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Impact Awards: The best NCAA women’s basketball players by role

Monika Czinano has been an incredibly efficient shooter for No. 23 Iowa. (G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)

Every so often at this time of the year, we hear about a new watch list or semifinalist list coming out for a certain women’s college basketball award. Earlier this month, the Wooden Award Top 25 Watch List was released, and just last week, Her Hoop Stats narrowed the Hammon Award field to 15.

While debating the big-time awards is always fun (at least until things get too heated on Twitter), those awards tend to recognize more general accomplishments. Yes, there are defensive player of the year awards that focus on just one side of the floor, but what about shot blocker of the year or passer of the year?

In that spirit, we’ve rolled out the Impact Awards, inspired by Andy Dieckhoff’s Arthur Awards for Heat Check CBB on the men’s side. We’ve made a few tweaks to the formulas for our purposes, but the process is the same, so be sure to check out Andy’s piece for the details.

The short version: These awards are designed to honor players who do a terrific job at one specific role and, unlike the mainstream national awards which strongly rely on human opinion, every Impact Award is computed objectively based on a set of statistical criteria that represents its role. From each of those criteria, a score is calculated, and the top score determines the winner.

Here’s an overview of the awards and the stats associated with each (a plus sign in parentheses indicates that higher values in that category are desired; a minus sign indicates a lean toward lower values):

  • The Main Attraction – Usage (+), Offensive Rating (+), Effective FG Rate (+)
  • The Floor General – Minutes Played (+), Assist Rate (+), Turnover Rate (-)
  • The Artillery Gunner – 3-Point Percentage (+), 3PA/40 (+)
  • The Brick Wall – Block Rate (+), Defensive Win Shares (+), Fouls Committed/40 (-)
  • The Swiss Army Knife – 2-Pointer% (+), 3-Pointer% (+), Assist% (+), Turnover% (-), Off. Rebound% (+), Def. Rebound% (+), Block% (+), Steal (+)
  • The Junkyard Dog – Off. Rebound Rate (+), Def. Rebound Rate (+)
  • The Cutpurse – Steal Rate (+), Fouls Committed/40 (-)
  • The Unicorn – Block Rate (+), 3-Pointers Made (+), Assist Rate (+)
  • The Secret Weapon – Minutes Played (-), Off. Rating (+), True Shooting % (+)

The Main Attraction: Monika Czinano, Iowa


There’s a certain irony about the winner of the Main Attraction being what most would consider the second attraction on her own team, but hey, blame the math. The sidekick to Caitlin Clark for the last season and a half, Czinano would certainly be the No. 1 option on over 300 teams in the country. The prolific senior is shooting over 65 percent from the field for the third straight season and is doing so on enough volume to average over 20 points per game. (And how about a special shoutout to the Big Ten for having three of the five players on this list?)

The Floor General: Kayla Padilla, Penn


Interestingly, not everyone on this list is a point guard — some players like Rhyne Howard simply excel at both passing and protecting the ball. But it’s fitting that the winner is not only a point guard, but one of the best point guards in the Ivy League. Padilla already has some hardware in her trophy case after winning the 2020 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and now she can add another award that’s almost as prestigious.

The Artillery Gunner: Taylor Robertson, Oklahoma


In a surprise to absolutely no one, the Artillery Gunner Award goes to the Big 12’s career 3-point leader. Taylor Robertson has arguably been the best shooter in the country ever since she set foot on Oklahoma’s campus. Another Taylor is the only other player to come anywhere close, as Ohio State’s Mikesell has been lethal from deep this season.

The Brick Wall: Ayoka Lee, Kansas State


Chalk up another one for Big 12 royalty. The superstar junior is second in the country in scoring (and is now the women’s NCAA Division I record-holder for most points in a game), but it’s her rim protection and defense that land her at the top of this leaderboard. Lee’s 3.5 blocks per game and 2.7 Defensive Win Shares each rank third in Division I, which is the biggest reason why Kansas State is one of just six teams in the top 15 percent in both preventing shot attempts at the rim and field-goal percentage allowed at the rim (per CBB Analytics).

The Swiss Army Knife: Aliyah Boston, South Carolina


If there’s anyone who still views Boston as a one-dimensional post scorer, this should put an end to that conversation. The national Player of the Year candidate has upped her rebounding, passing and 3-point efficiency while cutting down on her turnovers in Year 3, and she’s also seeing career-high usage. This won’t be the last time you see her name on an awards list in 2022.

The Junkyard Dog: Josie Williams, Utah Valley


DePaul’s Aneesah Morrow is the most recognizable name here, but it’s Utah Valley’s Josie Williams who earns the top spot. All five players on this list can rebound with the best of them, but Williams takes the cake by virtue of being the only one to do it for over 30 minutes a game. Williams also deserves credit for her year-over-year improvement: This is the third straight season in which she has increased her rebounding average by over two rebounds per game.

The Cutpurse: Mackenzie DeWees, Quinnipiac


When someone beats out Veronica Burton in anything having to do with steals, you know they are an elite thief. Mackenzie DeWees of Quinnipiac has more steals than anyone in the country. Not only does she top Burton in steal rate, she fouls less often as well. If you’re careless with the ball around her, get ready for a layup on the other end.

The Unicorn: Addie Budnik, Richmond


When Dieckhoff’s criteria for this award yielded only two players, I considered altering the criteria to match the other awards with a top five. Then I remembered what “unicorn” means — we use that word precisely because these players are so rare. So while Addie Budnik of Richmond is the winner, North Florida’s Jazz Bond deserves a silver for simply showing up on the board.

The Secret Weapon: Liz Shean, Boston University


The last of our awards was created to give some love to those players who come off the bench and change the complexion of the game. No one does that more than Liz Shean of Boston University, who in 15 bench minutes per game is posting a usage rate and true shooting percentage on par with 2018-19 Teaira McCowan. Congratulations, Liz — you’re not a secret anymore!

*Unless otherwise noted, all stats were compiled from Her Hoop Stats for Division I competition only and are current through all games played on Jan. 22.

Calvin Wetzel is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering basketball and betting. He also contributes to Her Hoop Stats and Bet Her. Follow him on Twitter at @cwetzel31.