Bueckers, Clark Headline 2021 Naismith Women's Player of the Year Semifinalists

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2021

Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, left, talks with guard Paige Bueckers (5) during a break in the first quarter against Marquette during an NCAA college basketball game Monday, March 1, 2021, in Storrs, Conn. (David Butler II/Pool Photo via AP)
David Butler II/Associated Press

UConn's Paige Bueckers and Iowa's Caitlin Clark lead the semifinalists for the Naismith Women's Player of the Year award.

Bueckers and Clark, two of the most gifted college freshmen in recent memory, lead a field that is otherwise stacked with more experienced players. South Carolina's Aliyah Boston, a sophomore, is the only other junior or senior among the 11 semifinalists.  


2021 Women's Player of the Year Semifinalists

Aliyah Boston (South Carolina)
Paige Bueckers (UConn)
Caitlin Clark (Iowa)
Charli Collier (Texas)
Elissa Cunane (NC State)
Dana Evans (Louisville)
Naz Hillmon (Michigan)
Rhyne Howard (Kentucky)
Aari McDonald (Arizona)
Michaela Onyenwere (UCLA)
NaLyssa Smith (Baylor)

Bueckers has burst onto the scene during a sensational freshman season, leading the Huskies in points and assists while emerging as one of the most dynamic players in the country. She led UConn to a 21-1 regular-season record and the No. 1 ranking in the nation and has the Huskies looking like favorites to win their first national title since 2016.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said last month, per Marisa Ingemi of the New York Times.

"I could go through a list of players when I watched them play in high school, I knew there was something different about them. Then when they get to college they continue doing it. I don’t care if it’s a shot at the end, a play at the end of a shot clock, a loose ball, they get a crucial time. You see it. And you know who those players are, and you try really, really hard to get those players, and Paige is one of those players."

Clark has not led Iowa to the same level of success—the Hawkeyes are projected as a mid-tier seed for the NCAA tournament—but she's been every bit as sensational as a playmaker during her freshman season. She averaged 26.9 points and 7.1 assists per game during the regular season, ranking among the nation's leaders in both categories. 

Michigan's Naz Hillmon is likely the Big Ten's best chance at bringing home the award. Hillman has been a double-double machine throughout the 2020-21 season while pushing the Wolverines to the No. 12 spot in the nation.

The race for the top overall seed is largely wide-open, with the conference tournaments likely playing a strong factor in who winds up going into the NCAA tournament as the favorite.