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Women’s college basketball stat leaders to watch across the nation

NaLyssa Smith. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

When I was growing up, my dad would always tease me for thinking with my heart rather than my head when it came to sports. I was the kind of kid who would pick my favorite team to win it all in a bracket challenge even if they were a 12-seed. My dad, meanwhile, made his living as a scientist, and in science, numbers are truth.

“Stats don’t lie,” he would always say. Now, I still think they do at times, but I’ve found a middle ground when it comes to head and heart. And if nothing else, unpacking team and player stats can be an enlightening exercise.

So, for this week’s women’s college basketball notebook, let’s check out some of the most notable stat leaders across the country.

Points per game

Jasmine Dickey, Delaware, 25.6

Since Elena Delle Donne graduated in 2013, the Blue Hens haven’t gotten much attention. Jasmine Dickey gives Delaware basketball fans a new reason to tune in. Through 10 games, she’s leading the country with a whopping 25.6 points per game.

That’s pretty crazy when you consider that, before the season started, her career-high in a game was 21. She beat that in the first game of the season, scoring 25 points on 7-for-16 shooting from the field and 10-for-12 from the free-throw line against Chestnut Hill. Then on Nov. 26, she set a new career-high that’s going to be hard to top, draining 48 points against Eastern Michigan. It’s been a stellar season for Dickey, who had her high school jersey retired at Catonsville High School on Saturday.

Rebounds per game

NaLyssa Smith, Baylor, 13.2

You may not have heard of Dickey, but I’m guessing NaLyssa Smith rings a bell. If anything, hers is a name you should get used to. Smith is projected to be the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft in April. Until then, she’s a dominant force for Baylor.

The 2021 All-American had a career-high 19 rebounds against Houston on Nov. 27 and hasn’t had a game with fewer than 10 since Baylor’s season-opener against Texas State, when she pulled down seven. Through 11 games, Smith has recorded an NCAA-leading 10 double-doubles and has had four contests with five or more offensive rebounds.

Assist-to-turnover ratio

Tommi Olson, Wyoming, 4.33

Here’s another name that probably isn’t on many non-Wyoming fans’ radars, so let’s put Olson’s 4.33 assist-to-turnover ratio in perspective. No. 2 on the list is UConn’s Paige Bueckers, who is renowned for her passing and decision-making. So, statistically speaking, Olson is 0.22 better than Bueckers.

The Wyoming senior is very much a pass-first point guard — she only averages 2.5 points per game — but she’s started all eight games for the 4-4 Cowgirls this season. In half of those games, Olson hasn’t committed a single turnover. And here’s a fun fact that has nothing to do with stats but is something my heart, not my head, told me to include: Olson’s mom, Elsa Olson, was a four-year player on the Wyoming basketball team from 1981-84.

Free throws made

Veronica Burton, Northwestern, 72

There’s not a coach in the country who doesn’t stress the importance of free-throw shooting. Free throws are literally free points — it’s in the name — so Burton’s 72 makes are impressive.

Even more impressive, though, is when you couple that number with her shooting percentage. The Northwestern senior is making 91.1 percent of her free throws, and so far this season, she’s given the Wildcats six extra points per game at the free-throw line. In a Dec. 2 win over Clemson, she had a season-high 15 attempts and made 14 of them. Northwestern won that game by 11 points.

Triple-doubles

Caitlin Clark, Iowa, 2

The fact that any player has more than one triple-double at this point in the season is a feat worthy of recognition. Clark’s first of the season — and second of her career — came in an 87-67 win over Southern on Nov. 17, when the Iowa sophomore had 16 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. She picked up the second against Big Ten opponent Michigan State on Dec. 5, finishing with 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in an 88-61 victory. The performance was especially important for the Hawkeyes, who were coming off of a 79-64 loss to Duke on Dec. 2, their first of the season. Clark’s stat-stuffing night helped them get back on track to open conference play.

Bonus stat

Michigan beats Baylor

This doesn’t exactly qualify as a stat, but it does include a number, so we are going to let it slide because there is no way I could write this notebook and not talk about Michigan. The No. 13 Wolverines upset No. 5 Baylor 74-68 in overtime on Sunday, avenging their Sweet 16 defeat to the Bears in last season’s NCAA Tournament.

Here is where the stats come in: Michigan had never defeated a top-five opponent in the history of the program. The Wolverines were 0-33 all-time, a stat that now reads 1-33. They did it with Naz Hillmon on the bench with five fouls for the overtime period, after the senior forward had 15 points and 10 rebounds during regulation. Senior guard Leigha Brown led Michigan with 25 points, five rebounds and four assists.

