SFA center Aiyana Johnson is one of the WAC Player of the Year candidates. Courtesy SFA Athletics.

WBB: Pair of Freshman Highlight Player of the Year Watch List

Four weeks of conference play have come and gone. And at this point, the list of candidates for Player of the Year is beginning to take shape. Obviously, there is still a lot of basketball to play. But let’s take a look at the top seven names in that race. There is no specific order to this Player of the Year watch list.

Naudia Evans – Grand Canyon

Although Evans missed the double overtime loss at Utah Valley, she’s been putting up impressive numbers so far in WAC play. Going into Saturday afternoon’s matchup at CBU the sophomore is averaging 14.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and leading the Lopes in 3-point percentage. She’s been in double digit scoring in four of six games with a WAC high of 24 points at UT Arlington last Thursday in a road win. The Lopes are also winning their conference games by an average margin of 8.5 points.

Cherita Daugherty – Southern Utah

New to the WAC, the T-Birds have reached their second off day still atop the board at 6-0 with an average margin of victory of 8.5 points. And Daugherty is a large reason why. So far in WAC play, the T-Birds graduate guard has averaged 19.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists while shooting 46 percent from the floor.

Last Saturday against Sam Houston, Daugherty was a perfect 16-16 from the free throw line en route to 28 points (her high in WAC play).

Grace Schmidt – California Baptist

Schmidt is one of a pair of freshman who will make this list that has made a splash in her rookie campaign. She’s won three WAC Freshman of the Week awards so far. And is averaging 17.5 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 54.1 percent from the floor.

On January 7, in Orem she posted a career-high 28 points with eight rebounds as the Lancers defeated Utah Valley 69-61 and has scored in double digits in five out of six WAC games.

Aiyana Johnson – Stephen F. Austin

The Ladyjacks are right in the thick of the WAC regular season championship race thanks to the senior forward. Johnson is averaging 13.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 58.3 percent from the field. She has five straight games in double figure scoring. Johnson’s season-high 22 points came against Utah Valley on Thursday. Johnson was the 2021 Southland Conference MOP and a second team all Southland selection as a sophomore and junior along with earning first team All-WAC accolades last year.

Jordan Harrison – Stephen F. Austin

Harrison has had one impressive rookie campaign so far. And if you didn’t know any better, you’d say she was an upperclass veteran. But, alas, she’s another freshman with such a high ceiling. So far she’s won four WAC Freshman of the Week awards. In all reality, Harrison could have won Player of the Week honors a few times, as well.

Harrison is averaging 13.0 points, 5.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds. And the true freshman is shooting an even 50.0 percent from the field (45.8 percent from 3-point range). She’s scored 18 points twice in WAC play (against Grand Canyon on January 7th and against CBU on January 11th) and had a stretch of five straight double digit scoring games snapped on Thursday night against Utah Valley.

Honorable Mention:

Breaunna Gillen – Utah Tech

Although the Trailblazers are 4-3 in conference action, Gillen has been a Player of the Year candidate this season. The senior guard has not yet failed to score in double digit points in her senior campaign. And in WAC play is averaging 16.9 points, 5.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds. She’s scored 21 points twice in conference play (1/07 against Sam Houston & 1/11 against Abilene Christian). And is shooting 41.6 percent from the field. She’s done the job for a Trailblazer team still in contention for a top-4 seed at WAC Vegas in March.

 Megan Jensen – Southern Utah

Jensen has been impressive in her first season in Cedar City. The Utah Valley transfer is averaging 15.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. All while shooting 60 percent from the field. Her best outing in WAC play so far was a 22-point and 4-rebound effort on January 11. And it came against her former team at the America First Event Center. Along with Lizzie Williamson, the two have provided a nice one-two punch in the paint for T-Birds coach Tracy Sanders. That combo faces a big test on Wednesday in a matchup against Grand Canyon.





About the author

Derryl Trujillo

Derryl Trujillo is a Southern California based sportswriter who won the 2019 Inland Empire Baseball Coaches Association's Supporter of the Year award. He joined the WAC Hoops Digest staff in 2020 and also covers local sports for Inland Sports and the Valley News. Before transitioning to media Derryl was a high school, collegiate and club volleyball official along with serving as a high school basketball scorekeeper for ten years.

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