We know of the various names who are the top tier in terms of talent. What about some of the other college basketball players who we do not get a chance to receive some love? Yes, the young women who play this game are abundant. There are numerous players who we should talking about more.
For example, the Oregon Ducks have two players who are performing very well. Sabrina Ionescu is a triple double threat every night. Then there’s Ruthy Hebard. The 6-foot-4 junior is one of the premier post players in the country. She is shooting 69.9% from the field while averaging 17.7 points and 9.3 rebounds. The product of West Valley High in Fairbanks, Alaska may not have the national recognition, Oregon fans know of her.
By the same token, there are other players worth recognition. Here’s four players who we should pay close attention to the rest of the season.
Ae’Rianna Harris, Jr., Purdue
By all means, Purdue is one of the top teams in the Big Ten. The Builermakers make it difficult for the opposition to score and the defense has its anchor in Ae’Rianna Harris. The 2018 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is looking to repeat this season. Harris is averaging 9.3 rebounds per game (sixth in the Big Ten) and she still has that effect on defense. The 6-foot-1 junior is 3.4 blocks and 1.2 steals.
To emphasize her effect on Purdue through numbers is not enough though.
The junior center is one of the leaders on the floor for Purdue. The way Harris commands the paint on offense and defense sets the tone for the Boilermakers.
After being nominated to the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year preseason watch list, head coach Sharon Versyp praised Harris. “We’re excited that Ae’Rianna is being recognized among the nation’s best players at her position,” Versyp stated to the Journal&Courier. “She’s going to ‘Wow’ some people this season.”
In other words: Ae’Rianna Harris is going to turn some heads this season. She is starting to do more of that as the season progresses on.
Zykera Rice, Sr., Gonzaga
One of the teams this season who giving some notice is the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The most compelling evidence to the start is the play of Zykera Rice.
Some of the notice may not just be from her blue hairstyle. “And it’s my favorite color, so I just tried something new and I liked it,” declared Rice to Jim Allen of the Spokesman Review.
The senior forward from Tacoma, Washington is having very good season for the Bulldogs. Rice is averaging 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. She also has a true shooting percentage of 51.6%. Since the start of conference play, Rice is averaging 20.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. When it is time to step, Rice is one who is ready to go.
“You can’t defend her on the high post, and she’s so vertical and athletic,” head coach Lisa Fortier mentioned to Allen. “And we still treat her like a guard sometimes, the way she drives from the high post.”
Under those circumstances, Rice’s versatility is unmatched in the WCC. The forward has numerous moves on the post and a great mid-range game. For this reason, she has become a swiss army knife for Gonzaga and the focal point for this team.
Jess Kovatch, Sr., St. Francis (Pa.)
Accordingly, not much is said about players from small schools in the NCAA. Particularly, little is said about women basketball players from small schools. In this case, Jess Kovatch of St. Francis should be an exception to the rule.
This season, alone, Kovatch is already making history at the school and for the Northeast Conference. The 5-foot-9 guard has become the all-time leader in school history and NEC history. Kovatch has also become only the third player in NCAA history to score 400 three-pointers.
Joe Haigh, who was recruiting Kovatch to play for the Red Flash, saw some flashes of this early on.
“I saw her at some AAU event and she caught my eye, so I followed her in high school and we sent an assistant out to watch her play and she had a good game,” said Haigh while speaking to Rob Longo of The Tribune-Democrat. “… But the thing that made the impression on me was that she was so competitive.”
The product of Phillipsburg High school in New Jersey is starting to get buzz around her name for the WNBA. Given that she is a very skillful player, it will not be long before we start seeing Kovatch playing professionally.
Cierra Dillard, Jr., Buffalo
Cierra Dillard is continuing the show she was able to start during the NCAA Tournament last season. After helping to lead the Bulls to the Sweet 16, Dillard is looking to make more waves this season. The junior guard is coming off a 43-point performance last week as Buffalo beat Eastern Michigan in overtime.
Earning the espnW Player of the Week honors last week, the Rochester native is showing everyone why teams should take notice of her play. Averaging 25.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds, Dillard is looking to lead Buffalo to another run in the postseason.
Again, this is a player who does more than what we see with her numbers.
“Cierra brought IQ. She brought enthusiasm. She brought oneness. She brought energy. This young lady has played the game at a high clip,” stated Buffalo head coach Felisha Legette-Jack to Jeff DiVeronica of the Democrat & Chronicle. She’s so willing to humble herself to let somebody else be great if it’s going to help the team. But if she has to do it (herself), she’s more than capable.”
The Buffalo Bulls are 11-4 right now and 3-1 in MAC play. If the Bulls are looking to repeat their postseason run, Cierra Dillard is going to be the focal point behind it.
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