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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

The Late Sub Podcast: Can the USWNT Medal?

The USWNT takes a silly face photo during their team Olympic photo shoot
The USWNT will begin their 2024 Olympic medal hunt on Thursday. (Brad Smith/ISI/Getty Images).

This week, JWS podcast host Claire Watkins discusses WNBA All-Star Weekend, which felt both like a celebration of the league's explosive growth over the past year and a way to set Team USA up for a particularly competitive Summer Olympics.

Later, Watkins previews the field for the upcoming Olympic soccer tournament, nominating her personal "Group of Death" and discussing whether or not the new-era USWNT could still reach medal contention despite their current rebuild under new head coach Emma Hayes.

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Team USA, Germany Play Pre-Olympic Exhibition Game in London

Team USA's 5x5 Basketball Team stands for the National Anthem before Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game
Team USA looks to rebound from Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game loss in an exhibition against Germany today. (Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

USA Basketball's 5x5 team will tip off in an exhibition against Germany in London this afternoon, getting in one last tune-up before the Summer Olympics begin.

The US is hunting an eighth-straight gold medal this year, with group stage play starting on July 29th.

Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to face Germany in pre-Olympic exhibition.
Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to take on Germany in London. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

US to use All-Star loss as fuel

Coming off the weekend's All-Star Game loss, the Olympians are ready to repeat history: They earned their Tokyo gold medal immediately after losing the first Team USA vs. Team WNBA All-Star Game back in 2021.

Breanna Stewart, who led Team USA with a 31-point, 10-rebound double-double on Saturday, said that the defeat "is going to help us tremendously. We don’t get that many game opportunities, [and now] we can go back and watch the film and focus on how we can continue to be better."

Today’s tilt against Germany will see the US work to lock in their defense, particularly in the paint. They'll also lean into their positional versatility before heading to Paris.

WNBA pro Satou Sabally leads Team Germany in today's pre-Olympic exhibition game against Team USA.
WNBA pro Satou Sabally helped Germany to their first-ever Olympic berth. (Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Olympic debutants Germany enter first US clash

The exhibition marks the first-ever US-Germany linkup. The German team will make their Olympic debut in Paris after decades of failing to qualify for major international competitions. Their sixth-place 2023 EuroBasket finish sent them into February’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where they punched their ticket to the 2024 Games.

Leading Germany's run was two-time WNBA All-Star Satou Sabally, who put up career-high averages in points, rebounds, assists, and steals with Dallas last season. Her 20-point, 11-rebound double-double was the difference-maker in Germany's must-win 73-71 Olympic qualifying victory over Brazil.

Other German players to watch include 2022 NY Liberty draft-pick — and Sabally's sister — Nyara Sabally, along with Liberty sharpshooter Leonie Fiebich.

Where to watch the Team USA vs. Germany game

Today’s exhibition tips off at 3 PM ET with live coverage on FS1.

1v1 With Kelley O’Hara: USWNT Star Jaedyn Shaw Is Expecting “Dubs All Around”

retired uswnt star kelley o'hara interviewing san diego wave and uswnt forward jaedyn shaw
'1v1' is back with Jaedyn Shaw joining Kelley O'Hara for a conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics. (Just Women's Sports)

In the latest episode of Just Women's Sports' 1v1 With Kelley O'Hara, San Diego Wave and USWNT star Jaedyn Shaw joins two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Kelley O'Hara for a one-on-one conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics.

We hear from the 19-year-old Wave FC phenom about her first impressions of new USWNT coach Emma Hayes, her experience with international competition at this point in her young career, and how she's preparing to take on the 2024 Summer Games.

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The 91st: Complete USWNT & Olympic Soccer Preview Featuring Jess McDonald

Logo for JWS USWNT Olympic show The 91st
The latest season of JWS' awarding-winning Olympics show 'The 91st' premieres today. (Just Women's Sports)

We're back! Hosts Jordan Angeli, Duda Pavao, and retired USWNT forward Jess McDonald deliver a full preview of this year's Olympic soccer tournament in Paris.

Watch for full analysis of USWNT manager Emma Hayes's coaching style, this team's shifting identity in this new USWNT era, and a projected starting XI for the team's group stage opener against Zambia. The 91st hosts also break down all three Olympic groups — including top players and teams to track throughout the tournament — plus give their predictions for the medal rounds and individual awards.

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