Tennessee's Jackson headlines Ann Meyers Drysdale National Players of the Week

INDIANAPOLIS (USBWA) – The competition of the last seven days offered lots to write about and many performances to highlight while off the court the much-anticipated new media deal with the NCAA was announced, bringing enhanced coverage to women’s events, particularly women’s basketball. 

The dollars may not be at the original projection that was initially out there, and the women’s hoops portion was not made to stand alone, but there was still much to savor in the overall eight-year $920 million extension with ESPN.

“Yes, it's a bundle, but a bigger bundle and it's a bigger bundle that will be much better,” NCAA president Charlie Baker said.

On the court, past USBWA national coaching honoree Tara VanDerveer’s No. 8 Stanford squad enabled her to reach her 1,200th career victory. Another sweep this weekend in Pac-12 games at No. 19 Utah and No. 5 Colorado on Friday and Sunday will tie her with retired Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski for the all-time collegiate record.

All conference schedules are now underway, bringing more sellouts than ever across the country at women’s games to arenas that used to be barely populated offering many more choices for USBWA distinction.

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 period through Sunday, Jan. 7, this week’s five Ann Meyers Drysdale national honorees are Texas forward Madison Booker, UT Arlington forward Avery Brittingham, Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, Tennessee forward Rickea Jackson and Virginia Tech guard Elizabeth Kitley.

The Tamika Catchings freshman award goes to Fairfield forward Meghan Andersen, and North Carolina is the National Team of the Week.

Booker, a 6-1 freshman forward from Ridgeland, Miss., has rejuvented No. 10 Texas’ prospects for March Madness success, recently moving to point guard after Rori Harmon, the Big 12 preseason player of the year, went down with a knee injury. In a 2-0 week for the Longhorns, her performance was such that she was elevated to USBWA national player status and the Big 12 likewise Monday raised her from the freshman level for its awards. She averaged 16.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field and 13-for-14 from the line. Her play Saturday at No. 24 West Virginia resulted in a 70-49 victory knocking the Mountaineers from the dwindling list of Division I unbeatens and its second best start in school history as Booker gained her first career double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Brittingham, a 6-1 senior forward out of Fort Worth, Texas, and a transfer from Stephen F. Austin with one more season of eligibility available, made history Saturday while wreaking havoc on her former team with 11 points, matching a personal-best 11 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds. It's her second career triple-double, adding to one she collected last season with the Lady Jacks, thus becoming just the fourth player in Western Athletic Conference history with multiple triple-doubles. She is just the second player from a WAC school to earn the USBWA's national player honor and the first since the end of the 2014 season. It’s also only the second triple-double in Mavericks’ history and the first since 2002.

Clark, a 6-0 guard from West Des Moines, Iowa, and reigning USBWA National Player of the Year, picks up her third straight weekly award and fourth this season. The nation’s leading scorer enjoyed a 2-0 week with the now-No. 3 Hawkeyes, moving up a spot Monday in the AP women’s poll. In the first of two Big Ten contests, this one at home against Michigan State, she had her fourth straight game with 35-plus points, scoring 40, capped by a thrilling game-winning 3-pointer, beating the buzzer with a shot from the logo. Two days later a sellout crowd at Rutgers saw her gain her third triple-double of the season and 14th of her career with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. She is currently fifth on the NCAA all-time scoring list. On Monday she passed former Hawkeye Meghan Gustafson for a record 24 Big Ten weekly honors, also matching her record-sixth conference in-season salute that she set in 2022-23.

Jackson, a 6-2 fifth-year senior forward from Detroit, Mich., and a Mississippi State transfer, returned just before the holiday break having missed eight games with a lower right leg injury. Last week she led Tennessee to a 2-0 opening run in the Southeastern Conference scoring 24 points and grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds in Thursday’s 75-67 win at Auburn. Her 19 boards marked the 20th time in program history for a player to grab 19+ rebounds and she is the 15th player to reach that total. In Sunday’s 87-69 home triumph over Kentucky, which threatened the upset leading by 17 in the second quarter, Jackson scored 27 points with seven rebounds for a 25.5 average on the week. 

Kitley, a 6-6 graduate center from Summerfield, N.C., and the reigning and preseason player of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, had two straight 27-point games. On Sunday, with less than two seconds left in regulation, she took an in-bounds cross-court pass for a layup to defeat then-unbeaten NC State, 63-62, before a sellout home crowd, pushing the Hokies up to 11th in this week's AP poll while sending the Wolfpack down to sixth. Across the two games, Including Thursday’s road win at Wake Forest, Kitley shot 22-of-39 from the field for 56.4 percent and also had six blocks and three steals. At Wake Forest, Kitley became Virginia Tech's career leader in minutes played and on Monday received her second ACC player of the week award and tenth in her career. 

Andersen, a 6-1 freshman forward from Wantagh, N.Y., averaged nearly 25.0 points per game, shooting 55 percent from the field and making eight shots from deep in Fairfield's 2-0 sweep in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play that included a 77-54 rout at preseason favorite Niagara. Against the Purple Eagles she was 11-of-16 from the field, including 5-7 from deep, and set the Stags' rookie record with 30 points. On Monday, the MAAC named the Fairfield scoring leader (18.1 ppg) both player and freshman of the week. The school lists Andersen as a “roadrunner,” which the coaches say describes how the posts play: “fast, athletic, quick, unrelenting.” Fairfield (11-1, 3-0 MAAC) has won 10 straight, losing only 73-70 at Vanderbilt while beating such teams as Rutgers, St. John’s and Fordham. “She’s not only been incredible on the court but she’s an amazing kid — truly a great teammate and humble as can be,” said Stsags second-year coach Carly Thibault-DuDonis, the daughter of WNBA Washington Mystics general manager and retired coach Mike Thibault, of her prized rookie.

Dropped from the AP women’s poll a week ago, North Carolina (11-4) came roaring back Monday in the 20-spot after two ranked wins in the ACC. North Carolina beat No. 25 Syracuse, the team that had replaced the Tar Heels, 75-51 at home before winning on the road Sunday at then-No. 16 Notre Dame. Against the Orange, Courtney Banghart’s group featured Alyssa Ustby, honored by the USBWA last week, getting the program’s first triple-double with 16 points and rebounds and a personal-best 10 assists while Maria Gakdeng scored 22. In the 61-57 win over the Irish, reserve Indya Nivar scored 16, shooting 7-11 from the field while Lexi Donarski scored 13.

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).
• Week ending Jan. 7: Madison Booker, Texas; Avery Brittingham, UT-Arlington; Caitlin Clark, Iowa; Rickea Jackson, Tennessee; Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech (National); Meghan Andersen, Fairfield (Freshman); North Carolina (Team).