UCLA’s Jones headlines Ann Meyers Drysdale National Players of the Week

INDIANAPOLIS (USBWA) – As 2023 came to a close, though many teams played just a single game coming out of the holiday break, a wealth of candidates still emerged for the latest USBWA women’s honors in the seven-day period through Sunday, December 31, especially as conference races got under way.

Indeed, the very last contest before the ball dropped on Times Square celebrating the arrival of 2024, Stanford’s win out west over visiting Morgan State was notable for extending Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer’s women’s career wins mark to 1,198, moving her within five of topping the overall collegiate record total of 1,202 triumphs held by retired Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Guard play dominated the week’s action as five of the six individual citations go to those who operate out of the backcourt.

For their performances, this week’s five Ann Meyers Drysdale national honorees are Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, UCLA’s Londynn Jones, Villanova’s Lucy Olsen, Colorado’s Jaylyn Sherrod and North Carolina forward Alyssa Ustby. 

The Tamika Catchings freshman award goes to Penn’s Mataya Gayle, while Syracuse is the National Team of the Week.

Continuing to shatter records nearly every time she puts on a uniform, reigning USBWA national honoree Caitlin Clark, a 6-0 guard out of West Des Moines, Iowa, collected her sixth double-double of the season and 49th overall, with 35 points and 10 assists in the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten home-opening 94-71 win over Minnesota, becoming the Big Ten’s all-time career assist leader with 904. The most honored USBWA women’s in-season honoree of all time became the first Division I player of either gender in their career to attain 3,000 plus points, 900 or more assists and 800 or more rebounds.

Clark continues to climb the NCAA career scoring chart while being the 2004 season leader. Through Sunday, she now has 3,149 points. In Saturday’s win she shot 13-for-22 from the field, including 8-for-16 on attempted 3-pointers. On Tuesday she picked up her 23rd Big Ten Player of the Week award.

In the Pac-12 opening showdown between No. 2 UCLA and then-No. 6 USC, both unbeaten ahead of their Los Angeles cross-town meeting, Jones, a 5-4 sophomore guard out of Riverside, Calif., had 21 points, including 15 off five attempted treys to lead the Bruins (12-0) to a 71-64 victory before a women’s program record sellout home crowd of 13,659 in Pauley Pavilion. Jones is among the top 20 scoring leaders (13.36) in the conference. It is the first time since 1985 for both local rivals to be ranked going into their contest and the first time since March 1981, the season before the NCAA began sponsoring women’ sports, for both to be in the top 10. USC’s JuJu Watkins, the first USBWA rookie honoree this season, had 27 points and 11 rebounds.

Olsen, a 5-9 junior guard out of Collegeville, Pa., earned her second honor this season leading Villanova to an 86-45 Big East home win over Xavier as she scored 31 points, including her 1,000 th career point, and shot 12-of-27 from the field and a perfect 5-for-5 on the line with five steals, nine rebounds and three assists. She is fourth in the nation in scoring with a 24.0 average and follows graduated USBWA All-American Maddy Siegriest as Villanova’s second USBWA multi in-season award winner.

Sherrod, a 5-7 graduate guard out of Birmingham, Ala., led Colorado to a 76-65 win at home in Boulder over then-No. 12 Utah in another Pac-12 showdown, scoring a career-high 34 points while dealing four assists resulting in the Buffs (11-1) moving from eighth to fifth place in Monday’s Associated Press women’s poll. She is currently 11th in the conference in scoring (14.4), while second on Colorado's roster, and on Tuesday was named Pac-12 Player of the Week. The crowd of 7,383 was the highest regular season attendance in the program since 2002. Alissa Pili, a recent USBWA honoree, had 27 points and 10 rebounds for the Utes (10-3).

Ustby, a 6-1 senior forward from Rochester, Minn., had 21 points and 11 rebounds helping lead the then-No. 24 Tar Heels (9-4) to an 82-76 victory over Clemson in their Atlantic Coast Conference home opener. It was the eighth straight win for UNC in the series. She is currently second on the Tar Heels in scoring (12.9) and their top rebounder (8.9) whlie also having the most steals at 26.

Gayle, a 5-7 freshman guard out of Woodstock, Ga., had a career-high 28 points shooting 10-20 from the field with three steals, three assists, and seven rebounds to rally Penn to a 72-69 win over Maine at home in The Palestra. She was also 6-of-8 from the line. Back home again 24 hours later on Sunday, she had 14 points and four assists in 18 minutes against area Division III foe Gwynedd Mercy in an 83-34 victory in the Quakers’ final tuneup ahead of Saturday’s Ivy League opening showdown at Columbia. She is the top Ivy freshman in scoring (14.5) and sixth overall in the league. On Tuesday, she was named Ivy League Freshman of the Week while she and Villanova’s Olsen were also named Philadelphia Big 5 co-players of the week.

In her second season since returning to her alma mater at Syracuse from a successful stint at Buffalo, Felisha Legette-Jack, the 1989 Big East freshman of the year, has been guiding the Orange (11-1) back to prominence with Sunday’s 86-81 upset at home of then-No. 13 Notre Dame in an ACC opener for both teams. The victory, her latest achievement, resulted in the program’s return to the AP women’s poll on Monday for the first time in nearly two seasons. In the win over the Irish, Dyaisha Fair, who followed her coach from Buffalo, had 27 points and is now 19th on the NCAA career list at 2,927 points. Helping the Orange to their best start since 2017-18, freshman Alyssa Latham had her fifth double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

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).
• Week ending Dec. 17: Azana Baines, Seton Hall; Breanna Campbell, Marshall; Jessika Carter, Mississippi State; Aubrey Griffin, UConn; Liz Karlen, Marquette (National) Mikaylah Williams, LSU (Freshman); VCU (Team).
• Week ending Dec. 24: Alexis Andrews, Charleston; Talya Brugler, Saint Joseph’s; Caitlin Clark, Iowa; McKenzie Forbes, Southern Cal; Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State (National); Hannah Hidalgo, Notre Dame (Freshman); TCU (Team).
• Week ending Dec. 31: Caitlin Clark, Iowa; Londynn Jones, UCLA; Lucy Olsen, Villanova; Jaylyn Sherrod, Colorado; Alyssa Ustby, North Carolina (National); Mataya Gayle, Penn (Freshman); Syracuse (Team).