WNBA

Freshman Phenoms Ready to Establish Themselves

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The 2021 freshman class is filled with talent that can contribute to not just teams that need them to be their next top player, but to teams looking to win championships. Some of the top-tier schools added even more elite talent as they push for a national title. 

Azzi Fudd, UConn

The highly touted number one recruit is one of the most talented scorers we’ve ever seen at the high school level. She is teaming up with her best friend, Paige Bueckers, forming the duo known as PB&J. Fudd is a young phenom with numerous high school accolades. She was the 2019 Gatorade National Player of the Year, the first sophomore to ever win that award, the 2021 Morgan Wooten High School Player of the Year, and a McDonald’s All-American. She fought back from a major ACL injury in April 2019, and was able to return after just nine months.

Fudd has fought through adversity the last few years, but now she moves on to the college game where the expectations are some of the highest ever on a high school recruit. Can she live up to them?

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Dawn Staley brought in a loaded and extremely talented 2021 freshman class, while keeping her core players from the last two seasons. While UConn got the number one and five ranked recruits, South Carolina got numbers two, three, and four.

Raven Johnson, South Carolina

Johnson is the second ranked recruit and top ranked point guard. She won a Naismith Player of the Year award in high school, and was the USA Today Georgia Player of the Year. Johnson led her to team to four state championships and a national championship her senior year. She was the first girl to play in a major boys’ basketball All-Star game earlier this year. With all of the things she can do on the court and Destanni Henderson there to help guide her, she could make an instant impact. Hollywood is her nickname and she’s sure to show Columbia, SC why that is.

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Saniya Rivers, South Carolina

Rivers, the number three recruit, was named both the Gatorade and USA Today Player of the Year. In her senior year, she averaged 36.8 points, 11.5 rebounds and a whopping 5.3 steals per game. She averaged 6.3 steals her junior year. Rivers had a 50 point game in her senior year as well. Her game is smooth, she has good quickness and athleticism, and clearly good defensive instincts. She will be loved in Columbia and will be able to contribute right away.

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Sania Feagin, South Carolina

Feagin was the number one ranked forward and number four ranked player in the class. She was the Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year in 2020 and named a McDonald’s All-American. She went to back-to-back state championships, and won in 2020. Feagin averaged 18.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game as a senior. Feagin also won a gold medal this summer with the FIBA U19 World Cup team. She will have to compete with two of the best post players in the country to make an impact, but with her talent and defensive ability, Staley will find ways to get her on the court.

Jersey Wolfenbarger, Arkansas

Wolfenbarger was number seven overall, and decided to stay home and choose to play at Arkansas. The Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year in 2020 and 2021, won two state championships. She averaged 19.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.7 blocks per game as a senior. A versatile 6’5 wing, she will always be a difference maker on the court. She also won a gold medal in the FIBA U19 World Cup.

With Chelsea Dungee and Destiny Slocum leaving for the WNBA, Arkansas needs someone to step up in a tough conference and she could be their next big time player.

Payton Verhulst, Louisville

Verhulst was the number 12 recruit, and showed her versatility this summer as one of the best players on the FIBA U19 World Cup team. She was named the USA Today National Female Athlete of the a Year, Kansas Girls Player of the Year and named a McDonald’s All-American. She led her team to a 23-1 record and a state championship, averaging 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.8 steals, 3.6 assists and 3.5 blocks per game. Verhulst only lost a total of 4 games in high school. She has the ability to do everything on the court, and at 6’1 can play guard, wing or forward. Louisville is bringing back a talented team, but Verhulst will definitely have opportunities to make a name for herself early and often.

 

Olivia Miles, Notre Dame

Miles was the number eight ranked recruit and first ever early enrollee at Notre Dame. She was practicing and playing with the team on January 26th, before even turning 18. She ended the season with 5 straight double-figure scoring games. Miles averaged 13.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.6 assists her junior season. She also played AAU with her teammate Sonia Citron. Miles showed off her ability in a season where she normally would not have been able to. Irish fans are really excited about her and they should be. She could definitely be their next big time guard in South Bend.

Sonia Citron, Notre Dame

Citron was the number 16 ranked recruit, and was a record-breaking player in New York. The two-time Gatorade NY Player of the Year went 79-5 in her career and broke all of her school records by her junior year. Citron finished with averages of 26.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5 assists per game, finishing her career with 2,243 points and 1,192 rebounds. She won gold with the FIBA U19 World Cup team and was named to the Tournament All-Star Five Team after averaging 14.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. As much talent as there is in South Bend already, Citron could be the icing on the cake to get them back to where they want to be.

About Tariq McDowell

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