Editor’s Note: To close out the year, we are recognizing our best stories of 2022. This is the fourth in that series, originally published on March 17. The other stories feature the NWSL’s journey to a historic CBA, Naomi Girma’s rise to stardom and the Indiana Fever’s new era.

Indiana and basketball have been intertwined from the beginning. James Naismith, the man who created the sport, even famously said: “While the game was invented in Massachusetts, basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport.”

Boys and girls alike from Indiana grow up with basketball in their blood.

“I don’t know anyone who didn’t play basketball,” said current Indiana player Grace Waggoner.

But as men’s basketball at Indiana rose to national prominence, first with Branch McCracken and then with Bob Knight, the women’s program remained in the shadows during the NCAA era, barring one incredible season in 1983.

It wasn’t for a lack of interest from young girls across the state. Amy Metheny, IU’s point guard in ‘83, grew up wanting to play for Knight, but would have settled for anyone if it meant a chance to be a Hoosier. Current women’s coach and former Purdue player Teri Moren had her room painted red and white growing up.

And yet for 38 years, the program was dormant.

Then in 2021, the IU women made it to the Elite Eight for the first time. Suddenly, Indiana women’s basketball was alive again.


In 1975-76, three years before Melissa Leckie set foot on Indiana’s campus, the Hoosiers men’s basketball team made history, going 32-0 and defeating Michigan for the national title.

Leckie watched the championship game at her home in Saginaw, Mich. Her parents and grandfather all went to Michigan, so when they turned on the game, the predominant rooting interest was clear. But as mom, dad and grandpa yelled for the Wolverines, Leckie quietly cheered for the Hoosiers.

“I had always been a U of M fan,” she said. “But when Indiana and Bobby Knight were playing Johnny Orr and Michigan, inside I was rooting for Indiana, and I have no idea why.”

In 1979, when the high school senior visited the campus in Bloomington, she understood. Leckie was destined to be a Hoosier.

So was her future teammate, Amy Metheny. These days, you can see Metheny’s face in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, celebrating her time at Southport High School in Indianapolis. But back then, she was fighting for a spot on IU’s roster.

Metheny was 5-foot-6, and IU at the time was only interested in recruiting taller players. When she realized Old Dominion, her other choice of school, was too far away for her parents to be able to see her play, she decided to walk on at Indiana.

At first, it did not go as planned. In her freshman year, Metheny made it to the final cuts, got strep throat, and did not make the squad. The next year, an injury got in the way.

“Long story short, it was a long journey,” Metheny said.

Metheny was relentless in her pursuit of being the Hoosiers’ point guard — think the movie “Rudy,” but with a protagonist who’s an actual talent.

“I was determined,” she said. “I went into the coaches’ office and said, ‘What do I need to do?’ I’m sure she was wondering, like, ‘Why are you still around?'”

The 1982-83 Indiana women's basketball team, the first to win a Big Ten regular season title. (Indiana University Archives)

But Metheny’s determination paid off, and in 1983 when the team won the Big Ten regular season title, she led the league in assists.

Players like Rachelle Bostic, who ranks seventh on IU’s all-time scoring list (1,827 points), contributed to that milestone. Bostic, like Leckie, hails from Michigan. The No. 3-ranked prospect in the state, she was a highly touted recruit behind Paula and Pamela McGee — “I always said I should be No. 2 because they’re twins,” Bostic joked about the duo, who were in fact a package deal.

The three of them talked on the phone often about where they wanted to play college ball. Eventually, the McGees decided on USC, but that was too far from home for Bostic.

She toured Indiana and met another prospective player, Denise Jackson, who was visiting from Florida. They were both intrigued by the program, but the selling point came from the men’s coach. Knight was already a basketball legend, so when he talked to them about coming to IU, it didn’t take much convincing.

“He said, ‘If you guys are half as good as they say you are, you can bring a lot to this program,’” Bostic said.

They were, and they did.

The 1983 season was historic for the Hoosiers, one the players still talk about today. Every year, the accomplishment becomes more and more magnificent in their personal lore.

“By the time we get to our 50th anniversary, we will have won the 1983 national title,” Leckie said with a laugh. “It will just be created amongst all of us.”

In reality, the team won the Big Ten and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament — a feat they’ve since only accomplished two other times (2016 and 2021). But to start the season, the Hoosiers weren’t exactly world-beaters.

After three straight losses to begin the season, they went 3-6 in non-conference play and opened their Big Ten schedule with a 16-point loss to Ohio State.

By that point, the players had seen enough.

“We just got together and said, ‘We are going to do something. This is the year to do it,’” Bostic said. “And we just started winning.”

Rachelle "Boz" Bostic is one of the most prolific scorers in IU women's basketball history. (Indiana University Archives)

IU went 15-2 the rest of the way, topping Ohio State 62-56 to end the year. To the players, the magical run was the start of something at IU. But in the years that followed, a confusing string of coaching hires, losing seasons, and, at times, misguided recruiting kept Indiana from winning a second Big Ten regular season title.

Players like Leckie, Metheny and Bostic looked at their beloved program and thought, “What is going on?”

“It was disappointing because we worked so hard to get it to that level,” Bostic said. “And you would hope anything after would maintain that, not let it drop below that.”

When Bostic graduated, she had no idea that Indiana basketball would falter. And she also didn’t know that she’d already met the woman who would build it back up again.

She just wasn’t a woman quite yet. Back then, she was in her early teens, attending camps at IU with Bostic as her camp counselor. Bostic remembers her work ethic and determination. “She didn’t let anything stop her,” she said.

That girl, of course, was Teri Moren.

The in-between years

Maryalyce Jeremiah, the coach of the ‘83 team, stayed on for two more seasons before leaving for a job at Cal State Fullerton. The Hoosiers worked their way through six coaches, who went a combined 438-424, before hiring Moren in 2014.

During the late ‘80s and ‘90s, women’s basketball went through a period of massive growth. Programs like Tennessee, UConn and even fellow Indiana institution Notre Dame were laying the groundwork to become powerhouses in the game.

During that process, the Hoosiers fell behind. And once they did, it took decades for them to return.

Just a year after the Big Ten title season, Nancy Eksten (then Cowan) graduated from Crown Point High School. She was the runner-up for Indiana’s Miss Basketball Award, a high school All-American and a longtime IU fan.

Eksten was the seventh of eight kids in her family, and all of them went to Indiana. But when her time came, the Hoosiers didn’t pick up the phone to recruit her, so Eksten ended up at Kentucky. It was close to home and a nationally ranked program at the time.

