Michelle Smith WBB Notebook: Meet the Pac-12 Freshmen making an impact
Of all the new experiences that Pac-12 freshmen will experience during their debut college basketball seasons, one of the most defining will take place this week. Instead of being home with family, sitting around a table, eating Thanksgiving turkey, most of them will be on the road, making memories on their first significant road trips of the season.
A significant number of impact freshman dot Pac-12 lineups. Let’s take a moment to meet them.
Helena Pueyo, 6-0, Guard. Pueyo, who posted a career-high 14 points in Sunday’s win over Montana, comes to Tucson with significant international experience playing for the Spanish National Team. She helped to lead Spain to a bronze medal in the 2019 U19 World Cup. Pueyo is averaging 17.4 minutes a game off the bench, averaging 8.5 points a game. She is 10-for-21 from beyond the arc, matching the lead on the team in 3-pointers made with Sam Thomas.
Jaz Shelley, 5-9, Guard. Shelley is an Australian import who brings an all-around game to Eugene. Shelley is averaging 15.8 minutes a game off the bench, scoring 7.0 points and hitting 39 percent of her shots beyond the 3-point arc. As the Ducks move further into the season and need to rely more heavily on their depth, Shelley’s role is likely to increase.
Taylor Jones, 6-3, Forward. Jones, averaging less than 20 minutes per game, already leads the Beavers in scoring, ranking sixth in the Pac-12 at 16.4 points a game. Jones is proving to be a versatile frontcourt mate to Kennedy Brown, with nine blocks on the season and averaging 6.4 rebounds. A 24-point performance against a ranked DePaul team – which helped propel her to the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award last week - shows that Jones is ready to be a big factor in the big games for the Beavers.
Ashten Prechtel, 6-5, Forward. The second-highest rated recruit in this stellar Stanford class behind No. 1 overall recruit Haley Jones, Prechtel, from Colorado Springs, is already making her presence felt for the Cardinal. On a team where the minutes will be spread around, Prechtel is averaging 10.0 points and 7.0 rebounds a game in a little more than 18 minutes on the floor. And she leads the team with eight blocked shots.
Fran Belibi, 6-1, Foward. Belibi came to Stanford with national renown after viral videos of her dunking ability began to circulate. Belibi can do much more than throw down at the rim. Belibi leads Stanford in field-goal percentage, shooting 63.2 percent from the floor to go with 7.5 rebounds a game, and a team-leading eight offensive rebounds in four games.
Haley Jones, 6-1, Guard. The nation’s top recruit in this class from Archbishop Mitty in nearby San Jose, Jones has size, versatility and great basketball IQ and she is averaging 8.0 points a game as she settles in behind the Cardinal’s veteran backcourt of Kianna Williams, DiJonai Carrington and the Hull sisters.
Charisma Osborne, 5-9 Guard. Osborne comes to UCLA from the same school that brought them WNBA standout Jordin Canada. Osborne has made two starts in four games, averaging 7.8 points and has hit six 3-pointers so far, ranking her second on the team. Osborne opened her college career with a 17-point game against Weber State while the Bruins waited for fifth-year senior Japreece Dean to return to the floor.
Endyia Rogers, 5-7, Guard. Rogers, from Dallas, Texas, has started all five games this season so far for the Women of Troy, averaging a team-leading 12.4 points per game to go with 4.6 rebounds and she has collected a team-high five steals, proving her mettle on the defensive end of the floor.
Lola Pendande, 6-4, Forward. Pandande is another of the top international talents who have come into the Pac-12 over the past few seasons. Immediately inserted into the starting lineup, she currently leads the Utes in scoring (12.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.2 rpg) in a little more than 20 minutes a game on the floor.
Brynna Maxwell, 6-0, Guard. Maxwell, from Gig Harbor, Washington, has also been an immediate impact player for the Utes with five starts so far this season. She ranks second on the team in scoring at 11.8 points a game and her 12 3-pointers rank her second in the Pac-12.
Wildcats off to best since in two decades
Arizona made national noise last week with a big win over Texas in Austin, a game that pushed Aari McDonald to espnW National Player of the Week honors after her 44-point performance. And the run of success continues as Arizona wins its first six games of the season for the first time since 1999 with a 77-42 win over Montana.
The Wildcats, who made an appearance in the AP Top 25 this week for the first time in 15 years, stay home for the Thanksgiving holiday with only a Friday game against UC Riverside.
Cougars quietly climb
For all the power at the top of the Pac-12 this season, there seems to be room for someone to slip quietly into the national picture.
Washington State, with its 3-0 start that includes wins over BYU and Boise State, is receiving votes in the national polls. The Cougars, in their second season under head coach Kamie Ethridge, are led by veteran guards Borislava Hristova and Chanelle Molina, are holding opponents to 32.4 percent shooting (ranking them 3rd in the Pac-12) and rank 3rd with 33 defensive rebounds a game.
Hristova, the fifth-year senior from Bulgaria, is averaging 23.7 points a game thus far.
Washington State is playing the most challenging preseason schedule in the Pac-12 with games against No. 2 Baylor, No. 5 South Carolina – on back-to-back days, no less - No. 18 Indiana, No. 23 Gonzaga and No. 16 Miami before the start of conference play. Games that will define whether the Cougars are ready to challenge in the top half of the nation’s best conference.
Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, San Francisco Chronicle, The Athletic and AOL Fanhouse. She was has won several awards, including the WBCA's Mel Greenberg Media Award, presented annually to a member of the media who has best displayed commitment to advancing the role of the media in women's basketball. For previous Michelle Smith features on pac-12.com, visit the archives page.