Five must watch Aussie women in the NCAA this season

College basketball is back for another year, and Australia’s contingent of young stars runs deep.

College basketball in the USA returns once more, and the Australian pool runs deep. From bright-eyed freshman itching to kick off their college careers, right through to experienced seniors and grad students who dream of doing battle in the NCAA tournament one last time, there’s no shortage of homegrown talent to keep tabs on.

In Lachy France’s latest instalment, five teams were highlighted, who are packed with Aussie female hoopers to keep an eye on. This week we take a look at five of Australia’s best women in the US college game that are sure to impress.

Let’s dive in!

Alex Fowler | Junior | Portland

In the 2019/20 NCAA season, Fowler took the competitive West Coast Conference by storm. As a freshman, the Townsville product led the league in scoring with 18 points per game, while collecting 8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.9 steals and a block. Tabbed to finish last in the league according to the preseason poll, Fowler propelled her Portland squad on a Cinderella run during the conference tournament to claim the title. Fowler’s barnstorming performance earned her Tournament MVP honours to go along with her Freshman of the Year award.

In year two, Fowler put in another dominant season. Once again, she anchored her team on both ends of the court, averaging 16.8 points (54.8 FG%), 7.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. For the second time in as many years, the 20 year old was named to the All-WCC First Team.

Fowler is a beast in the low post. Listed at 6’2, the forward makes up for any height disadvantage by overwhelming her opponent with sheer strength and magnificent footwork. While the bulk of her offensive damage comes from the paint, there is a lot more variety and nuance to her game which is what makes her such an exciting talent. Having connected on 11 of 38 attempts from three last season, Fowler has shown flashes of a perimeter shot. She’s also a talented passer, particularly in the high post. With the addition of 6’6 Australian centre, Lucy Cochrane, Portland’s high-low game could be one to behold. Don’t be surprised to see Fowler’s assists numbers inch upwards this season.

Haylee Andrews| Senior | Portland

Fowler’s partner in crime, Haylee Andrews has had a remarkable career with the Pilots. The Queensland senior ranks in Portland’s all-time top 10 list for assists, field goal percentage and points per game, with at least one season still remaining. Entering her fourth year, Andrew’s impressive resume includes an All-WCC Freshman team nod, and two All-WCC First Team accolades.

Statistically speaking, the 5’10 point guard’s junior year was her best to date, setting new career highs in points per game (16.2), assists per game (5.8) and field goal percentage (49%), while also pulling down 4.6 rebounds per outing. Andrews’ relentless attack at the rim is one of the key characteristics of her game. With crafty handles, including a rapid spin move, she’s one of the best finishers around the basket in the West Coast conference. She also has elite court vision, frequently laser beaming passes through traffic at a staggering rate.

In the 2019/20 season, after the team was tabbed to finish dead last in the conference’s preseason poll, Portland defied all odds to claim the WCC tournament title. Andrew’s performance during the event will go down in Portland basketball folklore. On two separate occasions she knocked down the go ahead bucket in the dying seconds: In the semi-final against Gonzaga to claim a 69/70 victory and in the championship game against San Diego to send the game into overtime. The team’s achievements earned them a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997, however COVID-19 cruelly squashed their dreams of dancing in March.

In what could be Andrews’ final year in the NCAA, could she cap off a remarkable college career by leading her side back to the Big Dance?

Chloe Bibby | Grad Student | Maryland

During the 2018/19 season for Mississippi State, Chloe Bibby was on fire. Shooting the three ball at a scintillating clip of 45% on just under five attempts per game, the small forward was undeniably in career best form before an ACL injury derailed her season and hampered the Bulldog’s hopes of claiming their first national title. The following season Bibby returned to Mississippi’s starting lineup, and once again her dreams of competing for a national title were thwarted, this time due to COVID-19.

After entering the transfer portal in the hopes of finding a fresh start, Bibby landed at another national championship contender in Maryland. A perennial powerhouse in the Big 10, the Terrapins possess arguably the most lethal offense in college ball. During the 2020/21 season, Maryland led the country in scoring with 90.8 points per game, doing so at the third best clip of 49.6% (40% from 3).