Eksten had success as a Wildcat — even scoring her first basket against the team that jilted her — but Kentucky was no IU. So, when Jeremiah left after Eksten’s freshman year, and Indiana’s new coaching staff showed interest in her, she transferred without a second thought.

It’s hard to find anyone who is more proud of being a Hoosier than Eksten, but her time at Indiana wasn’t easy. You couldn’t blame Eksten, or the many others in those forgotten years if they wondered, What if? What could have happened for them at IU if the situation had been just a little bit different?

“I tell you,” she says, “I would love to be playing right now. I’d love it.”

Nancy Eksten (née Cowan) transferred to Indiana, her dream school, after one season at Kentucky. (Indiana University Archives)

Jorja Hoehn headed up the program during Eksten’s first year at Indiana. Hoehn had success at Division II Central Missouri before taking the job at Indiana. Transitioning between the levels was a challenge, and Hoehn didn’t endear herself to her players.

Cindy Bumgarner was recruited by Jeremiah and played under her to start her college career. Those days, she recalls, were nothing short of a dream. But when Hoehn came in, things started out poorly — “We didn’t trust her,” Bumgarner said — and got much, much worse.

“She didn’t respect us as people,” Bumgarner said. “She told us a lot about how terrible we were. It became a thing for her that somehow her inability to connect with us or get to know us in a meaningful way suddenly became all about us being bad people. And because we didn’t practice the religion she practiced, we were going to hell.”

When Bumgarner’s playing days at IU ended and she walked off the court for the last time, she felt relieved. After everything she’d been through, she still loved the school, but basketball was no longer fun. Even worse, her self-esteem plummeted.

Bumgarner never wanted anyone to go through what she did, so when Indiana parted ways with Hoehn, she was hopeful that whoever came next would be an improvement.

She was wrong.

“Sometimes I wonder who had it worse,” she says, comparing Hoehn and Jim Izard, who took over in 1988.

Rumors about Izard swirled during his time at Indiana — stories that he was inappropriate with his players, and that he had a habit of dating them.

Three months into her senior year, when Bumgarner was no longer playing basketball but finishing her degree, Izard showed up at her door. He was there to pick up her roommate, also a former player and current college student, for a date.

“I knew right then he was going to be a problem,” Bumgarner said.

These days, Bumgarner is able to sift through the bad memories of her days at IU and pick out the things that made her happy. She loves the school, and she’s proud of the woman she became through the difficult circumstances.

“The hard things in life make you grow in ways you didn’t know you needed,” she said.

Still, it took Bumgarner 18 years before she was able to set foot on campus again. She needed time to heal. And however strange it might seem, the thing that helped remedy those wounds was the same thing that caused them — Indiana basketball.

Cindy Bumgarner (Indiana University Archives)

Teri Moren takes over

Amanda Cahill remembers vividly the day Teri Moren came into her life.

Cahill, recruited to Indiana by coach Curt Miller, went through her summer workouts with Miller, but by the time she returned to campus to start her freshman season in 2014, IU had a new coach.

She was nervous. Starting college is hard enough, but Cahill chose Indiana under different circumstances, and in a few short months, she was starting over once again. Some players transferred, but as soon as she met Moren, Cahill felt at ease. The new coach gave her a hug and was keen to help Cahill and her teammates settle in at IU.

Besides, everything Cahill loved about Indiana was the same.

“I really believed in Indiana’s future,” said Cahill, who now plays professionally in Luxembourg. “It’s a basketball state. It’s set up for success.”

Not everyone shared her confidence.

When Moren was hired, Metheny remembers hearing concerns that she might not be in it for the long haul. Moren, meanwhile, told the IndyStar in 2014 that IU was the kind of place she could see herself coaching at until she retired. Moren graduated as a Boilermaker, but she was born a Hoosier. Growing up in Seymour, Ind., Moren and her family regularly tuned into Indiana games and were avid consumers of “The Bob Knight Show.” Even her childhood bedroom, painted red and white, reflected her fandom.

Those who really knew Moren were thrilled with the hire.

When Moren became the head coach, one of the first things she did was reach out to former players and let them know they were welcome and wanted.

In the fall, Indiana celebrated 50 years of women’s basketball by inviting all alumni to campus for a special event.

“Some people hadn’t been back at all, and they treated us like family,” Eksten said. “We were just beat up, and to bring us back the way they did and to make it such a positive experience was amazing. We loved it.”

By 2014, Moren had built a solid coaching resume. After recording six winning seasons in her seven years at Division II Indianapolis, Moren spent four years at Indiana State. In her first season, the Sycamores went 16-16 and finished sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference. In her last year, they went 20-12, won the conference and made it to the NIT Tournament.

In Moren’s first season at Indiana, the Hoosiers struggled, going 4-14 in the Big Ten. But during that difficult first season, Cahill and her teammates walked into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall one day, looked up to the very top of the stands — the kind of seats you’d refer to as the “nosebleeds” — and set a goal.

“We said, ‘We really want to fill this up. We want to have people up at the top,’” Cahill said.

Teri Moren, coaching against Maryland in 2015 during her first season, has helped turn around the IU program. (G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)

It worked. In Moren’s second season, the Hoosiers made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That tied a record for the program’s deepest postseason run in the NCAA era, set by the 1983 team.

IU has always had a pretty strong following for women’s basketball. In 1997, a group called the SUPERFANS made it their mission to support the team. Group member Chris Schneberger told the Indiana Daily Student in February 1997: “I think yes, I am obsessed.”

“The people who follow women’s basketball are incredibly loyal,” Metheny said. “They love their team.”

That love for the team had a trickle-down effect.

About an hour down Interstate 54 sits the town of Linton. The girls’ basketball team at Linton-Stockton high school, in the town of 5,244, won back-to-back state championships in 2020 and 2021.

Coach Jared Rehmel grew up immersed in the world of Indiana basketball, but in his town, girls’ basketball didn’t have the same backing, and he found that girls didn’t have much interest in playing. He and his staff worked hard to cultivate a culture in Linton, and they got an assist from the college team up the road.

“With the success of the women’s program (at IU), we can probably credit a lot of that with our girls wanting to spend time in the gym, wanting to get better,” he said. “Watching them play and having the success they’ve had made our girls want to have success, too.”

Led by IU’s all-time leading scorer Tyra Buss, a role model for Rehmel’s players, the Hoosiers followed up their successful 2016 season by winning the NIT two years later.

During the game at Assembly Hall, Cahill’s freshman year dream became a reality. They were so high up that she couldn’t see their faces, but Cahill felt their support. The Hoosiers had fans all the way at the top of the stands.

