Utah's Pili headlines Ann Meyers Drysdale National Players of the Week

INDIANAPOLIS (USBWA) — In a change from the chaos of Top 10 women’s teams getting knocked off since the start of the season, national honorees for the week ending Sunday, Dec.10, came mostly out of the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., though two came out of notable upsets involving teams not ranked in the Associated Press poll.

And while the expansion of the Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Week selections this season from one to five would seem to make the decision process easier, there were many more performances this week beyond that number worthy of consideration besides the two for the freshman and team citations.

The USBWA women’s awards, organized under Mel Greenberg, the USBWA Vice President for women’s basketball, are drawn from weekly conference honors as well as at-large additions.

For their performances in the past seven days, this week’s five Ann Meyers Drysdale honorees are UCLA center Lauren Betts, UConn guard Paige Bueckers, Middle Tennessee guard Jalynn Gregory, Toledo guard Quinesha Lockett, and Utah forward Alissa Pili.

The Tamika Catchings national freshman award goes to NC State guard Zoe Brooks while Washington is the National Team of the Week.

Because finals are under way, the number of games are greatly reduced the next several weeks from their larger occurrence.

Betts, a 6-7 sophomore center out of Centennial, Colo., and a transfer from Stanford, has been a main reason UCLA (9-0) has risen to No. 2 in the nation behind South Carolina. On the season she is averaging 17.0 points and 9.2 rebounds shooting .774 (65-for-84) from the field with 16 blocked shots. In a 111-49 win over CSUN early in the week she was 7-9 from the field with 18 points. At the Showcase in a first-ever win over then-No. 20 Florida State she was 10-16 from the field with 22 points and 18 rebounds.

Bueckers, a 6-0 redshirt junior guard from Hopkins, Minn., who in 2021 became the first freshman to win the USBWA Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Year Award, had her best week yet since missing last season with a knee injury, averaging 20.5 points, 3.0 steals and 2.0 assists. She shot .762 from the field and .750 from deep in wins over Ball State and No. 24 North Carolina. In the win over the Tar Heels she had a game-high 26 points with four blocks and three steals, shooting 11-for-14 from the field. On Monday she was named Big East Player of the Week.

Gregory, a 5-8 junior guard from Lafayette, Tenn., starred in a pair of wins including Middle Tennessee’s first-ever triumph over Tennessee. She averaged 23.5 points in the two games and also 50 percent with nine buckets from deep. Five of the 3-pointers came in the Tennessee game. She had a season-high 25 points against Tennessee Tech. Named CUSA Player of the Week on Monday, she leads the league in free-throw percentage (89.4) and is second with 24 made 3-pointers.

Lockett, a 5-10 fifth-year guard from Omaha, Neb., scored 20 points before a first-ever regular-season sellout crowd of 7,082 in Toledo's lopsided 69-46 win over Michigan, which had been ranked No. 25 in the coaches’ poll. Later in Sunday’s win over Loyola (Md.) she had 10 points, eight rebounds and dished six assists with four steals. On the season, she leads the Rockets with 17.4 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Pili, a 6-2 senior forward from Anchorage, Alaska, who transferred from USC to Utah last season, collected consecutive 30-point performances, including a career-high 37 points against South Carolina at the Showcase in a competitive loss to the Gamecocks. In her previous game in Philadelphia, she set the visiting player arena record with 31 points shooting 12-17 from the field for 70.6 percent against Saint Joseph’s, though that fell by a point two nights later from Villanova’s Lucy Olsen, a USBWA honoree earlier this season. In the South Carolina game, Pili, named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday, was 15-for-23 from the field for 65.2 percent, 4-for-4 from the line, and grabbed three steals.

Brooks, a 5-10 freshman guard from Plainfield, N.J., had the season’s first triple-double in the ACC, scoring 14 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing 10 assists for NC State over Liberty. She joins Tynesha Lewis from 2001 with the only triple-doubles in Wolfpack history. She also had three steals and two blocks against Liberty and on Monday earned the weekly ACC freshman award.

Earning the team award and off to a 10-0 start playing in the Pac-12 opener for both teams, Washington beat its in-state rival, then-No. 21 Washington State, 60-55, on the road. The Huskies had a 20-point lead at the half but had to withstand a surge from the opposition the rest of the way. Hannah Stines, with three makes from deep, helped set a career high with 21 points, and Lauren Schwartz with a similar trio of makes collected 20 points. It was the was first time since 2019 that a visitor had two players eachg reach 20 points in the same game.

Since the 1987-88 season, the USBWA has named a women’s National Player of the Year. For the 2012-13 season, the national and weekly player award became named for Hall of Famer and former UCLA All-American Ann Meyers Drysdale while the national and weekly freshman award is being given in the name of former Tennessee all-American Tamika Catchings, which was applied at the start of the 2019-20 season.

At the conclusion of the regular season, the USBWA will name finalists for both individual awards, which is voted on by the entire membership of the USBWA. The winners of the 2024 Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Year and Tamika Catchings National Freshman of the Year will be announced and presented at the USBWA’s annual awards event on site at the 2024 NCAA Women's Final Four in Cleveland.

The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential organizations in college basketball. It has selected a women's All-America team since the 1996-97 season. For more information on the USBWA and its award programs, contact executive director Malcolm Moran at 814-574-1485.

2023-24 USBWA Women's Weekly Honors 
• Week ending Nov. 12: Caitlin Clark, Iowa; Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina; Saniya Rivers, NC State; Kiki Iriafen, Stanford; Liza Karlen, Marquette (National); JuJu Watkins, Southern Cal (Freshman); Colorado (Team).
• Week ending Nov. 19: Cameron Brink, Stanford; Taylor Jones, Texas; Ayoka Lee, Kansas State; Lucy Olsen, Villanova; Harmoni Turner, Harvard (National); Hannah Hidalgo, Notre Dame (Freshman); Baylor (Team).
• Week ending Nov. 26: River Baldwin, NC State; Caitlin Clark, Iowa; Maggie Doogan, Richmond; Aneesah Morrow, LSU; KiKi Rice, UCLA (National); Zanai Barnett-Gay, Navy (Freshman); Princeton (Team).
• Week ending Dec. 3: Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina; Yvonne Ejim, Gonzaga; Rori Harmon, Texas; Cottie McMahon, Ohio State; Anne Simon, Maine (National); Madison Booker, Texas (Freshman); Southern Miss (Team).
• Week ending Dec. 10: Lauren Betts, UCLA; Paige Bueckers, UConn; Jalynn Gregory, MTSU; Quinesha Lockett, Toledo; Alssa Pili, Utah (National); Zoe Brooks, NC State (Freshman); Washington (Team).