesn’t shy away from top competition, recording a career-high 29 points on Dec. 21 in a loss to then-No. 3 Ohio State, while also grabbing nine rebounds for a near-double-double. Other highlights include 17 points and 11 boards against UNC, and 17 points and eight rebounds against UCLA.
When LSU plays, eyes are on the duo of Angel Reese and Alexis Morris, but Johnson has developed into a reliable third option for the Tigers. She’s averaging 12.5 points per game and is second on the team in rebounding with 6.3 per game, despite being just 5-10. She’s also blocking one shot per game, which speaks to the energy, effort and athleticism she brings to the court. Johnson even has three double-doubles this season on points and rebounds.
Johnson showed her variety of skills in a win over UAB on Nov. 26, finishing with 19 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three steals. The guard was then crucial in a close 79-76 victory over Arkansas on Jan. 19, when she contributed 19 points and six rebounds. (Unrelated to the award debate: Johnson also has world-class talent off the court.)
Like VanSlooten of Oregon, Littlepage-Buggs will have a tough time winning this award because of her team’s struggles. But also like Vanslooten, Littlepage-Buggs has been a consistent bright spot for her team. The 6-1 forward is averaging a near-double-double with 9.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest. She’s also efficient in her attempts, shooting 51.3 percent from the field.
Littlepage-Buggs has clearly impressed coach Nicki Collen, who has called on the talented freshman to start in 19 of her team’s 24 games. Even when she doesn’t start, Littlepage-Buggs is a fixture on the court for the Bears, playing 24.8 minutes per contest. In a recent win over a tough Kansas squad, she played 30 minutes off the bench and finished with 12 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.