“I remember kind of sitting there, taking it all in,” she said. “It was just really special to see how far we had come, and the support we had.”

As for the coach at the helm, Rehmel speaks for the community at large.

“We hope like heck she doesn’t leave,” he said with a laugh. “People absolutely love her.”

Ali Patberg, greatting fans after a game this season, is Indiana's longest-tenured player. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

2021 Elite Eight run

Ali Patberg has always loved basketball, to the point of obsession. She had her favorite teams and players — the Pacers, Reggie Miller and Allen Iverson — but she would consume any kind of basketball she could. On the radio in the car, on TV at home, in the gym where her dad coached. It didn’t matter.

Today, Patberg is the face of IU women’s basketball. She loves being a Hoosier so much that it’s hard to imagine her being anywhere else, but the seven-year player (COVID-19, a transfer and injuries gave her extra eligibility) actually started her college career at Notre Dame, the preeminent Indiana women’s program at the time.

By the time she transferred to IU, the Hoosiers were building. They’d made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2016, and Patberg was redshirting on the roster due to transfer rules when they won the NIT in 2018.

But Moren wanted to do more. That’s what she told Grace Berger when she went to her house in Kentucky on a recruiting trip.

“She was so adamant that we had all the tools to be one of the best teams in the country,” Berger said. “And that’s what really excited me as a recruit.”

It’s what Moren had been reaching for since she took over in 2014, and what the ‘83 team had been dreaming about since their historic season. Last year, the country finally saw what Indiana had been working toward.

The Hoosiers came into the tournament as a No. 4 seed. They beat VCU in the first round, and then Belmont in the second to reach the program’s first Sweet 16. They followed that up with a 73-70 upset of No. 1 seed NC State to advance to their first Elite Eight.

In Luxembourg, Cahill got up in the middle of the night to watch those games.

Bumgarner was watching too, at her home in California. So was Eksten, in Indiana. Everywhere, players from the ‘83 team tuned in, firing off hundreds of messages in their group text.

“It’s invigorating for us,” Leckie said. “We feel young again. We want to be out on that court, and it makes us remember our playing days.”

“We’ve been waiting for this day,” Metheny said.

Indiana alums at the 2022 Big Ten championship, front row (L-R): Laura “Skeeter” Lounsbury, Amy Metheny. Back row (L-R): Melinda Sparkman, Melissa Leckie, Rachelle "Boz" Bostic, Pam (Mack) Scott and Deb McClurg. (Courtesy of Amy Metheny)

For the current players, it’s hard to stop and reflect on everything they’ve done for the program when, according to Berger, they haven’t accomplished their ultimate goal — adding a women’s basketball banner to the five from the men’s side that hang in Assembly Hall.

And though they don’t dwell on it for long, there’s an understanding that history is being written.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Berger said. “It’s one thing to talk about it as a crew, but to be here for teams that are actually the first to do something in Indiana’s program, that’s really special. It means a lot.”

It’s special for everyone who considers themselves a Hoosier, past or present.

Bostic remembers running sprints during one of her first practices as a freshman at IU. Eager to impress her coach, Bostic ran as hard as she could, beating everyone up the court. Since that day, however tired she was and however fast her teammates were, Jeremiah expected Bostic to finish first in every sprint.

Her teammates knew, too. And sometimes, she says, when she was extra fatigued, they would hold back a little bit so she could still finish first.

It was that level of understanding of one another that helped the ‘83 team achieve greatness, and it’s the same sort of interpersonal awareness today’s IU group brings to the court.

“They are just a really special team,” Bumgarner said. “It’s pretty obvious. It’s not just that they’re winning, but the way they work together, the way they keep fighting.”

It’s senior day at Assembly Hall in February. The lights dim, fans hold up their iPhone flashlights, and Indiana’s intro video plays on the Jumbotron. Patberg, Alexa Gulbe and Waggoner look up to see their faces on the big screen for the last time in the regular season. It’s the perfect scene for a senior celebration.

But Iowa controls the game from the jump. And before long, the Hawkeyes have opened up a double-digit lead. Then, Patberg hits a 3. Then, she drives to the hoop, draws a foul and finishes, cutting the lead down to 28-16. Patberg screams with elation, and chest-bumps a teammate so hard she falls over. One play later, she draws another and-1. This time, Patberg manages to stay on her feet. She walks toward the bleachers, throws her hands in the air and motions for the crowd to get louder. They oblige.

And as the decibels increase, you can feel it. What it means. For a split second, the importance, the love, the passion of IU women’s basketball overtakes the gym, like an overwhelming wave of understanding. Even though IU spends most of the game down by 10 points or more, a win still seems possible. It’s why, when Berger gets a three-point play of her own in the third, with Iowa now leading by 19 points, Bostic rises to her feet. She screams, “Let’s go!” Her WNBA orange hoodie stands out in a sea of candy apple red and snowy white.

It’s why the stands remain full until the bitter end. And why, with two minutes to go, Indiana is suddenly down by just 10. With 12 seconds left, four. It’s why, even when the buzzer sounds and Iowa wins 96-91, the feeling hangs in the air. Because when it comes to women’s basketball at Indiana, anything is possible.

It wasn’t always. But it is now.

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

Emily Syverud started following women’s college basketball just this year. The coverage from Just Women’s Sports piqued her interest, and before long, she became invested in the storylines of the season.

So when JWS announced a bracket challenge in partnership with DICK’S Sporting Goods, Syverud decided to get in on the action.

“I thought it would be fun to actually create a bracket based on some knowledge, instead of just picking teams based on whose name I like best – which is how I picked my men’s bracket,” Syverud said.

You could say that it turned out alright.

Syverud, a medical student at the University of Minnesota, won the $150,000 grand prize, the largest ever awarded for women’s college basketball.

“I mainly picked game winners based on what I had read over the course of the regular season on Just Women’s Sports,” Syverud said. “I knew that some powerhouses, like South Carolina and Stanford, would go far and I also felt like I had some insider knowledge about which teams could create their own Cinderella story. I also had to root for some of my favorites, like the University of Iowa, where my dad went to college.”


Syverud, who is from Saint Paul but now lives in Minneapolis, is starting her residency in June in emergency and internal medicine. She plans to use the prize money to pay off some of her student loans, and she also plans to donate to nonprofit organizations around the Twin Cities, including Keystone Community Services, which connects those in need with food, shelter and more.

As a treat, she’ll also be upgrading her and her fiancé’s flights to first class for their honeymoon.

Of course, she’s already looking forward to filling out her bracket again next year.

