Michelle Smith WBB Notebook: Voting for postseason honors
With the Pac-12 Tournament less than a week away, it’s time to honor some of the Pac-12’s best individual efforts this season.
The league’s end-of-season honors will be announced next week, but here are one person’s votes for the 2019-20 season.
Player of the Year
Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon. Ionescu has put together a collegiate career that won’t soon be forgotten. The NCAA triple-doubles record by a margin that seems unlikely to ever be matched, the unprecedented 2,000-point, 1,000-assist, 1,000-rebound milestone, a top-5 ranking in the NCAA’s all-time assists mark for women’s basketball. She has been surrounded by talent. She has pushed and pulled her teammates to match her intensity and will to win. She has succeeded. She has improved every season, taken her team further every season. The Ducks have won two Pac-12 titles. Ionescu will go down as one of the best all-around players in Pac-12 history. There is one big goal left - win a NCAA title. She came back for this. She made the Pac-12 better for doing it.
Aari McDonald, Arizona - A star on both sides of the ball who has changed the face of her program.
Ruthy Hebard, Oregon - The ultimate finisher.
Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA - A national player of the year candidate in 2021.
Mikayla Pivec, Oregon State - The rock, the glue, the centerpiece.
Kiana Williams, Stanford - Rises to the big moments.
Satou Sabally, Oregon - Smooth and ready for the next level.
Destiny Slocum, Oregon State - Gritty, gutty and relentless.
Japreece Dean, UCLA - Passionate, experienced floor leader.
Borislava Hristova, Washington - A legacy of scoring and heart.
Amber Melgoza, Washington - Consistently exciting.
Cate Reese, Arizona - Ready to break out nationally.
Maya Hollingshed, Colorado - Steadying force on an up-and-coming team.
Alissa Pili, USC - Bright young star who carried a young team.
JaTavia Tapley, Arizona State - Tone-setter at both ends of the floor.
Defensive Player of the Year
Aari McDonald, Arizona. McDonald is known best for being a scorer, but she also happens to be one of best defensive players in the nation. McDonald leads the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals per game. She was recently named a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist. Her unmatched quickness makes her a difficult defensive matchup on the perimeter. And she sets a defensive tone for a team that uses the press to its best advantage.
Taylor Jones, Oregon State - League-leading 55 blocks
Sam Thomas, Arizona - 48 steals and 42 blocks
Haley Van Dyke, Washington - Second in the Pac-12 with 61 steals.
Minyon Moore, Oregon - 47 steals, strong perimeter defender.
Freshman of the Year
Alissa Pili, USC. There were higher-profile freshmen in this class. Stanford had a few, so did Oregon and Oregon State, but none did more for their team than Alaska native Pili, who has averaged 18.8 points a game in Pac-12 play on a super-young USC team that was hampered by injuries, but still proved a tough out in conference play. She has scored in double digits in 12 straight games, averaging 19.8 points a game over that stretch, and has been named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week three times this season, the first time in school history.
Taylor Jones, OSU - 12.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 55 blocks.
Charisma Osborne, UCLA - 15.1 points a game in Pac-12 play
Jaylyn Sherrod, Colorado - Fourth in Pac-12 in assists at 5.3 per game, 10.8 ppg
Brynna Maxwell, Utah - 13.3 points a game in Pac-12 play
Sixth Player of Year
Ashten Prechtel, Stanford. The Cardinal freshman post might have been battling her teammate Haley Jones for this honor had Jones not been injured halfway through the Pac-12 season. She has started just six games this season, but is averaging 7.6 points in 15.4 minutes a game off the bench, a number that jumps to 9.0 points a game in Pac-12 play. She’s made 22 3-pointers, is averaging 5.1 rebounds a game and she’s collected 30 blocks. Her biggest game of the season was a 19-point, 14-rebound game against Washington State on February 2.
Coach of the Year
Kelly Graves, Oregon. What Graves has done this season so far, guiding a team with its core talent intact through expectations, pressure, 3-point shoot slumps and all of the weight that Sabrina Ionescu bears as the face of college hoops, is not nearly as easy as it looks. He has replaced a four-year starter at point guard with a fifth-year graduate transfer. He has improved his team on the defensive end, making them even more dominating. He led them through a pair of disappointing losses at Louisville and Arizona State to playing the best basketball in the country with the postseason on the horizon. Oregon is not just considered a contender for the title, but a favorite, and Graves has been the architect.
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.