Elizabeth Kitley delivered big on Sunday, helping No. 13 Virginia Tech upset previously undefeated No. 3 NC State with a last-second layup.

The layup came off of a cross-court inbound pass from Cayla King, leaving less than a second left for NC State to respond and avoid the upset. But the Wolfpack were unable to deny the Hokies of their victory.

Kitley finished with 27 points for Virginia Tech, who rallied from a 13-point deficit in the second half for their seventh-straight win. It was also their 19th straight win at home.

“I think we’ve gone over that play multiple times in practice,” Georgia Amoore said, calling the play “Old Faithful.” “And you know, Cayla has great vision and great accuracy with that pass, and I knew that it’s worked before. So, I was very, very confident.”

“Coach [Kenny] Brooks is really good in those situations, and he had something in his back pocket,” Kitley said. “Cayla had an absolute dime of a pass and it ended up working out for us.”

The Hokies’ coach said the team “needed” the win after two early season losses to ranked opponents.

“We just kind of like dug in and said, ‘Hey, we’re not trying to prove anybody wrong,” Brooks said. “We’re just going to continue to prove ourselves right,’ and that worked for us last year, and it continues to work for us.”

“It came down to just willing yourself to win,” he added. “A game like that, a win like that, is like feeding a monster because I think people are going to continue to come back.”

For the Wolfpack, it was their first loss this season. It also leaves just three undefeated teams left in women’s college basketball: No. 1 South Carolina, No. 2 UCLA and No. 6 Baylor.

“I think the heartbreaking thing is we have a lot of respect for their program, and you’re two seconds away from beating them on the road,” NC State coach Wes Moore said. “That’s heartbreaking. As a coach, you think I could have done something different, and we’d have won that game.”

Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese headline the watchlists for end-of-season Player of the Year awards.

The Iowa guard and LSU forward are coming off career seasons, as Clark swept the national awards but Reese and the Tigers beat the Hawkeyes in the national championship game. Both are among the front-runners for the Naismith Trophy and the Wade Trophy, two of the most prestigious individual honors in women’s college basketball.

The watchlist for the Naismith Women’s Player of the Year award includes 50 names. While Clark is the lone representative for Iowa, LSU leads all schools with four players: Reese, Flau’jae Johnson, Aneesah Morrow and Hailey Van Lith.

UConn has three players on the list in Paige Bueckers, Aaliyah Edwards and Azzi Fudd. Other notable names include Stanford’s Cameron Brink, South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso, Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes and Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson.

The watchlist for the Wade Trophy, presented by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, includes just 16 players, listed below. LSU leads with three, and UConn and Virginia Tech have two each.

Wade Trophy: 2023-24 preseason watchlist

  • Georgia Amoore, Virginia Tech
  • Cameron Brink, Stanford
  • Paige Bueckers, UConn
  • Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina
  • Caitlin Clark, Iowa
  • Aaliyah Edwards, UConn
  • Rori Harmon, Texas
  • Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana
  • Rickea Jackson, Tennessee
  • Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech
  • Ta’Niya Latson, Florida State
  • Olivia Miles, Notre Dame
  • Aneesah Morrow, LSU
  • Alissa Pili, Utah
  • Angel Reese, LSU
  • Hailey Van Lith, LSU

Paige Bueckers is back and ready to prove herself.

On Tuesday, Bueckers was named to an Associated Press preseason All-American, a sign of what people expect out of the UConn basketball star as she returns to the court for the first time in almost a year and a half.

“To still have people believe in me, believe what I can do on the court, it means a lot,” Bueckers said at the Big East media day. “And just coming back from injury, sort of having that confidence, having other people still have confidence in me it means a lot. But at the end of the day, like preseason awards don’t really matter at all. You got to go out there and prove it.”

Having Bueckers back is big for the Huskies, who are looking to compete with a fully healthy roster this season. Bueckers, Azzi Fudd and Ice Brady all are returning from injuries.

“The difference between having Paige and not having Paige is, you know, your chances of competing for a national championship just went up exponentially,” head coach Geno Auriemma said, noting that this is the best he’s seen Bueckers look – even taking into account her National Player of the Year season as a freshman in 2021.

“Paige is a better player now than she was when she was national player of the year,” he said. “She’s bigger. She’s stronger. She’s quicker. She just sees things differently now than she did when she was a kid.”

Bueckers joins an AP All-America list headlined by Iowa star Caitlin Clark, who was once again a unanimous selection, and LSU star Angel Reese. Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley, Stanford’s Cameron Brink and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes rounded out the squad.

Holmes becomes the first preseason All-American in Indiana history, while Clark is now a three-time preseason All-American. All six players have been named end-of-season AP All-Americans in recent years, with Clark, Reese and Holmes making the first team at the end of the 2022-23 season.