“It was so much fun,” she said, adding that she can’t wait to keep following South Carolina as the team looks to mount a title defense. “I can’t wait to follow the team again next year and see how you continue to shake things up!”

The celebration continued Wednesday for the South Carolina women’s basketball team, as the Gamecocks were honored by the South Carolina state legislature.

The team was greeted by celebration in the chamber, which included team chants and the unofficial anthem “Sandstorm” blaring through the House.

With a 64-49 victory over UConn, the team won its second national championship on Sunday.

The Gamecocks are the first team to be honored on the floor of the state House and Senate since the COVID-19 outbreak began in early 2020. While coach Dawn Staley and players did not address the legislature, many lawmakers read resolutions honoring the team and took pictures and selfies with the players and coach.

“Never in the history of this chamber have we seen the welcome this team got this morning,” said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, a Democrat from Columbia.

The celebration came as the general assembly put a pause on a critical day of debate. Any bill that does not pass one chamber by the week’s end will need a two-thirds majority vote in order to be taken up before the conclusion of the session next month.

As college basketball heads into the postseason and the WNBA prepares for the 2022 draft on Monday, the list of top women’s basketball prospects who have officially declared is coming into focus.

The Atlanta Dream will draft first on Monday night after acquiring the No. 1 pick from the Washington Mystics in a trade on Wednesday. In return, the Mystics received the No. 3 and No. 14 picks as well as the opportunity to swap their 2023 first-round pick with Atlanta’s. Washington originally secured the No. 1 overall pick during the WNBA Draft Lottery in December. Rounding out the top five are the Indiana Fever with the second and fourth picks and the New York Liberty with the fifth.

We have spent the past few months watching game film, combing through stats and talking to coaches and general managers to gain an accurate understanding of which players they are keeping an eye on as they prepare to make their selections on April 11. Just Women’s Sports’ WNBA Draft Big Board includes the top 50 prospects in the upcoming draft.

NOTE: This list reflects changes to the draft class since the original version was published on March 2. Several players on our initial big board opted to use their NCAA-granted fifth year of eligibility and return to school, while others officially declared for the draft since their NCAA Tournament runs came to an end.

NaLyssa Smith, F, Baylor

Smith has been playing the best basketball of her career toward the end of her senior season and has a legitimate shot to go No. 1 overall in April’s draft. The 6-foot-3 forward is a walking double-double for Baylor and one of the most effective rebounders in the country, averaging 21.8 points and 11.7 rebounds this season. Smith has expanded her game and showcased her versatility, switching from a more traditional low-block role to one where she can face up, attack off the bounce and knock down mid-range jumpers. Smith wants to run the floor and finish at the rim in transition. Her potential is what’s most appealing to WNBA GMs since she has only begun to scratch the surface of the caliber of player she can be.

Rhyne Howard, G, Kentucky

The 6-foot-2 guard has showcased her versatility and scoring ability at all three levels while starring for Kentucky. She has the size and athleticism to make the game look effortless at times — when she kicks it into a high gear, she is nearly impossible to stop. Howard is also highly effective when coming off screens and playing within the two-woman game. Averaging 20.4 points per game this season, she has well over 2,000 points for her career. Howard led the Kentucky Wildcats to an SEC tournament championship in front of representatives from nearly every WNBA franchise, solidifying her place among the top prospects.

Shakira Austin, F/C, Ole Miss

At 6-foot-5, Austin has a pro-ready frame and the strength, skill and athleticism that are highly appealing to pro scouts. She’s also willing to put in the work to expand her game shows, giving her even more upside. Austin’s numbers are down, from 18.6 points per game her junior year to 15.0 this season, but the dip is less concerning given her minutes are down as well. Austin can advance the ball herself off the rebound, face up and attack off the bounce and is an effective low-post and high-post threat. She will need to continue to extend her range on the perimeter to be successful at the next level, but her defense and timing as a rim protector are already there.

Naz Hillmon, F, Michigan

The biggest question surrounding Hillmon’s readiness for the next level is whether she has the size to be a true post player in the WNBA. At 6-2, she has limited range offensively, but she’s made up for it so far with her work ethic and efficiency, having shot nearly 60 percent from the field during her four-year college career. She has a phenomenal motor and is highly effective around the rim, with an ability to be in the right place at the right time that is hard to come by. To be effective in the WNBA, Hillmon will likely need to play more of a 3/4 role and learn to score against taller defenders.

Nyara Sabally, C/F, Oregon

At 6-5, Sabally has the unique combination of size, athleticism, strength and all-around skill that is necessary for the pros. She has been efficient during her career at Oregon, shooting 51.9 percent and averaging 14.8 points and 7.3 rebounds this season. Similar to sister Satou Sabally, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft, Nyara has great hands and vision as a passer, as well as the mobility to advance the ball herself or thrive in the pick-and-roll. Sabally dealt with knee injuries early on in her collegiate career, but appears to have hit her stride the past two seasons. She has lottery pick potential if she chooses to enter the draft.

Elissa Cunane, C, NC State

Cunane has dominated the ACC for some time now in a low-block post role for NC State. She is about as consistent as any other player in the country, even though her numbers have dropped a bit this year. At 6-5, she can go to work on the block and has the range to force defenses to respect her beyond the arc, shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line during her college career. When she creates enough space to take defenders one-on-one in the post, it’s game over. Cunane would provide size, offense and rim protection down low for a WNBA team to develop next season.

Rae Burrell, F/G, Tennessee

Burrell is still working her way back into full stride this season, returning to the court from a knee injury in early January. She showed what she’s capable of during a healthy junior campaign, averaging 17 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 45 percent from the field and over 40 percent from 3. At 6-1, Burrell has the length to play wing and make plays on defense. Burrell will be intriguing to WNBA teams because she has all the tools to be successful and hasn’t come close to hitting her ceiling.

Destanni Henderson, PG, South Carolina

As the floor general for the No. 1 team in the country, Henderson does a great job of controlling the pace and setting up the offense with strong decision-making. She has the quickness and agility to get to the rim with ease, fitting the mold of a pick-and-roll player at the next level. She has shown she can be a 3-point threat shooting 40 percent this season. Henderson makes up for her smaller 5-7 frame with her competitiveness and leadership qualities. She stayed the course during her career at South Carolina, trusting in the process and evolving into a WNBA-ready guard.

