Charlisse Leger-Walker Named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year
SAN FRANCISCO – Charlisse Leger-Walker took the Pac-12 Conference by storm in her first season with the Washington State women's basketball team. On Monday, March 1, the guard was rewarded for her dominant rookie campaign, as Leger-Walker was named the 2020-21 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. She becomes the first Washington State women's basketball player to earn the conference's top freshman honor in 23 years.
The guard from Waikato, New Zealand had a remarkable debut-season for the Cougars, as Leger-Walker set numerous WSU freshman records during a COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign. Leger-Walker was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week a school-record seven times. The seven weekly freshman honors tie her with the NCAA's all-time leading scorer, Kelsey Plum, for the second-most in Pac-12 history.
Leger-Walker helped Washington State soar to new heights in her first year on the Palouse, as the Cougars made their first-ever appearance in the Associated Press top-25 poll this season. Washington State has also posted three wins over ranked opponents, which included victories over No. 5/4 UCLA and No. 7/10 Arizona at Beasley Coliseum. Leger-Walker etched her name in WSU women's basketball lore even more in the upset victories over the Bruins and Wildcats, as she hit the game-winning shot in both games.
"I feel very privileged and honored to be recognized," said Leger-Walker. "Obviously, that isn't what I play for, but it's cool to get recognized by people outside of your team. This award kind of represents the type of success we're having as a team this year. It's been a great first season, for me personally and for the team. A lot of learning curves and a lot of successes along the way. A lot of history this year as well, and it's been really cool to be a part of."
Leger-Walker becomes just the second player in Washington State history to be named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, as she joins Alke Dietel, who won the award back during the 1997-98 season.
The freshman displayed her diverse skill-set throughout the 2020-21 season, as Leger-Walker led the Cougars in both scoring (19.4 ppg) and steals (2.3). She was also second on the team in assists (3.2 apg) and third in rebounding (5.3 rpg). Leger-Walker's 19.4 points per game is the highest scoring average for a WSU freshman in program history.
Leger-Walker is also the first freshman in Pac-12 women's basketball history to end the regular season leading the conference in total points scored, as she tallied 407 points in 21 regular-season contests this season. She also led the Pac-12 in field goals made (137) and minutes played (796:10). Leger-Walker led the Pac-12 in scoring for the majority of the season, but she ends the regular season second in the conference in scoring, just a few percentage points behind Arizona's Aari McDonald.
"We're thrilled for Charlisse," said Washington State women's basketball head coach Kamie Ethridge. "She has distinguished herself as one of America's best players in a conference filled with greatness. What truly separates Charlisse is her every-day-warrior-mentality and work ethic. She is a fierce and humble team-first competitor."
Leger-Walker put the entire conference on notice in the first game of her WSU career, as she scored 20 points to go along with seven rebounds and four steals in a season-opening victory at Washington. Her 20-point effort against the Huskies in the season opener was the first of 12 games this season with 20-or-more points, which is a WSU freshman record for most 20-point games. The guard scored a career-high 29 points on three-separate occasions this season. The first occurrence took place on Dec. 13 in her second game with WSU against Idaho. The next two 29-point efforts came on Jan. 15 at Southern Cal and on Feb. 14 at Arizona State.
The 2020-21 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honor is just one of three conference accolades that Leger-Walker has earned this week. Earlier today, the guard was named to both the All-Pac-12 team and the All-Pac-12 Freshman team. She becomes just the 22nd freshman in Pac-12 history to be selected to both all-conference teams.
Washington State begins its run in the 2021 Pac-12 Tournament this week in Las Vegas at the Michelob ULTRA Arena. The Cougars earned the tournament's No. 7 seed and will take on No. 10-seed Utah this Wednesday, March 3, at 5 p.m. PT. The game will air live on the Pac-12 Network.
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