Four Pac-12 women’s basketball student-athletes named Naismith Starting Five winners
SAN FRANCISCO — Four of the five Basketball Hall of Fame/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association national positional awards, also known as the Naismith Starting Five, went to Pac-12 student-athletes with three going to the OREGON Ducks, including Sabrina Ionescu claiming the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award for the third-consecutive year. She also becomes the consensus national player of the year after winning the John R. Wooden Award for the second-straight year, which was also announced today.
Ionescu (Walnut Creek, Calif.) is just the second player in the history of the Lieberman Award to win the honor three times, joining only Connecticut’s Sue Bird (2000-02). It is the fourth time a Pac-12 women’s basketball student-athlete has won the Wooden Award since 2014 (of three recipients), but she is the first in Conference history to win the honor twice.
Along with Ionescu, the Naismith Starting Five announced today were ARIZONA’s Aari McDonald (Fresno, Calif.), winner of the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard Award; UO’s Satou Sabally (Berlin, Germany), winner of the Cheryl Miller Small Forward Award; and the Ducks’ Ruthy Hebard (Fairbanks, Alaska), winner of the Katrina McClain Power Forward Award.
Ionescu led the country with a 9.1 assists per game average and was fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio with 3.05 assists per turnover. She led the team and was fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring with 17.5 points per game. Winner of the Wade Trophy, Naismith Award, USBWA national player of the year award, AP national player of the year award, ESPN.com national player of the year and now the John R. Wooden Award, she is the first men’s or women’s player in NCAA history to amass 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. She matched her single-season record of eight triple-doubles in 2019-20 and finished her college career as the NCAA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles (26) and No. 4 in career assists. She is a three-time Pac-12 Player of the Year and owns the Conference mark for career assists average (7.7 apg).
McDonald is the first-ever Wildcat to win a national positional award and she is the first from the Pac-12 to win the shooting guard honor. She has been named an All-American by the WBCA, Associated Press and USBWA. Scoring (20.6) and steals per game (2.3), she was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and All-Pac-12, becoming the only player in league history to lead the Pac-12 in scoring and steals twice.
Sabally is the first in the Pac-12 to win the small forward honor. She is a WBCA, AP and USBWA All-American after being featured on several preseason national player of the year watch lists. She averaged 16.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, starting in every game she played in, en route to All-Pac-12 honor for the second time in her career.
Hebard, along with teammate Ionescu, is a consensus All-American this season after shooting a Pac-12 record 68.5 percent from the floor, which also led the country. Contributing 17.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, she also broke the Conference’s career shooting percentage record (65.1 percent), while tallying her 2,000th-career point and ranks in the top-10 all-time in league history. Hebard wins the McClain Award for the second time in her career, first winning the award in 2018.
The Pac-12 recorded the most combined positional award candidates this season with as many as 19 named to the preseason watch lists, including the most number of candidates for four of the five awards.
The Nancy Lieberman Award was been established in 2000, with the other four positional awards established in 2017-18. The Wooden Award began recognizing the top-collegiate women’s basketball player in 2004.