Lorela Cubaj, F, Georgia Tech

Cubaj returned to Georgia Tech in 2021-22 for a fifth year, making the 23-year-old one of the oldest and most experienced players on the board. At 6-4, Cubaj is a high-post threat whose vision and IQ make her an effective passer. She can face up, take defenders off the bounce and create separation with her shot. Known for her defensive tenacity, Cubaj is a big reason Georgia Tech is one of the best defensive teams in the country. WNBA teams will value Cubaj’s size, facilitating, experience and energy, but she’ll need to keep developing her offensive game to make an impact in the pros.

Jenna Staiti, C, Georgia

Also a fifth-year senior, Staiti has the experience to go along with size and efficiency around the rim. Having committed to her conditioning, Staiti has gone head-to-head with some of the best post players in the country this season and outperformed them. The 6-4 center has good hands, understands low-block footwork and has found success as a paint defender and rim protector. She can also face up and be a threat as a passer in the high post, making her an intriguing pick-and-roll option. Staiti could improve her value by working on her range from beyond the arc, where she’s shooting just 25 percent on limited attempts.

Aisha Sheppard, G, Virginia Tech

Sheppard broke out offensively as a senior last season, averaging 17.7 points per game. Her scoring has dipped to 12.4 points per game in her fifth year, but Sheppard is a high-volume 3-point shooter (averaging 37 percent for her career) and has made big strides in her passing game. Shepard has an explosiveness to her game that could appeal to WNBA coaches, but her ability to get selected in the draft will come down to showcasing what else she can do.

Kianna Smith, G, Louisville

The long and athletic 6-0 guard is one of the best pure shooters in this draft class, averaging 38.5 percent from 3 this season. Smith’s experience as a fifth year has been vital to Louisville’s success this season. Smith is not limited in her offensive ability: Averaging 11.9 points and 2.9 assists per game this year, she uses her length well when she gets into the paint and is savvy enough to score from different angles.

Emily Engstler, G/F, Louisville

Louisville has a track record of developing players for the pros, and Engstler has a WNBA-ready edge to her. She’s gotten herself into great shape and has evolved into a versatile player on both ends of the floor. On offense, Engstler is at her best when she’s aggressive, with the length at 6-1 to exploit mismatches. On defense, she has the instincts to be disruptive and the ability to guard inside and out. Averaging 11.6 points and 9.1 rebounds on 47.6 percent shooting from the field this season, Engstler will appeal to GMs because of her versatility and untapped potential.

Christyn Williams, G, UConn

Williams has shown flashes of how explosive and dynamic she can be offensively, but she’s also had a tendency to be streaky. The 5-11 guard is averaging 14.9 points on 46.7 percent shooting from the field as a senior, and she’s improved her 3-point shooting to 37.1 percent late in the season. When Williams is knocking down shots, she can have a significant impact on games. With her speed, she’s difficult to stop when getting to the rim in the open court and is tenacious on defense. Williams’ WNBA future will come down to whether a team thinks it can develop her into a more consistent producer.

Nia Clouden, G, Michigan State

Clouden can both initiate offense and play off the ball as a scoring guard. She has been the go-to scorer for the Spartans this season, averaging 20.4 points per game and setting a program record with 50 points in a game against Florida Gulf Coast earlier this season. Clouden has been efficient and consistent with her shot selection, pulling up for mid-range jumpers or scoring it off the bounce. She can create shots for herself, often getting to the free-throw line when she attacks opposing defenses, and manufactures points as well as any other player in this class.

Veronica Burton, G, Northwestern

Burton hit the radars of WNBA GMs after an impressive junior campaign, has carried that momentum into her senior season this year and now is arguably the best point guard in the 2022 draft class. Burton is known for her toughness and defensive tenacity, having been named the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year the last two seasons. She plays hard, has a very high basketball IQ and can stuff the stat sheet, averaging 17.5 points, 6.5 assists and 4.1 steals in 36.3 minutes per game. The 5-9 guard has the all-around skill set and toughness to succeed, but she will need to elevate her explosiveness to be effective at the next level.

Lexie Hull, G, Stanford

At 6-1, Hull has the playmaking skills to go along with her high basketball IQ and impressive length at the guard spot. Hull is having the best shooting season of her collegiate career from beyond the arc, making 38.6 percent of her attempts. The senior is also an effective rebounder from the guard spot, pulling down 5.4 boards per game for the Cardinal. Hull is an appealing option as a tall, sharp-shooting guard, but she might struggle early on with the physicality of the WNBA. She’ll also need to adapt to the amount of ball screens at the next level since they’re not a big part of Stanford’s game plan.

Khayla Pointer, PG, LSU

Pointer is a big reason LSU has played itself back into contention this season. The fifth-year senior is one of the most experienced guards on the board (she will have played well over 4,000 minutes by the end of her career) and is known for wanting the ball in her hands in the biggest moments. At 5-7, Pointer makes up for her lack of size with her quickness and motor. She also is a phenomenal rebounder from the guard spot, reeling in 6.5 per game, and is elite at getting herself to the free-throw line. Adding to her two triple-doubles this season, Pointer leads LSU with 18.7 points per game and is shooting 37.4 percent from the 3-point line, the best mark of her NCAA career.

Kierstan Bell, G, Florida Gulf Coast

Bell played her freshman season at Ohio State before transferring to FGCU, where she has cemented herself as one of the most prolific scorers in the nation, averaging 24.4 points per game this season. Only a junior, Bell plans to enter the 2022 WNBA Draft. A partially torn meniscus in her knee seemed to dampen her prospects, but Bell returned on Saturday less than one month after surgery. At 6-1, she has good size at the guard spot and the overall skill and strength to do well in the pros, but she’ll need to work on getting more explosive off the bounce. Her confidence and scoring ability alone, however, make her a legitimate first-round option in this draft.

Mya Hollingshed, G/F, Colorado

Hollingshed has worked really hard to become a more efficient shooter from beyond the arc, averaging 38.8 percent from 3 this season. A fifth-year senior for Colorado, she has great length at 6-3, long arms and elite athleticism and agility. The biggest concern with Hollingshed is how she will acclimate to the physicality of the WNBA. She’ll likely need to move from the 4 position to the 3 and continue to expand her ball-handling skills, which is more than possible given her work ethic. That combined with her state line of 14.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and her efficiency from deep make her an intriguing draft prospect.

Jade Melbourne, PG, Australia

The young, promising talent caught the eye of many elite college programs overseas. Originally committed to Arizona State in 2020, the now 19-year-old instead decided to turn pro and compete in the WNBL in her native Australia. Melbourne is a long-time member of the Australian national team and an impressive scorer at 5-10, but she’ll need to continue to develop to compete in the WNBA. Teams could view her as a long-term option, with the chance to make an impact down the road as a scoring option off the bench, and maybe even a lead playmaker.