During the 2023 WNBA Draft on Monday night, the Washington Mystics selected Stephanie Soares with the fourth pick before promptly trading her to the Dallas Wings. In return, the Mystics received picks in the 2024 and 2025 drafts.

Soares was a sought-after prospect in this year’s draft — 6-foot-6 forward who can shoot 3-pointers is hard to come by. But the Mystics were willing to deal her because of the strength of the next two WNBA draft classes.

With a fifth year of NCAA eligibility still on the table for players as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, several of the top upcoming prospects could declare for next year’s draft or the 2025 draft. Between the two, WNBA teams will have a deep group of prospects to choose from. Here are the top 10 in those classes.

1. Caitlin Clark, G, Iowa

The Iowa guard is one of the most well-rounded prospects we’ve seen in a long time. Her scoring, passing and rebounding skills make her a triple-double threat every game and could set her up to be the No. 1 draft pick in 2024 or 2025 (depending on when she declares). Clark is known for her scoring ability — she can shoot from almost anywhere — but it’s her passing ability, both in the halfcourt and on the fastbreak, that makes the Iowa star a potential No. 1 pick.

2. Cameron Brink, F, Stanford

Brink is the kind of player that will have WNBA coaches and executives salivating. A big with guard skills is one of the most coveted player types as the WNBA continues to evolve into a positionless league. Brink is already a top shot-blocker and scorer on the inside. If she continues to develop her 3-point shot, the Stanford forward will become even more sought after at the next level.

Angel Reese was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player after leading LSU to the NCAA title. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

3. Angel Reese, F, LSU

The reigning Final Four Most Outstanding Player arrived at Maryland in 2020 as the top-ranked wing in the country. Over the next two years, she played mostly as a post for the Terrapins. Now at LSU, she does a bit of both. Reese’s versatility makes her a player who can fit on any roster, and she’s polished enough to make an immediate impact. Add in her elite rebounding skills, and Reese can expect to hear her name called early on draft night.

4. Olivia Miles, G, Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s point guard is known for her creativity on the court. From facilitating to manufacturing opportunities for herself, it’s hard to predict what Miles will do next. And when it comes to setting up her teammates, there is no one better at understanding tendencies and putting players in positions to score. An injury stopped her from playing in the NCAA Tournament, but I’ve seen enough of Miles to know she’s a future WNBA star.

5. Rickea Jackson, F, Tennessee

Jackson was slated to be a top draft pick this year before deciding to come back to Tennessee for a fifth season. She played her first three years at Mississippi State under three different coaches, so the stability of having coach Kellie Harper for two seasons at Tennessee will be great for Jackson’s development. But even without that, she’s a promising prospect. Jackson is a proven scorer who is strong around the basket and can attack off the bounce. Her 6-2 frame is ideal for the WNBA and will be an asset on defense as well.

Paige Bueckers missed the entire 2022-23 season for UConn after tearing her ACL. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

6. Paige Bueckers, G, UConn

While a healthy Bueckers could be a No. 1 draft pick, her injuries over the last two seasons are cause for concern. Still, Bueckers was named Player of the Year as a freshman for a reason. She’s been pro-ready since she set foot on UConn’s campus. If she can put together a full season without an injury, the guard will be a top pick. And even if she doesn’t, Bueckers is so skilled that WNBA executives will likely take the risk anyway.

7. Aaliyah Edwards, F, UConn

As injuries plagued UConn this season, Edwards proved she can be the centerpiece of a team. No matter who else was on the court, Edwards performed. Like Reese, she was tabbed as a wing coming into college, so she is able to attack off the bounce and defend on the perimeter. Another versatile prospect, Edwards will be a good get for any team.

8. Elizabeth Kitley, C, Virginia Tech

Kitley could have been a first-round draft pick this season if she didn’t elect to come back to Virginia Tech for a fifth year. Kitley has improved every season, winning ACC Player of the Year in both 2022 and 2023. Her body control on both ends of the floor makes her difficult to guard and difficult to score over. At 6-6, she has the ability to extend to the free-throw line, and her shooting stroke can likely be developed beyond the arc.

Kamilla Cardoso has all the tools to thrive in the WNBA. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

9. Kamilla Cardoso, C, South Carolina

Cardoso has spent the last two seasons coming off the bench behind this year’s No. 1 pick, Aliyah Boston, but make no mistake, she would be starting on any other team. On several occasions this year, it was Cardoso who made the difference for the Gamecocks when teams tried different defenses to slow them down. She’s 6-7 with good hands, making post-entry passes easy for her teammates. And on the other end of the floor, Cardoso is a skilled shot blocker.

