Michelle Smith Feature: Pac-12 women's basketball juniors step up

The juniors who are standing out for their teams in the 2017-18 Pac-12 season are tone-setters and leaders, who aren’t waiting until their final collegiate season to bring their best to the floor.

The top eight juniors in the Pac-12 are among the conference leaders in every category. Her is a look at their stellar seasons: 

Alanna Smith, F, Stanford. The first ever international player to play for Hall of Fame head coach Tara VanDerveer, Smith has been a consistent performer for the second-place Cardinal all season. Following up on an impressive sophomore campaign, the Australian forward has collected five double-doubles and is averaging 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. She is also a perimeter threat, with 19 3-pointers this season. Smith’s biggest game so far this season came in the second matchup of the non-conference, against Ohio State when she finished with 33 points and 16 rebounds.

Kristine Anigwe, F, California. The Bears’ All-American candidate ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring at 17.5 points a game and second in rebounding at 9.1 points. Anigwe, who has five double-doubles in Pac-12 play, has notched four games with at least 15 rebounds this season. No other Pac-12 Players has more than two 15+ rebound games for the year.

Aliyah Mazyck, G, USC. The guard helped to lead her team to its first road sweep of the season and she has had a breakout season for the Women of Troy. Averaging 16.7 points a game, Mazyck, from Charlotte, N.C., is doing much of her damage from the perimeter, ranking first in the Pac-12 with 65 made 3-pointers. Her 105 career 3-pointers has put her on the cusp of the top 10 3-point shooters in school history. She also ranks third in the conference in steals. Mazyck, one of the league’s quickest defenders, has made huge strides this season after averaging just 6.6 points a game a year ago.

Kennedy Leonard, G, Colorado. The Buffaloes’ floor leader since she arrived as a freshman, Leonard is averaging 14.6 points a game and ranks No. 2 in the Pac-12 in assists at 6.6 per game. While Colorado is struggling to collect conference wins, Leonard, from Southlake, Texas, was an all-conference selection last season and already owns the program record for single-season assists with 190.

Megan Huff, F, Utah. Huff, the redshirt junior forward who missed last season after transferring from Hawaii, has been a great complement to senior Emily Potter on the floor for the Utes. She is averaging an impressive 13.9 points and 8.0 rebounds a game, and ranks No. 3 in the Pac-12 in free-throw shooting hitting more than 81 percent of her attempts from the stripe. Huff came to Utah as a two-time Big West Conference Sixth Player of the Year, but has turned into a mainstay in the starting lineup for the Utes, who are 5-5 through the first 10 games of the Pac-12 schedule.

Kiana Ibis, F, Arizona State. The Omaha, Neb., native is leading a balanced Sun Devils offense, averaging 13.1 points a game. Ibis has led the Sun Devils in scoring eight times this season and has scored at least 20 points in five games this season. With one more 20-point game, Ibis will equal Sophie Brunner’s 2016-17 single-season high of six 20-point games.

Kennedy Burke, G, UCLA. Burke, the guard from Northridge, Calif., is following the example of seniors Jordin Canada and Monique Billings as she prepares to take her turn as the Bruins’ team leader. Burke is averaging 10.8 points and 2.0 steals a game from the wing. Burke has grown into a versatile offensive player and takes great pride in her defense, becoming a top defender on one of the conference’s stingiest defensive teams.

Maite Carzola, G, Oregon. The Spaniard is a “glue” player for the first-place Ducks. She is averaging 10.9 points a game and dishing out an average of 5.1 assists, which puts her among the top five in the Pac-12. Her 459 career assists rank her second all-time in program history and she is a dangerous perimeter shooter. Last weekend against Utah, she was 5-for-5 from beyond the arc.

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. For previous Michelle Smith features on pac-12.com, visit the archives page.

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