2021 Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Preseason Watch List
25 players named to preseason watch list for the second-annual Becky Hammon Award presented by Her Hoop Stats
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Hopewell, N.J. (Nov. 11, 2020)--We are proud to announce the 25 members of the preseason watch list for the 2021 Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award presented by Her Hoop Stats. The Becky Hammon Award was first given out in 2020, with South Dakota’s Ciara Duffy being named the inaugural winner. This year’s preseason watch list includes representation from 23 schools and 15 conferences.
Below are the 25 members of the preseason watch list, listed in alphabetical order by school.
Lewis finished in the top three in points, rebounds, and blocks per game in the SWAC last season, doing so as a sophomore. Her sophomore season was her first with the Lady Bulldogs after transferring from Missouri State. Lewis took home SWAC Newcomer of the Year honors in 2019-20 and was named a First Team HBCU All-American by BOXTOROW, on a list where every other player was a senior.
Fair had an excellent season in her freshman campaign, finishing fourth in Division I in scoring and 22nd in steals per game. Fair also finished in the top 10% in assists per game, and 5.9 rebounds per game are solid for her style of play. With the return of redshirt senior Summer Hemphill--who missed all of last season with a leg injury--look for Fair’s scoring efficiency to improve with defenses having to worry about another threat on the court.
Kelly was named MAC Player of the Year last season thanks to an impressive scoring efficiency at her volume of shots--only three other players in the country averaged as many points with a higher points per scoring attempt (1.10 PPSA) than her. Kelly also had two triple-doubles on the season, a mark that was only surpassed by Sabrina Ionescu.
Thomas, a unanimous AAC First Team All-Conference selection, will look to follow up her junior campaign with another strong season. The Bearcats lost four players to graduation that combined for 42.6 of the team’s 69.4 points per game last year, so Thomas will likely be tasked with picking up her production even more this season.
With a team loaded with five freshmen in 2019-20, Utti stepped up and finished second in scoring and first in rebounding for the Bulldogs, who closed the season at 27-5. Utti did it all, finishing in the top five percent nationally in points, rebounds, and steals per game to go along with 2.5 assists per game and a turnover rate in the top six percent.
One of six players on this watch list who averaged a double-double, Hodges is an incredibly consistent rebounder. In 28 games played, Hodges reached double-digit rebounds in 18 of them. Her offensive and defensive rebounding rates were both in the top five percent nationally.
The reigning WCC Player of the Year, Townsend and the Bulldogs were a revelation in 2019-20, finishing ranked No. 13 and likely on their way to hosting first and second-round games before the season was cut short. Townsend’s strength is her scoring efficiency with her PPSA last season at 1.20, which ranked No. 133 in Division I.
Speaking of excellent scoring efficiency, Williams sported the 68th-best PPSA in 2019-20 (1.25) thanks to one of the most effective inside games in the country. Williams’s 59.9% two-point shooting percentage was 60th in Division I last season. Additionally, her combination of a low turnover rate and a high usage rate makes her a very reliable player to run an offense through.
Kucowski is an excellent rebounder, especially on the defensive end where her 31.4% defensive rebounding rate was sixth-highest in the country last season. Kucowski might also be the only player in Division I who could be on “5x5 watch” in any given game. She finished two games with five or more points, rebounds, assists, and blocks in the span of four games last January, falling short of the 5x5 with two steals in each game.
Along with a solid 11.1 points per game on an efficient 1.21 PPSA, Franklin was a defensive stalwart for Missouri State in 2019-20. Driven by the 11th-highest defensive rebounding rate in the nation, Franklin grabbed 8.7 rebounds per contest despite playing just 25.0 minutes per game. Look for those minutes to jump up this season. The sophomore forward also added 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, both in the top 10% nationally.
Hooks finished in the top-50 nationally in scoring average, but her ability to ball-hawk and gain extra possessions for the Bobcats is what sets her apart from most guards. Hooks’ 3.7 steals per game was the fifth-highest in Division I.
Also in the top-50 nationally in scoring average was Hooks’ teammate Erica Johnson. The two were the only pair of teammates both averaging more than 18 points per game last season. Johnson led the team in points, rebounds, and assists.
Higgins and her well-rounded game will have a chance to elevate the Tigers in an intriguing WCC race where most of the focus has been on Gonzaga. Higgins has solidified herself as one of the conference’s top scoring threats, in addition to showcasing her defensive prowess. Her 3.5 steals per game were sixth in the nation, and at 6-foot-1 her ability to block shots is significantly higher than many guards.
Padilla proved herself as a scoring threat right out of the gate in her freshman season, scoring 20 or more points in five of her first eight games for the Quakers. There is room for improvement in her rebounding numbers, but that isn’t especially worrying for a 5-foot-9 guard. Her 28.0 usage rate, which was paired with a very low turnover rate, is very impressive, as only four other freshmen in Division I had a higher rate while playing 32.5 or more minutes per game.
