Meet the other players who are in the conversation for national player of the year alongside the UConn women’s Paige Bueckers

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Alexa Philippou, Hartford Courant
·4 min read
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Over the next two weeks, women’s basketball awards voters have their chance to weigh in on player of the year awards, the winners of which are typically announced around the Final Four.

UConn women’s freshman phenom Paige Bueckers has a compelling case to take home one of these prestigious honors, but she’s not the only one. In fact, some voters are still trying to figure out who to pick. And with player of the year awards given out by multiple publications and organizations, multiple stars could be tabbed “player of the year.”

“To me, there’s no clear, ‘Yeah, this player is standing out above and beyond everybody else,’” said Carolyn Peck, former national title-winning coach at Purdue and current analyst.

Bueckers made the Associated Press First Team All-America alongside Louisville’s Dana Evans, Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard, South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston and Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith. Bueckers, Evans, Howard and Boston were also named Naismith Trophy finalists on Thursday.

We’ve previously broken down Bueckers’ case for player of the year. Here’s more on her top competition.

Dana Evans (senior guard, Louisville)

Stats: 20.0 points per game (43.2% shooting, 35.3% on 3s), 4.2 assists, 2.7 rebounds.

Team stats: 23-3 record, No. 8 in AP poll, two seed in NCAA Tournament

The skinny: Evans’ transformation from an ACC All-Freshman Team pick to ACC Sixth Woman of the Year as a sophomore to two-time ACC Player of the Year has made for one of the more enjoyable player journeys to watch over the last four years. She’s known for making an impact on both ends of the floor, and for her clutch fourth-quarter play that elevates the Cardinals.

Quotable: “She’s the one that gets us going. She’s our leader at both ends of the floor. Defensively she can change the game for us, offensively obviously with her speed and her ability to shoot and pass, it just makes everybody better… I think what she’s been able to do night in and night out in our league speaks volumes for itself.” - Louisville coach Jeff Walz

Rhyne Howard (junior guard, Kentucky)

Stats: 20.7 PPG (44.8% shooting, 36.6% on 3s), 7.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, 2.3 SPG.

Team stats: 17-8 record, No. 18 in AP poll, four seed.

The skinny: Howard has been one of the top players in college for some time, coming in second in the nation in scoring last season as a sophomore. She’s followed that up with another strong campaign, taking home back-to-back SEC Player of the Year honors. Many expect her to go as high as No. 1 overall in the WNBA Draft once she leaves Kentucky.

Quotable: “Rhyne’s going to be a great pro… her game’s a lot like LeBron [James]’, actually. That’s a heavy compliment.” - DePaul head coach Doug Bruno

Aliyah Boston (sophomore forward, South Carolina)

Stats: 13.7 PPG (50.2% shooting), 11.7 RPG, 2.8 BPG.

Team stats: 22-4 record, No. 6 in AP poll, one seed.

The skinny: Boston took the national stage by storm last season as a freshman, earning AP All American Second Team honors and winning both national freshman of the year and Lisa Leslie Center of the Year awards. Her scoring and field goal percentages are down slightly from last year, but her role this season is all the more crucial to the Gamecocks given the senior leadership they lost from last season.

Quotable: “Aliyah Boston has a huge impact on both ends of the floor.” -analyst and former UConn great Rebecca Lobo; “[She] has a really strong case as well… A couple times with South Carolina I feel like, ‘why don’t you give Aliyah the ball a little bit [more].’” - analyst Monica McNutt

NaLyssa Smith (junior forward, Baylor)

Stats: 18.1 PPG (54.3% shooting), 9.1 RPG.

Team stats: 25-2 record, No. 5 in AP poll, two seed.

The skinny: Baylor may have flown under the radar at the beginning of the season, but it isn’t anymore – and much of that is because of the emergence of double-double machine Smith, the Big 12 Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the Big 12 Tournament. Only junior, she’s next in the line of great bigs that have lifted Baylor to great heights.

Quotable: “I look at the players that would be just the nightmare for any opponent that they face, the hardest to plan for, and I may be partial to the bigs. But you look at Aliyah Boston, you look at [North Carolina State’s] Elissa Cunane, and you look at NaLyssa Smith and what she’s doing at Baylor because of their size, their athleticism, the versatility of things that they can do, it’s a nightmare.” -Peck

Alexa Philippou can be reached at aphilippou@courant.com