The student news site of Midlothian Heritage High School

The Roar

The student news site of Midlothian Heritage High School

The Roar

The student news site of Midlothian Heritage High School

The Roar

Fearsome Freshmen

The Best First-Year Women’s College Basketball Players So Far
So far in this years womens collegiate basketball season, many of the freshmen are performing like seasoned veterans. First year players such as Notre Dames Hannah Hidalgo and South Carolinas MiLaysia Fulwiley have dazzled in their first few games. -Made in Canva
So far in this year’s women’s collegiate basketball season, many of the freshmen are performing like seasoned veterans. First year players such as Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo and South Carolina’s MiLaysia Fulwiley have dazzled in their first few games. -Made in Canva

The transition from high school basketball to college basketball is a huge step in a player’s journey. Many college freshmen struggle to adjust to the fast pace and physicality that is a staple of collegiate level basketball. However, over the first two weeks of the 2023-24 women’s college basketball season, there have been some freshmen who made that transition with ease. So, I’m going to rank who I thought were the top five most impactful freshmen from the first two weeks of play.

5) Nunu Agara – Stanford
Stanford came into this season ranked No. 15 in the AP preseason polls after losing guard and centerpiece Haley Jones to the WNBA draft. Nunu Agara was ranked No. 37 in the ESPN top 100 Recruiting Rankings, and was a part of a Stanford group that consisted of two other top 100 recruits in No. 10 ranked Courtney Ogden and No. 39 ranked Chloe Clardy. But Agara has been Stanford’s best freshman by a wide margin so far, averaging 10.5 points in 20 minutes a game through four games. She is also shooting a scorching 50% from behind the arc and 93% from the free-throw line.

When I watch Agara play, I don’t feel like I’m watching freshman. Her physicality and strong build as a 6-foot-2 forward allows her to go head-to-head with players much older and more experienced than she is. She has played a big part in helping Stanford achieve a 4-0 record and climb to No. 4 in the AP polls. I have been watching Agara play since her days at Hopkins High School alongside phenom Paige Bueckers, so I’m not surprised to see that she is already playing at such a high level in her first year. I can’t wait to see how she progresses throughout her college career.

4) Mikayla Williams – LSU
As the No. 2 ranked player in the ESPN top 100 Recruiting Ranking, Mikayla Williams had some pretty big expectations on her shoulders before she even stepped foot on a college basketball court. LSU also added more offensive firepower to their already stacked roster with transfers Aneesah Morrow and Hailey Van Lith, so I was interested to see how Williams would fit into LSU’s rotation. But she has had no problems finding her place on the offensive end so far, averaging 19.2 points per game while shooting 56.7% from three and 90% from the free-throw line. She also put on a spectacular 42-point performance against Kent State.

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Williams does have a bit of a learning curve to adjust to on the defensive side, namely the perimeter touch rules that are present at the Division I level, but she has plenty of time to figure that out. So far, her offensive instincts have been the most impressive part of her game, and although the defending champs LSU lost their No. 1 ranking in the very first week of play after being upset by Colorado, Williams has a very bright future and is going to be a contributor for LSU for years to come.

3) JuJu Watkins – USC
The only player that had more pressure on them to perform than Mikayla Williams, was the No. 1 ranked recruit JuJu Watkins. Watkins caught the attention of many when she transferred to Sierra Canyon High School to play her junior and senior seasons. Sierra Canyon has been a premier high school basketball powerhouse for years, so I was really excited to see her join such an elite program. Watkins plays with a swagger and smoothness that is like no other player I have ever seen, and she definitely brought that attitude with her to USC. Through four games, Watkins is averaging an astounding 25 points in 31 minutes a game, while shooting 50% from three. Watkins scored 32 points to help USC upset No. 7 ranked Ohio State in her very first game as a Trojan.

As a freshman, Watkins is leading USC in scoring and has helped them climb to No. 8 in the AP polls. Watkins impresses me so much as a player because of how easily the game comes to her. She gets to her spots and knocks down shots like it’s nothing. She also has no problem with the physicality at the college level, as she finishes through contact and gets to the free-throw line consistently. The only problem she’s had so far is actually making those free-throws, as she is only shooting 60% in that area which isn’t great for a guard with the aggressive playstyle that she has. But it has only been two weeks, so she has plenty of time to improve in that aspect. Overall, Watkins has been absolutely phenomenal in her first few games as a freshman.

2) MiLaysia Fulwiley – South Carolina
MiLaysia Fulwiley was ranked No. 13 in the ESPN top 100 Recruiting Ranking and she opted to stay in her home state and attend the University of South Carolina. Many people were questioning what South Carolina would look like after losing essentially their entire starting five from last year to the WNBA draft, including All-American players Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke and defensive anchor Brea Beal. Their freshmen class included three other top 100 recruits alongside Fulwiley, but Fulwiley has stood out above the rest, dazzling everyone in her first few games with her flashy style of play.

She is averaging 14.5 points in 22 minutes a game, and while she isn’t shooting an amazing percentage from the free-throw or 3-point line, you have to watch her in game to see why I have her as the second best freshmen through the first two weeks of the season. To put it simply, Fulwiley is a walking highlight reel. Behind the back passes and acrobatic layups are just a few of the things that we’ve seen from her, and it’s only week two. The athleticism and smoothness that characterize her game makes me excited to tune into South Carolina games every week. She is exactly the type of player that women’s basketball needs in order to draw more viewership, and I am so happy that we get the privilege of watching her play for the next few years.

1) Hannah Hidalgo – Notre Dame
Hannah Hidalgo was the No. 5 ranked recruit in the ESPN top 100 Recruiting Ranking, and she is bringing the heat so far this season. Through four games she is averaging 25.5 points in 35 minutes a game, while shooting 50% from three. She is also averaging a ridiculous 6.8 steals per game, leading all of women’s college basketball. She started off her collegiate career with a bang, dropping 31 points in a loss to South Carolina. But even though they lost, Hidalgo was the definition of fearless in that game. She had no problem putting Notre Dame on her back and knocking down big shots. She plays with a confidence and fire that not only allows her to go toe-to-toe with defenders several inches taller than her, but to get the best of them the majority of the time. Her defensive prowess has also been extremely impressive throughout her first four games, as her ability to anticipate where the ball is going has led to her already tying Notre Dame’s school record for steals in a game with 12, which she accomplished in just her second game against NJIT.

Hidalgo earned my number one spot for most impressive freshman through two weeks because she has been the most complete freshman so far, getting it done on both ends of the court. She is also a firecracker for her team, bringing fire and energy throughout the entire game. I can safely say that I have never seen a freshman quite like Hannah Hidalgo and she can only get better from here.

We are only two weeks into this season and we are already seeing freshmen putting up 40-point games and tying school records. Did I mention that it’s only week two? I think I speak for all women’s college basketball fans when I say we’re in for a treat with this year’s freshmen.

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