As we work our way towards opening tip offs for the coming year I thought it would be time to highlight ten players to watch for the 2021-22 season. Players are listed in no random order.
Ane Olaeta, Grad, G, CBU
CBU had their best year at the division one level to date and Olaeta was key in the Lancers success.
Unofficially, Olaeta finished as the national leader in assists at 7.8 while averaging 11.6 Points Per Game on 41.3% shooting and adding 4.4 Rebounds Per Game.
As a result of the Lancers success, which included a 26-1 overall mark with WAC Regular Season and Tournament championships and two WNIT wins, Olaeta was named WAC Player of the Year, winner of the Joe Kearney Award for top student-athletes, and an NCAA Woman of the Year nominee.
She is one of two current Lancer players remaining from their final Division II roster.
Stephanie Visscher, SR, G, Stephen F. Austin
The Lumberjacks had every bit as good a season as CBU. SFA was undefeated through their Southland Conference regular season slate and won the conference tournament. Ultimately, SFA fell to Georgia Tech in NCAA first round play.
Visscher, a 6-0 senior guard from Sweden, was a key in their success averaging 12.6 points, 3.1 assists, 2.4 steals and 28.9 minutes per game. She shot 41% from 3-point range and 52% in total.
As a result of their success a year ago, Visscher was named Southland Conference Player of the Year and earned a 2nd consecutive First Team selection. She also spent time on the Swedish U18 national team.
Amara Graham, Grad, Guard, GCU
For Molly Miller and company this was the biggest get of their 2021 recruiting class.
Graham was one of a couple bright spots at UTRGV for a side which struggled to six wins last year (two in conference).
In her final season as a Vaquero, the native of Chicago, Illinois, averaged 16.5 points (on 45.2% shooting & 36.6% from three), 2.7 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game.
She was an All-WAC first team selection and the program’s eighth 1,000 point scorer. If GCU is to take that next step and bring home a regular season title Graham will be a large reason why.
Bree Calhoun, Senior, Guard, Seattle University
Despite an early round exit at the WAC tournament, Seattle had a solid season. The Redhawks had eight Division I wins and six in the conference.
Calhoun, a senior from Granada Hills, CA via Moorpark College, was a large part of that success averaging 12.7 points (on 38.9% shooting), 5.6 assists (13th nationally), 3.9 rebounds, and 3.2 steals (4th nationally) in 30.2 minutes per game.
She was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year and a first team selection.
Josie Williams, Junior, Center, Utah Valley
Dan Nielson’s second season with the Wolverines resulted in an NCAA tournament appearance. Josie Williams was a big part of that success.
A season ago, Williams averaged 14.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game (44th nationally) while shooting 53% from the floor and leading the WAC in shots blocked.
Williams was a WAC First Team selection for the first time in her career and earned an all-tournament spot as well.
Over the last two seasons she’s started in 47 of 48 games.
Caitlyn Harper, Redshirt Senior, Forward, CBU
As Harper was rehabbing a knee injury which ended her 2019-20 season and forced use of a redshirt year she did it knowing 2020-21 could be special for the Lancers.
How right she was. CBU set Division I era records for wins, winning streak, and winning percentage en route to regular season and tournament titles along with two WNIT victories.
The native of Hartland, Wisconsin earned WAC Second Team honors. Harper was also the WAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, and an all-region selection in WNIT action.
She finished as the Lancers leading scorer. Harper had a stat line of 14.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. The WAC tourney MOP also shot an impressive 38.6% from 3-point range.
Emma Middleton, Grad, Post, Abilene Christian
In some folks’ minds there are questions about whether a top Division II player’s game would translate to division one. Middleton, a 6-0 foot grad transfer post from Lubbock Christian, will get an opportunity to answer that question this year.
A season ago, Middleton was part of the Chaps run to a Division II national championship averaging 13.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Middleton shot 52% from the field and just under 82% on free throws.
The Chaps were undefeated en route to that championship.
Middleton was the Lone Star Conference and D2 Southern Regional Most Outstanding Player as a result of her efforts.
Sara Bershers, Junior, Guard, UTRGV
It was a tough year for the Vaqueros in 2020-21. However, Bershers shined a season ago averaging 13.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game.
Bershers was a WAC Honorable Mention selection last season. And for UTRGV to be successful they’ll need another big season from her in that quest.
A season ago, Bershers set a new career-high with 25 points at home in the Friday game of their series against CBU.
Iyana Dorsey, Sophomore, Guard, Tarleton State
Tarleton’s debut season in Division I didn’t have a lot of wins. However, the Texans more than proved they were competitive at their new home.
Dorsey, a freshman in 2020-21, averaged 13.8 points and just over two assists per game last year as Tarleton made its debut in the WAC.
More impressive for me though was the fact that as a freshman, Dorsey started in all 25 games last season. Dorsey led her team in minutes played at just a shade under 30.
Faith Cook, Redshirt Senior, Guard, Sam Houston
Cook, a transfer from UTEP, averaged 13.2 points and 4.3 assists per contest as the Bearkats were Southland Conference tournament runner ups. She was also the team’s leader in minutes on the floor at 36.5.
In Katy, Cook was an All-Tournament selection and a third team Southland Conference selection.
Cook was Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2019-20. And, with last year’s leading scorer Amber Leggett transferring to Troy, Cook needs to score a lot more.