Evina Westbrook, G, UConn

Westbook has good size at the guard spot and a well-rounded skill set that should make her a versatile option at the next level. Having played five collegiate seasons between Tennessee and UConn, including a redshirt year, Westbrook is one of the older and more veteran guards in the draft pool. She has been consistent for the Huskies this season, averaging 9.4 points, 3.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. Her length, size, ability to facilitate and overall IQ should be appealing to any franchise looking for depth at the guard spot.

Sika Kone, F, Spar Gran Canaria

At 19 years old, Kone is one of the youngest prospects in this draft class but stands out for her impressive international resume. The 6-3 forward has competed for Spar Gran Canaria in Spain and is a member of Mali national team. At the U19 World Cup in 2021, Kone averaged 19.7 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. She is explosive on the block and has a knack for the basketball, pursuing it at will. She is still raw, but would be an appealing long-term project and asset for a team that values her strength, athleticism and physicality.

Que Morrison, G, Georgia

The fifth-year guard is a strong on-ball defender, earning her SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2021 and a spot on the conference All-Defensive Teams the last two seasons. Morrison averages 13.6 points per game, is a phenomenal free-throw shooter at 88.2 percent and is one of Georgia’s top 3-point shooters at 32.9 percent. She will be a great option for a franchise looking for an explosive, dynamic guard on both ends of the floor in one of the later rounds.

Kayla Wells, G, Texas A&M

Wells has the frame, athleticism and size to excel at the guard spot. Now in her fifth season, Wells has played the most games in Texas A&M history. She’s averaging 15.8 points per game and shooting 47.3 percent from 3, by far the most efficient mark of her career and a strong return on one of her goals heading into this season. Wells is not being talked about enough given the season she is having and could be a sleeper in this draft.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa, F, UConn

Nelson-Ododa has the length and athleticism to thrive at the forward spot in the WNBA. She can be effective in the pick-and-roll, create separation to score at the rim and run the floor well for a 6-5 forward. Defensively, she is disruptive with her length and rim protection in the lane, but she will need to get stronger to compete against WNBA bigs. Overall, Nelson-Ododa has her niche in the paint, which can be extremely valuable at the next level.

Joanne Allen-Taylor, G, Texas

A competitive and reliable off-ball guard, Allen-Taylor led the nation in minutes per game last season. At 5-8, she takes a lot of pride in her defense. Offensively, she understands pace well enough to shift over and run the point, she has a solid mid-range jumper and can finish in the paint. To separate herself in the WNBA, however, Allen-Taylor has to become a greater threat from beyond the arc.

Kiki Smith, G, Florida

The fifth-year guard has spent the last four seasons with the Gators. Smith has a solid mid-range game and has consistently elevated her game against ranked opponents. Her stock has risen significantly as Florida has played itself into national contention this season. Offensively, Smith accelerates in transition, has a quick first step and sees the floor well. On the other end, she has the length and drive to be a great defender. Intriguing to WNBA teams is the fact that she has gotten better every year.

Jordan Lewis, G, Baylor

A sixth-year grad transfer out of Alabama, Lewis is an aggressive, versatile guard who can score and facilitate. She is smart with the ball in her hands and has an elite court vision and passing ability. Averaging 12.1 points per game for Baylor this season, Lewis has found success driving it to the rim, getting to the free-throw line and getting open beyond the arc, where she’s shooting 39.3 percent this season.

Queen Egbo, F/C, Baylor

Egbo stands out for her athleticism, aggressiveness on the glass and efficiency around the rim. At 6-3, she’s shooting 51.5 percent from the field during her collegiate career, and her rebounding numbers have increased every season while at Baylor. Her activity around the rim combined with her ability to defend and clean up the glass will get her looks in the WNBA. Her free-throw shooting ability has improved drastically during her senior season, but she still is not able to stretch the floor as a 3-point threat.

Vivian Gray, G, Texas Tech

The 6-1 guard has an effective jump shot and mid-range game, making her Texas Tech’s go-to player at 20.4 points per game. Gray is having a down year from beyond the arc, shooting an uncharacteristic 26.8 percent, but she has battled through injuries and inconsistencies. Gray is tough and more athletic than she gets credit for. She’s also been heating up in recent months, with three games of 30-plus points since Jan. 22.

Lexi Held, G, DePaul

Held is a hard-nosed, smart guard who is effective on both ends of the floor. She does a good job of hunting her opportunities and has proven to be one of the most prolific scorers in the Big East, shooting 39.4 percent from the 3-point line this season. Defensively, Held comes up with a lot of steals and has great anticipation. Given a chance, she could really impress at a WNBA training camp

Sam Thomas, F, Arizona

Thomas is the type of player who does a little bit of everything, but not everything she does shows up in the stat sheet. The 6-foot forward has the length and athleticism to clean up on the glass and be versatile on both sides of the ball. She is efficient at knocking down the open 3, shooting 44.9 percent from deep this season. If she can continue to expand her skill set as a scoring guard, she has all the tools to be a solid pro and is a viable option in the later rounds of the draft.

Reka Dombai, G, Hungary

At 19 years old, Dombai has already proven herself as a prolific scorer in the pros. The 5-10 guard’s production against top-level competition with her club, Gyor, has garnered the attention of international scouts for years now. Dombai’s ceiling is highly appealing, but she would likely be a long-term investment for a team if taken in this draft.

Chloe Bibby, G/F, Maryland

In the last two seasons at Maryland after transferring from Mississippi State, Bibby has shown she can impact the game with her strength and shooting ability. The 6-2 Australian native is a strong rebounder, passer and versatile scorer. Her ability to get hot from beyond the arc will be a big selling point for teams late in the draft.

Bethy Mununga, F, South Florida

Mununga has been a walking double-double for the Bulls this season, averaging 10.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. At 6-foot, she is undersized to play the forward position in the WNBA, but GMs will be scouting Mununga for her athleticism, aggressiveness on the glass and willingness to outwork anyone. Likely needing to transition to wing at the next level, she has shown she can stretch the floor and knock down 3s, but she is not very efficient from deep at just 22 percent.

Maya Dodson, C, Notre Dame

The fifth-year grad transfer spent the past four years with Stanford, where she played three seasons. Dodson is playing some of the best basketball of her career for the Fighting Irish this season, averaging 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in maximum minutes. The 6-3 forward has yet to hit her ceiling, and with her size and athleticism, is certainly on WNBA teams’ radars. It is uncertain, however, if she’ll declare for this year’s draft.

