Australian pair Alanna Smith and Tiana Mangakahia have been named to a 30-player selection consisting of the best in women’s college basketball as the preseason Wooden Award watch list for the All-American team and national player of the year was unveiled this week.
The list includes three members of last season’s top 5: Louisville’s Asia Durr and Connecticut’s Katie-Lou Samuelson, as well as Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon. Defending national champions Notre Dame lead the way with five players named, including Arike Ogunbowale, the hero of last season’s Final Four following her pair of buzzer-beating game-winners to deliver her team the championship.
As well as being shortlisted for the Wooden Award, both players were recently named to 20-player watch lists for their respective positions. Mangakahia backed up last year’s Top 10 watch list nomination for the Nancy Lieberman Award as top point guard with a selection in the preseason watch list, whilst Smith’s performances to this point garnered a selection in the watch list for the Katrina McClain Award for top power forward in college basketball.
Fellow Australian Courtney Woods of Northern Illinois also picked up a positional award watch list selection for the Cheryl Miller Award which acknowledges the top small forward in the country. The pair have also each been named to their respective All-Conference First teams, an impressive feat in and of itself considering Smith plays in the Pac-12 and Mangakahia plays in the ACC, two of the toughest conferences in college basketball alongside the SEC.
Both players have already commenced their seasons, with Mangakahia easing her way into things with 11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals in an 85-59 victory over a North Dakota side featuring Australian freshman Juliet Gordon. Meanwhile, Smith started her own season in successful fashion, top-scoring with 16 points in Stanford’s 71-43 win over UC Davis. Smith also knocked down a perfect 7 of 7 from the free throw line, a promising sign particularly given the senior’s struggle from the stripe in shooting just 53% on free throws last season.
Whilst outstanding play on the court is imperative to securing a spot on the watch list, the award comprises several criteria both within basketball and away from the game, listed as the following by the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the organisation which presents the awards:
Candidates must be full-time students in an accredited NCAA college or university.
Consideration should be given to scholastic achievement and aspirations. All candidates must have a cumulative 2.00 grade point average since enrolling in their current university.
Candidates must exhibit strength of character, both on and off the court.
Candidates should be those who contribute to team effort.
Candidates must excel in both offence and defence.
Candidates should be considered on their performance over the course of the entire season (pre-conference, conference and tournament play).
The list will be trimmed over the next few months before the naming of the All-American team and the award winner following the season. No Australian has secured a position in the women’s All-American team, let alone won the award. Although 2010 selection Kelsey Griffin has since represented Australia after carving out a wildly successful career in the WNBL with the Bendigo Spirit before moving to Canberra this season.