10. Jacy Sheldon, G, Ohio State

Ohio State’s point guard missed most of the year due to injury, but an impressive March Madness improved her draft stock so much that Sheldon could have been a 2023 top-five pick if she hadn’t opted to return for a fifth year. She has the ability to be the best offensive and defensive player on the court in any given game. Sheldon also possesses a toughness that WNBA teams will like.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

The 2023 WNBA draft is here, but some big-name prospects are not.

While many of the brightest stars in college basketball having declared for the draft, others have opted to return for another year, taking advantage of the extra year of COVID-19 eligibility. Just Women’s Sports takes a look at some of those who are running it back.

Rickea Jackson, Tennessee

Rickea Jackson became the first domino to fall in the list of players opting out of the 2023 draft, announcing her intention to return to the Vols before the NCAA Tournament even began.

Before her decision, she was projected as the No. 3 overall pick by Just Women’s Sports analyst Rachel Galligan, making her choice all the more surprising. But her return is big for Tennessee, as the first-team All-SEC selection led the team with 19.6 points per game while adding 6.2 rebounds per game.

Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech

Kitley announced her decision to return in the middle of the national championship game, but it still counted as headline news for Virginia Tech fans.

A former five-star recruit and two-time ACC Player of the Year, Kitley led the Hokies in points, rebounds and blocks per game last season as Virginia Tech made its Final Four run. She’s also the all-time leading scorer in program history.

Georgia Amoore, Virginia Tech

Georgia Amoore is another Virginia Tech senior who opted to run it back, meaning that three of the Hokies’ starting five players will take the court together next season.

Amoore had a standout regular season, averaging 16.1 points and 5.1 assists while leading the team to the ACC tournament title. She’s better against better opponents, making her decision to stay a good sign for the Hokies.

Charisma Osborne, UCLA

While Charisma Osborne opted into the 2023 WNBA draft, she later withdrew her name, instead electing to use her extra year of eligibility. As reported by the New York Times, she even was told by a WNBA coach that the decision to remain an extra year could be a smart move.

Osborne will provide a boost for UCLA, as she has averaged 15.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game throughout her first four years with the Bruins. She also helped the team to a Sweet 16 appearance this year, and will link up with freshman point guard Kiki Rice next year.

Sedona Prince, TCU

Sedona Prince is another player who withdrew her name from WNBA draft consideration. Prince missed their redshirt senior season with an elbow injury and had planned to exhaust their remaining NCAA eligibility to pursue a professional career.

But those plans have changed, as Prince withdrew their name from the draft. She also entered her name into the transfer portal and is headed to TCU with two years of eligibility remaining.

Ashley Owusu, transfer portal

Despite reports that she might enter the WNBA draft, Virginia Tech shooting guard Ashley Owusu has opted to remain in the NCAA. But the former Maryland standout is once again in the transfer portal after spending the second half of the season on the Hokies’ bench.

Cameron Brink, Stanford

There was never a question about whether or not Cameron Brink would return for her senior season at Stanford, despite the fact that she is eligible for the 2023 WNBA draft by a single day. As Brink told reporters last October, college is “fun.”

“Why not stay?” she asked. “I think I want to stay just because I want to just continue to be a kid. Finish my degree in four years, not rush myself.”

Reaching the first Final Four in school history required buy-in at Virginia Tech. With a coach like Kenny Brooks, that wasn’t a hard sell.

“It means everything. It’s exactly what I came for, honestly,” senior guard Kayana Traylor said after Monday’s Elite Eight win over Ohio State. “We just really bought into what Coach Brooks was already building here, to be honest, as far as culture and everything like that and just led us here.”

Senior forward D’Asia Gregg echoed those sentiments, saying that she “wanted to be a part of something that’s big.”

“I saw what he was building. I just bought into the program,” Gregg said, noting that while she didn’t play her first year, she didn’t let that deter her. “I just kept my head down, just kept working, didn’t let that discourage me. It just pushed me to go harder and to play for my teammates.”

Brooks came to Virginia Tech in 2016. In his seventh season, he has turned the program into a powerhouse.

“The places that he’s taken [the program] compared to where it was at when he inherited it is just insane,” star senior center Elizabeth Kitley said. “I’m just so happy to be a part of that and to be able to witness all the hard work that he puts into us and the coaching staff and everything.

“He just has crafted everything and stuck by his vision and what he wanted no matter what other people had to say or whatever and I think that’s so valuable in a leader and we wouldn’t be where we are without that mindset from him.”

The decision to leave James Madison, Brooks’ alma mater and the team he coached from 2003 to 2016, was difficult. But he knew he needed to see what he could do “against the best,” he said.

And in the seven seasons since he arrived in Blacksburg, Brooks has brought the Hokies to new heights.

The love that fans and players have for the coach is palpable, as evidenced by the cheers for Brooks as he cut down the net. He’s also received support from fellow coaches, including Dawn Staley, as one of the few Black men coaching in the women’s game.

