The women’s John Wooden Award midseason Top 25 has been unveiled, with Australian pair Alanna Smith and Tiana Mangakahia amongst those vying for one of the top individual awards in college basketball.
Syracuse point guard Mangakahia features as one of five players from the ACC on the list, whilst Stanford senior Smith makes up a Pac-12 cohort of six that leads all conferences in number of players selected.
Mangakahia’s selection comes fresh off the back of her nomination as ACC Player of the Week, the second time this season the junior has picked up this accolade after averaging 20 points, 5.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists in the Orange’s victories over Clemson and Virginia Tech.
Having led the nation in assists per game last season, Mangakahia currently sits in third position in this category with a highly impressive 7.9 dimes per contest. The junior is also eighth in the ACC with 16 points per game, and has also averaged 2.4 steals in leading Syracuse to a 13-2 record and a #12 ranking in the AP Top 25 Poll.
The main question at this point surrounding Mangakahia remains whether the junior will forego her final season and declare for the WNBA Draft, with whispers that a relatively weak senior point guard class may lure eligible juniors, including Mangakahia, out of college and into the professional ranks. On the national team front, Mangakahia certainly has reason to feel slightly aggrieved at not being named to a 27-member Opals squad for 2019 that was announced today, but her performances to this point will no doubt make her impossible to ignore in the future.
For Smith, the good news just keeps on coming after being selected in the extend Opals’ squad for 2019. Seemingly boosted by her outstanding performances for the national team at the recent World Cup, the senior’s numbers have exploded across the board as she continues to vindicate those who voted the forward to the preseason All Pac-12 First Team.
Most impressive has been the senior’s improvement from beyond the arc. After shooting just 30% from three-point range in 2017/18, Smith currently sits 12th in the nation for three-point shooting, hitting at a red-hot 47.9% clip. That has led the senior’s scoring output to improve from 13.5 to 19.3 points per game, with her free throw shooting also sitting at a career-high 71% this season. At the defensive end, the senior has been an imposing presence, currently sitting in the top 30 in the nation with in excess of 2 blocks per game for a Stanford team that sits 21st in the nation in margin per 100 possessions (per Her Hoop Stats). Smith has also picked up Pac-12 Player of the Week once this season whilst leading the Cardinal to a 12-1 record and 6th position in the AP Top 25 poll.
Unlike Mangakahia, Smith’s entry into the WNBA draft is set as a senior, with her stock rising with every performance. High Post Hoops recently tabbed the Opals forward as a potential top 10 pick, and if her current form continues, that will be all but set in stone by the time the draft itself rolls around.
The midseason Top 25 will be cut down to 20 at a later stage in the season, with 15 finalists being named during the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the award will be announced on April 12, the Friday after the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament.
Wooden Award Midseason Top 25
Kristine Anigwe (California) Kenisha Bell (Minnesota) Kalani Brown (Baylor) Bridget Carleton (Iowa State) Chennedy Carter (Texas A&M) Kaila Charles (Maryland) Napheesa Collier (UConn) Lauren Cox (Baylor) Sophie Cunningham (Missouri) Crystal Dangerfield (UConn) Rennia Davis (Tennessee) Asia Durr (Louisville) Megan Gustafson (Iowa) Ruthy Hebard (Oregon) Rhyne Howard (Kentucky) Sabrina Ionescu (Oregon) Tiana Mangakahia (Syracuse) Teaira McCowan (Mississippi State) Aari McDonald (Arizona) Arike Ogunbowale (Notre Dame) Katie Lou Samuelson (UConn) Jessica Shepard (Notre Dame) Destiny Slocum (Oregon State) Alanna Smith (Stanford) Jackie Young (Notre Dame)