Florida State's Bejedi headlines Ann Meyers Drysdale National Players of the Week

INDIANAPOLIS (USBWA) – The lingo on the look ahead for the current women’s basketball season back in the fall in the wake of five graduated starters from South Carolina, unbeaten and No. 1 through the conference tournaments in 2022-23, was a quick don’t count the Gamecocks out.

After the latest week of upheavals, it appears Dawn Staley’s group is the only one for now you can absolutely count in.

With five of the Top 10 in the Associated Press women’s basketball poll taking hits, when the curtain rose on the new rankings Monday, South Carolina continued to hold the No. 1 spot the Gamecocks reclaimed in the first week of activity and are the only Division I team remaining unbeaten.

Of course, the USBWA has gotten two benefits through all this carnage: the sense of parity provides much to chronicle and there has been an ongoing wealth of candidates from the known stars to exciting new ones for the organization’s weekly honors.

Indeed, there’s even some interesting anomalies with three teams having beaten every school on their schedules, but each holding a defeat because UCLA and USC have beaten each other in Pac-12 competition, while Caitlin Clark-led Iowa was able to avenge an early loss to Kansas State by beating the Wildcats through each team’s advancement in a Thanksgiving weekend festival.

And now-No. 3 Colorado, which moved up from fifth, did a favor to the fanbase of No. 8 Stanford in the Buffs’ upset of the Cardinal, temporarily leaving Hall of Fame inductee Tara VanDerveer one victory away from tying retired Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski for the most wins in collegiate basketball history at 1,202.

That means that Stanford’s Maples Pavilion can be full this weekend as VanDerveer is holding an opportunity to tie the mark at home Friday night when Oregon visits, and claim it outright Sunday when Oregon State knocks on the door.

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. 14, this week’s five Ann Meyers Drysdale national honorees are Florida State guard Sara Bejedi; Middle Tennessee center Anastasii Boldyreva; Iowa guard Caitlin Clark; Kansas State center Ayoka Lee; and Auburn guard Honesty Scott-Grayson.

The Tamika Catchings freshman award goes to USC guard JuJu Watkins and the National Team of the Week is Iowa State

Bejedi, a 5-7 senior guard from Helsinki, Finland and this week's Player of the Week in the Atlantic Coast Conference, averaged 27.0 points, shooting 15-30 from the field, including 10-18 on 3-point attempts (55.6 percent). In the Seminoles’ win over then-No. 20 North Carolina, she had 23 points including five made three-pointers. Then, in a home win over then-No. 11 Virginia Tech she had had a career-high 31 points, including five more 3-pointers. She also averaged seven rebounds and three assists. Florida State jumped to 15th when the new AP poll was released Monday.

Boldyreva, a 6-6 junior center from Moscow, Russia, averaged 23.5 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in two MTSU road wins that also earned her CUSA Player of the Week honors. She scored a career-high 32 points with 12 rebounds and four blocks in an overtime win at Louisiana Tech, and in a triumph at Sam Houston, she had 14 points and 10 boards. She leads the CUSA with a 57.2 percent field goal percentage and 50 blocked shots.

Clark, a 6-0 senior guard, the organization’s 2023 national player of the year and the NCAA's leading scorer who has become the USBWA’s most honored in-season player, has enabled the Hawkeyes to sell out every road game this year besides the crowds regularly seeing home games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa is ranked No. 2 this week. This is her fourth straight USBWA honor and sixth overall this season. In two wins, she averaged 28 points, 10.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds. A win over Purdue saw her gain her fourth triple-double this year with 26 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, followed up in the Big Ten showdown win over then-No. 14 Indiana at home with 30 points, 11 assists and five rebounds. On Monday she extended a conference-record Big Ten Player of the Week honor to 25 for her career. Listing fifth on the all-time NCAA scoring list, Clark is within 10 points of former Baylor star Brittney Griner, who plays for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.

Lee, a 6-6 senior center from Byron, Minn., is receiving her second USBWA weekly award this season and also received past honors as a freshman and upper class woman. In two wins, including one over then-No. 10 Texas, Lee averaged 20 points and eight rebounds. On Monday, Kansas State jumped into the Top 10 at seventh, moving up from 12th.

Scott-Grayson, a 5-9 senior guard from Brick, N.J., scored 16 points in a narrow 58-55 setback to Ole Miss, which was ranked earlier in the season, and then led Auburn with 21 points and five rebounds in a stunning upset of then-No. 7 LSU, the reigning NCAA champion that had won 16 straight. She leads Auburn with a 15.8 scoring average while shooting 40.8 from the field. For her efforts, she was named a Co-Player of the Week in the SEC.

Watkins, a 6-2 freshman guard from Los Angeles and considered the nation’s top recruit, is receiving her second USBWA Tamika Catchings weekly honor this season. She earned a Pac-12-record ninth freshman of the week honor from the Pac-12 on Monday. Waking the echoes may be associated with a phrase sung and praising Notre Dame football, but in a short time she has clearly awoken the echoes of past greatness from USC. All-time great Cheryl Miller, the star of the first era, has returned to observe several games at her alma mater. In the rematch with then-No. 2 UCLA and a pairing of two unbeatens along with South Carolina, she scored 32 points, the most by anybody against UCLA this season, with 10 rebounds to post her third double-double in front of a sellout crowd in the Galen Center. She also had three assists, three steals and three blocks while shooting a perfect 16-for-16 from the line. On Monday, USC leaped from ninth to sixth in the AP poll.

Iowa State earned a return to the rankings Monday for the first time this season after wins over two ranked Big 12 squads, the first time they've done it in the same week since 2009-10. A key star in the upsets was freshman Audi Crooks, a 6-3 center from Algona, Iowa, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds in Iowa State’s successful rally from a 19-point deficit in the third quarter to beat then-No. 24 West Virginia. She then scored 24 and the game-winner in one of two defeats delivered by Big 12 squads to then-No. 4 Baylor. On Monday the Big 12 elevated her from the freshman level in making Crooks the conference's Player of the Week to go with two previous Big 12 freshman awards. 

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).
• Week ending Jan. 14: Sara Bejedi, Florida State; Anastasii Boldyreva, Middle Tennessee; Caitlin Clark, Iowa; Ayoka Lee, Kansas State; Honesty Scott-Grayson, Auburn; JuJu Watkins (USC); Iowa State (Team).