JWS’ Top 25 in Week 7

  1. South Carolina (11-0)
  2. Stanford (8-2)
  3. NC State (12-2)
  4. Arizona (10-0)
  5. Indiana (10-2)
  6. Louisville (11-1)
  7. Michigan (12-1)
  8. Iowa (7-2)
  9. Tennessee (9-1)
  10. UConn (6-3)
  11. Baylor (9-3)
  12. Maryland (9-3)
  13. Texas (8-1)
  14. Iowa State (12-1)
  15. South Florida (8-3)
  16. Ohio State (8-2)
  17. Duke (8-1)
  18. Georgia Tech (10-2)
  19. Georgia (11-1)
  20. BYU (9-1)
  21. Kentucky (8-3)
  22. Notre Dame (10-2)
  23. Oregon State (7-3)
  24. Florida Gulf Coast (9-1)
  25. LSU (9-1)

Eden Laase is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She previously ran her own high school sports website in Michigan after covering college hockey and interning at Sports Illustrated. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Reporter’s awkward exchange mars Caitlin Clark’s Fever intro

caitlin clark at indiana fever press conference on april 17
An uneasy interaction between Fever recruit Caitlin Clark and a local reporter has gone viral. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

An Indianapolis Star columnist is apologizing for an uneasy exchange with freshly minted Indiana Fever player Caitlin Clark on Wednesday.

At Clark's introductory press conference with the Fever, reporter Gregg Doyel introduced himself then abruptly formed a heart with his hands. Throughout her career with Iowa, Clark has often flashed heart hands at her family in the stands after finishing a game. The gesture has since become linked to the standout player.

But what ensued between Clark and Doyel was an incredibly awkward interaction, to say the least.

"Real quick, let me do this," Doyel said before making the heart sign at Clark. A composed Clark responded, "You like that?" After Doyel quipped, "I like that you're here," Clark dropped her eyes to the desk and said, "Yeah, I do that at my family after every game."

“OK, well start doing that to me and we’ll get along just fine,” Doyel said in response, to which Clark raised her eyebrows at the reporter, looking visibly uncomfortable. It wasn't the only unsettling comment Doyel made that day, as he later referred to Clark as "that" and "it" when directing a question to Fever coach Christie Sides. Sides appeared similarly thrown off by his choice of words.

As the clip made its way around social media, Doyel faced backlash from both sports fans and fellow members of the media. Much of the criticism centered around whether or not Doyel or another press representative would address an NBA player in the same manner. 

Doyel later apologized via a column entitled "Doyel: Caitlin Clark, I'm so sorry. On Wednesday I was part of the problem." published on the Indianapolis Star's website late Wednesday evening. Referring to his behavior at the earlier press conference, he called his comments "clumsy and awkward."

"Please know my heart (literally and figuratively) was well-intentioned. I will do better," he wrote, noting that he was "devastated to realize I’m part of the problem."

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

After a record-breaking Draft Night, WNBA roster cuts loom

2023 WNBA no. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston playing for the indiana fever
Despite going No. 1 overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Aliyah Boston had to fight hard to make it onto Indiana's roster. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 2024 WNBA Draft has officially concluded, leaving the newly minted rookie class facing a tough road ahead.

Only 144 roster slots are available throughout the league’s 12 teams, the reason why the players are sometimes referred to as the “144.” And Monday’s draft picks are set to join a large group of established players competing for those same roster spots, from seasoned veterans to young athletes determined to prove their value on the court.

Last year, just 15 of the league’s 36 draftees made it onto their drafting team's opening-day squad.

In reality, there are oftentimes fewer than 144 spots available, as not every team maxes out their roster. Per the league's CBA, each team roster must maintain a minimum standard of 11 players, but those lists can include players out with injuries or on other forms of leave. Players can also be assigned to short-term hardship contracts, something waived players must be prepared for at any point during the season.

Earlier this week, Laeticia Amihere — a 2022 national champion with South Carolina who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream — took to TikTok to provide some insight into the WNBA training camp process. 

"You can either get drafted on Draft Night, or you can get signed by a team," she said. "Once that happens, you go to training camp literally like two weeks later... Basically everybody's got to try out. There's 12 roster spots, and there's like 18 people at the at the trial."

@laeticiaamihere Replying to @dantavius.washington #wnba #draft ♬ original sound - Laeticia Amihere

Amihere also had an important point to make: Getting cut does not signify a player’s abilities. 

"If you get cut after training camp, that does not mean you're not good," she said. "That does not mean that player sucks, don't stop supporting that player. Literally, there's so many reasons somebody can get cut."

"If you guys look at the best players in the league, most of them have bounced around teams," she added. "And I promise you it is not a bad thing, it's just how the league is."

Things, however gradually, are changing. With Golden State's WNBA team scheduled to launch in time for the 2025 season, league expansion is just around the corner. On Monday, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league is aiming to grow to 16 teams by 2028. But by then, it might be too little too late for the generation of talent emerging from an increasingly competitive NCAA system.

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