Entering the season ranked fourth in the country, what makes the team so deadly is the number of scoring options they have at their disposal. Five players averaged double figures in scoring, including Bibby who ranked third on the team with 13.2 points per game. Capable of being a volume sniper from beyond the arc, while also being able to bang down low, Bibby’s versatility in being able to seamlessly slide between the 3 and 4 spots is what makes her such a valuable asset to her team. Not only was she one of the terrapins most lethal weapons from the three-point line, she was also their second leading rebounder with 6 boards (2.5 offensive) per game.

Maryland will no doubt have a national championship on their mind, and if Bibby can put together another strong season for her squad don’t be surprised to hear her name called out on WNBA draft night.

Isabelle Bourne| Junior | Nebraska

The Australian forward could be on the verge of a special season for Nebraska. In her first two campaigns for the Cornhuskers, Bourne has been a strong presence on both ends of the court, culminating in a season average of 13.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in her sophomore year. In 16 of 22 games, the Centre of Excellence (CoE) product amassed double figures in scoring, demonstrating what a dependable player she has been for her team.

Year three promises to be even bigger for the 20 year old. With the graduation of star centre Kate Cain, Nebraska will lean heavily on Bourne’s offensive prowess to steer them back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2018. Through three games this season she’s lived up to the billing, averaging 17.7 points, 5 rebounds and a block as the team’s go-to option.

In many ways, her game resembles that of Alex Fowler – a 6’2 power forward capable of being a force down low. Like Fowler, she’s a phenomenal rebounder on both ends of the floor. One of her most impressive games last season came against Northwestern in February, where she put up a monster double-double of 21 points and 17 rebounds. Bourne is also a fantastic floor runner and frequently beats her opponent down the court to provide the finishing blow to Nebraska’s transition offence.

By being such a threatening presence close to the basket, Bourne helps unlock Nebraska’s shooting attack from the perimeter, which will likely be determining factor in Nebraska’s campaign in the Big 10 conference this season. The Aussie forward will no doubt face double-teams this year. If she can consistently connect with the open shooters surrounding her, Nebraska could become a handful for the conference’s heavyweights, which includes four of the top 11 nationally ranked sides.

The addition of Opals member, Jaz Shelley, to the Nebraska outfit adds even more firepower to the team’s perimeter game. The Australian combo guard already has a 6/9 three-point shooting performance to her name this season, while averaging 12.7 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists thus far. When the Cornhuskers get hot, they’re going to be tough to slow down.

Georgia Amoore | Sophomore | Virginia Tech

Georgia Amoore arose to become Australia’s standout freshman in last year’s NCAA season. Entering one of the toughest conferences in college basketball, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the 5’6 point guard was thrown into Virginia Tech’s starting line-up and didn’t look back. Averaging 11.8 points, 4.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds per outing, Amoore was named to the ACC’s All-Freshman team.

Virginia Tech, ranked 24th nationally by the Associated Press, look set to cause some damage this season. With all five starters returning, including WNBA draft hopeful Aisha Sheppard and conference Player of the Year contender Elizabeth Kitley, the squad is loaded with top end talent. The Hokies will be looking to build on their 15-10 record last year and make a deep run at both the conference and NCAA tournament.

Of Virginia Tech’s 10 losses, 7 of them were by a margin of less than six points. With all starters now having played together for a year, expect a lot of those close defeats to start turning into Ws. Georgia Amoore could be a big factor in that. Having gained a mountain of confidence during her freshman campaign, the Ballarat native now knows everything that the ACC has to throw at her.

With potent offensive weapons in Kitley (18.2 points per game) and Sheppard (17.7 points per game), Amoore is often tasked with creating good looks for her hot-handed teammates – a role she has lived up to beautifully thus far. Through 25 games last season, she dished out 5 or more assists on 15 occasions. The point guard’s accuracy from long range has added even more value to her side. Amoore connected at a clip of 39.6% from the perimeter on 144 attempts last season, adding another layer to the Hokies’ already formidable offense. In doing so, she created valuable space for her team’s leading bucket getters.

With Amoore, Kitley and Sheppard all back for another year, don’t sleep on Virginia Tech.

Also look out for…

We can’t fit everyone into just a list of 5 given the Aussie talent on show, so here is another 6 to keep your eyes peeled out for that are sure to impress:

  • Miela Goodchild | Duke

  • Suzi-Rose Deegan | Davidson

  • Jaz Shelley | Nebraska

  • Amy Atwell | Hawaii

  • Taylor Mole | UC Santa Barbara

  • Abby Ellis | Purdue