“When Dawn said that, it was everything. It meant everything because there’s some rhetoric out there that men don’t belong,” Brooks said. “I think we fought so hard to get to this point where we’re not talking about race, we’re not talking about gender, and when people won’t give you an opportunity because of your race, I don’t think that we’ve gotten where we need to get to.

“So I did hear that and when I heard it, I mean, I wanted to stand up and applaud her because she is the face of women’s basketball right now. For her to be able to say that, it gives me credence, it gives me credibility that I can echo the same sentiment because I do think — and eventually what we want to get to in a women’s game is to get the best people.”

Virginia Tech might have a “No. 1” next to its name for the 2023 NCAA women’s basketball tournament, but junior guard Georgia Amoore doesn’t think the Hokies have been getting enough love.

“I didn’t see a lot of positive stuff about us on social media, so that was a huge factor to it,” Amoore told ESPN’s Holly Rowe after scoring a career-high 29 points in Virginia Tech’s 73-64 win over Tennessee in the Sweet 16.

Head coach Kenny Brooks shared a similar sentiment ahead of his team’s Sweet 16 matchup. When asked how Virginia Tech was handling its status as the “favorite” against a storied program like Tennessee, he replied, “Favored by who? If you listen to the analysts, nobody’s favoring us.”

Brooks continued, calling out ESPN: “Heck, they gave us Andraya Carter, who is a Tennessee grad. She’s doing the game. And Rebecca Lobo is lurking around. She’s a UConn grad. So, no one’s picking us.”

Granted, it’s been a breakthrough season for Virginia Tech, which won its first ACC championship to earn a No. 1 seed in the 2023 NCAA tournament, another first. On Monday night, the Hokies will play in the Elite Eight, the deepest NCAA tournament run in program history. They tip off against No. 3 Ohio State at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Brooks has described his players as basketball junkies who read and watch as much about the sport as they can — even when those stories aren’t about them.

“I think they all saw the article that was on ESPN, is this the next chapter of Tennessee and UConn? They didn’t have to say a whole lot, but it just really motivated them and they understand that they belong as well,” Brooks said. “We might not have as much history as those programs, but these kids are helping to build our history with our program.”

“We definitely see it,” senior Elizabeth “Liz” Kitley said of the media’s blindspot. “We talk about it amongst ourselves in a motivating manner and like, if anything, it just fuels us.”

Even though the Virginia Tech might not have the same decorated history as UConn or Tennessee — and the recognition that comes with it — the Hokies understand that this season’s success could be the beginning of a new women’s basketball dynasty.

“They do know the magnitude of what a win would do for our program,” Brooks said.

“If you listen to Liz or Georgia or Cayla King, who’s been with me since the inception of us trying to turn this program around, I want it so bad for them, but they want it so bad for me. We won an ACC championship, and they’re like, ‘I’m so happy for you.’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean happy for me?'”

Caitlin Clark headlined the list of four Naismith Player of the Year finalists released Tuesday, but one notable name was missing.

Iowa’s star junior is joined as a finalist by South Carolina senior Aliyah Boston, as well as Virginia Tech senior Elizabeth Kitley and Villanova senior Maddy Siegrist. Boston, who won the award last season, has led the Gamecocks to an undefeated record, while Siegrist leads the NCAA in scoring with 29.1 points per game.

Yet while all of these players have shined for their teams, the absence of LSU sophomore Angel Reese from their company was no less glaring.

Reese averages 23.8 points per game (fifth in Division I) and 15.7 rebounds per game (second in Division I) as a veritable double-double machine, with 27 in the regular season. She broke Sylvia Fowles’ program record for consecutive double-doubles in her first season at LSU after transferring from Maryland.

While Reese did make the list of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith award, she did not make the cut as a finalist. Neither did she make the list of semifinalists for the John R. Wooden Award, though LSU later revealed the sophomore is ineligible for that award as she does not meet all of the criteria.

Among the four finalists, Clark averages 8.6 assists per game, which puts her first in the NCAA in that category. She also ranks first in 3-pointers per game (3.38) and triple-doubles (four this season) and third in points per game (26.8). The Iowa guard is the only player in the country to average more than 20 points, five assists and five rebounds per game.

Boston likely is Clark’s greatest competition across the Player of the Year races. The South Carolina center is ranked in the top five in the country in both offensive and defensive player rating. Even in what would be considered a down year by her high standards, Boston is averaging 13.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

Out of Villanova, Siegrist has not scored less than 21 points in any game this season. In seven games, she has scored 35 points or more, and she scored a career-high 50 in a February game against Seton Hall.

For Virginia Tech, Kitley won the ACC Player of the Year award for the second consecutive season. The 6-6 center is averaging 18.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game for the Hokies, and she also became the program’s all-time leading scorer.