Fowler, who poured in 22 points in Portland’s conference tournament upset of Gonzaga, did just about everything for the Pilots and she did it well. Her points, rebounds, steals, and blocks were all in the top six percent nationally, and her scoring efficiency (1.15 PPSA) was also in the top 10% of Division I.
While 2020 Becky Hammon Award finalist Bella Alarie was doing her thing for the Tigers, Littlefield was quietly putting up impressive numbers of her own. With Alarie now in the WNBA, Littlefield will have a chance to become the primary scoring threat this season.
Named one of the 10 semifinalists for this award last season, Basallo put up an impressive combination of scoring efficiency and assist rate. She poured in 18.9 points per game (32nd in Division I) at a clip of 1.18 PPSA (top 10% in Division I). Her 30.5% assist rate was the 65th-highest in the nation.
Whitehead was a great complement to the game of Basallo, averaging a double-double over 30 games played. Whitehead’s rebounding rates on offense and defense were both in the top five percent of Division I. She also added 2.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, both of which were in the top 10% nationally.
It is pretty easy to fly under the radar when you’re teammates with the eventual winner of the 2020 Becky Hammon Award, Ciara Duffy, but Sjerven had one of the most underrated seasons in the country last season. Her points and rebounds per game look pretty good, but those numbers were in spite of averaging just 20 minutes per contest and the Coyotes will have more minutes up for grabs this season. Her win shares per 40 minutes played, a pretty good approximation for how many wins a player is worth, was 0.59. For some context, Sabrina Ionescu was the only other Division I player to crack 0.55.
There is a lot to like about Thompson’s game. She scores, rebounds, and records steals at a very high level. What makes all that more impressive is her combination of usage rate and turnover percentage. Logic would tell you that a player with a high usage rate is likely pressing and therefore prone to make more errant passes or dangerous drives to the rim. However, only two other players with 20 or more games played have a better combination of the two.
Davis averaged a double-double last season, and her above-average offensive rebounding is what pushed her over the 10-rebound threshold. The Temple forward averaged 4.1 offensive rebounds per game, which was the 18th-highest in Division I. Her 6.1 defensive rebounds per game were also in the top-100.
Jeter’s 18.3 points per game were 46th-highest in Division I, but her work on defense was equally impressive. Her 3.4 steals per game were eighth in the country, and she did it with a steal rate of 4.6%, which was 18th. And, for a 5-foot-8 guard, her 6.8 rebounds per game are an additional bonus.
Lane was one of 30 players to average a double-double last season, but very few did so as convincingly as her. The only other player with more rebounds while averaging a double-double was Denia Davis-Stewart, who made this watch list last year before graduating. Oh, and Lane did it as a freshman. Lane is one of six players to do so as a freshman, and none of the other five even reached 11.5 rebounds per game.
Perry, the lone finalist for this award last season who was not a senior, is not a surprising name to see on this list. For anyone who didn’t pay close attention to her last season, Perry went on an absolute tear in the month of January, including a stretch where she scored 20 or more points in eight consecutive games. Perry, who hadn’t even been on our midseason watch list of 15 players, leapfrogged herself into the top 10 and then the top five over the course of a month.
Elgedawy put up some incredible rebounding numbers last season, finishing 51st in offensive rebounding rate and 28th in defensive rebounding rate. The 6-foot-4 forward also averaged 17.6 points per game, mostly thanks to a strong 53.6% shooting on two-pointers.
Award Eligibility & Schedule
To be eligible for this award, players must compete in one of the 26 conferences deemed to be “mid-major.” The following conferences are considered high-major for the purposes of this award, and thus ineligible: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. In January, 15 players will be named to the midseason watch list. The 10 semifinalists will be announced in February, with five finalists being announced in early March. The winner will be announced in late March. The list is fluid and players may play their way on or off the list over the course of the season.
About Becky Hammon
Hammon was a three-time All-American during her career at Colorado State and led the Rams to the Sweet 16 in 1999, the program’s only appearance to date. She was signed by the New York Liberty in 1999 and traded to the San Antonio Stars in 2007, where she played the rest of her career.
Hammon retired in 2014 as a six-time All-Star and a two-time All-WNBA First Team honoree. In 2016 she was named one of the top 20 players in WNBA history. Hammon became the second female coach in NBA history when she began coaching for the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. Additionally, Hammon is the only woman to be a head coach in the NBA Summer League as well as the only woman to be a member of an NBA All-Star coaching staff.
About Her Hoop Stats
Her Hoop Stats was founded in 2017 to unlock better insight about women's basketball at all levels. We began as a statistics site focused on providing consistent, reliable, and easy-to-access data about women's basketball for both mobile and desktop environments. Her Hoop Stats has expanded to become a leading independent voice in the women's game providing content through our newsletter, podcast, and social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).