Faustine Aifuwa, C, LSU

At 6-5, Aifuwa has the size, strength and power to provide the type of rim protection WNBA teams covet. She has to the elite ability to alter shots with her length, recording 240 blocks during her college career, the second most in LSU program history. Her offense developed over the years and she played her most efficient basketball this season, shooting 51 percent from the field.

Ali Patberg, G, Indiana

Patberg is a high-level competitor in her seventh year of college after a knee injury, redshirt transfer rules and an extra COVID-19 year extended her NCAA eligibility. Between Notre Dame and Indiana, Patberg has gained significant experience and is now the oldest player in this draft class. She has been a steady force for Indiana this season with her ability to score, create for others and lead the team through pressure situations. It would be a mistake to overlook Patberg in this year’s draft due to her all-around skill, basketball IQ and leadership.

Moon Ursin, G, Tulane

Ursin is a unique prospect from the standpoint that she can play any position on the floor. At 5-6, she is undersized in height, but makes up for it with her athleticism and agility. Ursin went from playing a complementary wing role for Baylor to running the point at times for Tulane this season. While it could be tough for Ursin to make a WNBA roster, she could be a steal for the intangibles she brings to the court, including the ability to make everyone around her better.

Hannah Sjerven, C, South Dakota

A two-time Summitt League Defensive Player of the Year, Sjerven has made her mark on the mid-major scene since 2018. The 6-2 post player was one of five finalists for the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year last season after a breakout junior campaign. This year, Sjerven’s numbers are down slightly (14.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in 24.9 minutes per game), but she is having her best 3-point shooting year after working on it during the offseason. Sjerven will need to continue to stretch her game at the next level, but she will be in the late-round conversation.

Chloe Lamb, G, South Dakota

Lamb caught a lot of attention with her play during the NCAA Tournament, where she led the Coyotes on a run to the Sweet 16. The 5-10 guard wanted the ball in her hands in key moments and came up big with clutch shots in wins over Ole Miss and Baylor. Lamb averaged 15.8 points and shot 37.4 percent from beyond the arc this season. During the best 3-point shooting season of her five-year college career in 2019-20, Lamb averaged 46.2 percent from deep.

Amber Ramirez, G, Arkansas

The fifth-year guard out of Arkansas is not afraid of the moment. She led Arkansas in scoring with 15.4 points per game this season, shot 40.2 percent from 3 and secured rebounds well from the guard spot at 4.6 per game. Named to the All-SEC Second Team, Ramirez is the type of sharp-shooting deep threat who could be a steal in the later rounds.

Iimar’i Thomas, F, UCLA

One of the most prolific scorers in the country over the last five years, Thomas compiled over 2,300 points during her career at Cincinnati and UCLA. She was second in scoring for UCLA this year, averaging 15.7 points per game. Thomas’ game has evolved every season as she’s slowly integrated a 3-point shot, shooting a career-best 40.6 percent from deep this season. At 5-10, Thomas is too undersized to be a forward at the next level, but she has all the tools to play on the perimeter or expose a mismatch on the interior with her high IQ and touch around the rim. Her flat-out scoring mentality should impress WNBA coaches.

Chelsie Hall, G, Louisville

Hall was the floor general and facilitator for the Cardinals during their run to the fourth Final Four in program history this season. A reliable playmaker, Hall takes care of the basketball on offense and has the on-ball tenacity on defense to fuel her team on the other end of the floor. She can pressure guards in the full court and wear her opponents out with how hard she plays.

Jailin Cherry, G, LSU

An elite-level athlete, Cherry has one of the most dynamic mid-range games in the country. The 5-8 guard thrived under first-year head coach Kim Mulkey, playing some of the best basketball of her career during her fifth and final year at LSU. Cherry averaged career-highs with 9.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game this season.

Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, G, Indiana

The fifth-year guard is disruptive defensively and plays with high energy on the court. She showcased her ability to score at a high volume at George Mason, leaving after three years as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,766 career points. She did not carry as much scoring pressure at Indiana, where she averaged 11.6 points, 3.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game this season and shot 35.7 percent from the 3-point line. She is a smart facilitator with a smooth shooting stroke who could be appealing to teams in later rounds.

Macee Williams, C, IUPUI

The four-time Horizon League Player of the Year was one of the most dominant collegiate players in the country during her five years at IUPUI. The 6-2 forward averaged a double-double this year of 18.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game and is one of the most efficient players on the board, shooting 63.8 percent from the field, which ranked fifth in the country. Williams has size, power, strength and great footwork on the interior and has become a skillful passer out of the post after being double-teamed night in and night out.

Lauren Van Kleunen, F, Marquette

Van Kleunen is one of the most experienced post players entering the draft after redshirting and playing five years at Marquette. She put up the best numbers of her career this season, averaging 13.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists from the block. At 6-2, she’s not big enough to fill a traditional post player role at the next level, but she could get looks in the third round if teams believe they can develop her ability to stretch the floor and her skills on the perimeter.

Nancy Mulkey, C, Washington

Mulkey’s 6-9 length is unique in this draft class. During a six-year collegiate career at Oklahoma, Rice and Washington, she averaged 8.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while shooting 43 percent from the field. Despite her limited range, Mulkey brings a level of size and rim protection that are hard to come by in the league.

Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at Just Women’s Sports. A former professional basketball player and collegiate coach, she also contributes to Winsidr. Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachGall.

South Carolina star Aliyah Boston won every major player of the year award, as well as the honor of most outstanding player for the NCAA women’s Final Four.

Just Women’s Sports partnered with Cisco and @nba_paint to commemorate Boston’s sterling season in cartoon form.

Utilizing Cisco’s Webex Whiteboard functionality to draw up the moment, @nba_paint depicts Boston racking up awards at a “Spelling Bee.”

The bee represents the NCAA basketball season, as well as the Sunday’s national championship game. Boston and the Gamecocks finished the season with a 35-2 record, capped by a 64-49 win against UConn in the NCAA tournament final. Boston recorded her 30th double-double of the season in the victory.

The cartoon Boston can be seen with trophies for her Naismith national player of the year and Naismith national defensive player of the year awards, as well as for her Final Four MOP award. She is holding the national championship trophy.

The junior forward not only won those trophies, she also won the John R. Wooden Award and was named national player of the year by the Associated Press, the United States Basketball Writers Association Trophy and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

As part of the lead up to the NCAA championship game, Just Women’s Sports partnered with Cisco and @nba_paint for a three-part series called “Drawing up the dub.”

The series also spotlighted Paige Bueckers’ impressive semifinal performance for UConn and the Just Women’s Sports Final Four preview show “The Warm-Up.”

UConn made a run to the national championship game Sunday despite a season mottled with injuries and uncharacteristic losses. But the Huskies lost their first ever NCAA final in the same place that the program won its first.

“I’ve said this all along: You have to be really good, and you have to be a little bit lucky to win the national championship,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “First things first, though, you have to be really good. You have to be really well-balanced and you have to be all the things that South Carolina is.”

Auriemma also credited the Gamecocks’ defense, which limited star sophomore Paige Bueckers to zero points in the first quarter and just 14 the entire game.

“We knew that was going to happen,” he said. “I don’t think from the beginning of the game our offense ever looked like it was in any kind of rhythm, any kind of flow. Then Paige tried to take it upon herself to do — that never works, when one person is trying to. But their guards completely, I thought, dominated the game on the perimeter and made it really difficult for any of our guys to get any good looks.”

The Huskies were not helped by the fact that they continued to be plagued by injuries and illness even into the championship game. Olivia Nelson-Ododa was playing through a groin injury, while Azzi Fudd missed shootaround with an illness.

While it may take awhile for the sting of the loss to wear off, Auriemma said he is still proud of his team for battling through the tough moments in the final game and all season.

“It was just a nonstop series of events that we had to keep dealing with,” he said in reference to the season. “It just didn’t stop all year long. I think it was a remarkable effort by them to stay together as well as they did throughout the entire year, and to be in this game.

“But then once you get in this game, you want to win this game. You’re not just happy to be here. But I think when this wears off, I think they’ll appreciate the effort that it took to get here.”

He knows what he has, however, in Bueckers and Fudd. And Nika Mühl, Aliyah Edwards and Carolina Ducharme. They are what gives him confident in his team’s ability to rebound next year.

“I like our chances,” he said. “Provided we don’t have to navigate a season like this year, knock on wood we stay healthy, I expect to be back here next year.”

A’ja Wilson was all about South Carolina winning the national championship Sunday night.

The former Gamecock, who helped the team win its first national title in women’s basketball in 2017, could be seen celebrating on the court with the players following the win.

She also posted on her Instagram with photos that included National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

She celebrated with LeLe Grissett, the last of her “babies” who still plays at South Carolina, The State newspaper reported. Grissett was a freshman when Wilson was a senior during the 2017-18 season.

“Way to stay the course because I know it was a bumpy ride,” Wilson told Grissett, now in her fifth year. “I know it was tough, but she stayed the course and look where she is. She is special.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the season in 2020 and a season-ending injury in 2021, Grissett hadn’t played in an NCAA tournament in nearly three years. On Sunday, she capped off her career with a national championship.

“She’s my sister. I look up to her,” Grissett said of Wilson. “I love her so much, so just to hear the words (of encouragement) come out of her mouth, it made me feel loved.”

The two danced together on the court in celebration of the win.

“Us together is a mess,” Wilson said. “We’re gonna to dance. We’re gonna smile. We’re gonna be lit. All that.”

But in response to South Carolina coach Dawn Staley saying that the 2022 team was her best, Wilson had just one word:

Congratulations continue to filter in for the South Carolina women’s basketball team after its win in the national championship game.

Vice President Kamala Harris congratulated the Gamecocks on the title and “capping off a tremendous season.” She also congratulated runner-up UConn on “a very strong year.”

Former President Barack Obama said that coach Dawn Staley “has built a powerhouse, and it’s great to see all their hard work pay off.”

“We proved you right!” Staley replied to Obama, referencing that for the first time, the former president had picked the Gamecocks to win it all in his bracket.

Other congratulations filtered in, including from Sue Bird, Billie Jean King, Magic Johnson and noted South Carolina fan Darius Rucker.

“Nothing better thank waking up a champion,” wrote Bird, who won two national championships with UConn (2000, 2002).

Rucker said that the team had “made this Gamecock extremely happy.”

“Keep being great y’all in sports but more importantly in life!!” he continued.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer’s Ukrainian aid challenge during the NCAA women’s basketball tournament has reached more than $300,000 dollars in pledged donations.

VanDerveer originally promised to donate $10 for every 3-pointer made during the tournament, but after the national championship game, she raised her pledge to $19.43 per 3-pointer made.

That would put her final donation at $14,999.96 from 772 3-pointers made through 67 games. On average, teams made 11.5 3-pointers per game in this year’s tournament.

WNBA star Breanna Stewart had announced she would match the donations up to $20,000. Per the donation website, Stewart will be giving $19,994.80.

Former NBA star Charles Barkley also joined in, pledging $32.38 for every 3-pointer made. His total is $24,997.36.

Others have also promised to donate, including South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, Saint Mary’s Randy Bennett and UCLA’s Mike Cronin. Georgia Tech’s Nell Fortner was one of the first to join the efforts.

Though the tournament ended Sunday with South Carolina’s title win against UConn, the challenge website remains open for donations.

South Carolina took down UConn 64-49 on Sunday night to win the NCAA women’s basketball championship, and it did so in commanding fashion. Here’s a breakdown of the Gamecock’s win by the numbers.

Key Numbers


With Sunday’s victory, South Carolina becomes just the eighth program in NCAA women’s basketball history to win multiple championships. The program joins UConn (11), Tennessee (8), Stanford (3), Baylor (3), Notre Dame (2), USC (2) and Louisiana Tech (2).


The Gamecocks (35-2), who lost just two games all season, are the 12th team to finish the regular season the wire-to-wire No. 1 team in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and then go on to win it all in the postseason.


Setting a career-high 26 points in the final performance of her collegiate career, Destanni Henderson became the first player since 2000 to set a career high in scoring in the national championship game. She also added four assists and two rebounds while helping hold UConn star Paige Bueckers to just 14 points – and zero in the first quarter.

“I really didn’t even know I had a career high, to be honest with you,” Henderson said postgame. “But when people spoke about it and let me know that — it’s just even more of a blessing and just an honor to do it in this moment, a special moment that all of us are going to remember forever.”


Named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, junior forward and National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston recorded her 30th double-double of the season, finishing with 11 points and 16 rebounds.


Defense wins championships. South Carolina finished the tournament allowing just 45.5 points per game, the second-lowest mark by a national championship against tournament opponents.

The Gamecocks are also the first national champions since 2000 to win after ranking outside of the top 25 in points per game during the regular season. South Carolina had the lowest scoring average by a national champion in Division I history.

They stuck to their defensive mindset against UConn. In the first quarter, they out-rebounded the Huskies 12-3. Overall, the Gamecocks destroyed the Huskies on the boards 49-24, the second-highest rebound differential in a championship game in women’s NCAA tournament history.