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2023 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament

March 1-5 | Las Vegas, NV
Michelob ULTRA Arena

Michelle Smith: Incredible infusion of young talent in Pac-12 women's basketball

Nov 9, 2022
Chance Gray | Photo via Oregon Athletics

Never in this history of the Pac-12 has there been an infusion of young women’s basketball talent like this one.

Seven of the top 10 recruits in the Class of 2022 are on Pac-12 rosters, 12 in the top 25.

UCLA boasts the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, led by No. 2 recruit Kiki Rice. Stanford landed the No. 1 recruit in the country in center Lauren Betts.

“It just goes to show you the strength of the conference,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves, whose team nabbed two of the top 15 players in the country. “We’ve got depth, really good coaches, Hall of Famers, and good academic institutions. Good student-athletes want to be here.”

Let’s meet some of the freshmen poised to have a big impact in the Pac this season.

Lauren Betts, Stanford, 6-7, Center
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 1

Betts’ arrival on The Farm is already having an impact as Tara VanDerveer talks about the ways in which a “dominant” Betts can turn Cameron Brink into a more versatile, perimeter-oriented player with Betts preparing to take up minutes inside. Betts led her high school team to the Colorado state title last season, averaging 17.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.6 blocks and 3.5 assists per game. The McDonald’s All-American was born in Spain and raised in Colorado and is tied with Chandra Benton and Cori Enghusen as the tallest player in program history.

Kiki Rice, UCLA, 5-11, Guard
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 2

Rice’s ability to immediately move into the UCLA rotation was evidenced by Bruin head coach Cori Close’s decision to bring Rice to Pac-12 Media Day. Alongside Charisma Osborne, this is shaping up to be one of the Conference’s most intriguing backcourt duos. Rice, one of four top 50 recruits to join the Bruins' program, was a multi-sport star in high school, excelling in both basketball and soccer and was named the Gatorade National Basketball Player of the Year, averaging 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.7 steals in her senior season.

Timea Gardiner, Oregon State, 6-3, Forward
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 6

Gardiner is the highest-rated recruit in Oregon State history, propelling the Beavers to the No. 3 recruiting class in the country. Gardiner’s Fremont High team in Utah won the state championship and she averaged 13.5 points and 7.1 rebounds in her senior season. OSU coach Scott Rueck said that Gardiner “is as prepared a first-year player that I can remember.” 

Chance Gray, Oregon, 5-9, Guard
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 7

Gray, the second-highest recruit in program history behind Sabrina Ionescu, is going to get a great opportunity to learn the point guard position with two experienced backcourt players in Te-Hina Paopao and Endyia Rogers. Gray, a three-time all-state selection in Ohio, will bring depth to the guard position and the ability to get to the rim. Graves said that Gray has been vocal, and is “ahead of where most freshmen are” to start the season.

Aaliyah Gayles, USC, 5-9, Guard
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 8

Gayles, whose budding basketball career was torn apart by gun violence at a party in North Las Vegas last spring, will redshirt this year and prepare to make an emotional comeback next season.

Maya Nnaji, Arizona, 6-4, Forward
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 9

Nnaji, a Minnesota native, has been connected to the Wildcats for some time, as her brother Zeke also played for the University of Arizona. Nnaji prepped at Hopkins High School, the same school that Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers attended. Arizona coach Adia Barnes called Nnaji “the total package.”

Raegan Beers, Oregon State, 6-2, Forward
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 10

Beers, like Gardiner a McDonald’s All-American, could be in position to move straight into the Beavers’ starting lineup. The Littleton, Colorado native is a three-time all-state honoree in Colorado. Beers is regarded as a physical player in the low post with a strong interior game and a good face-up shot. She is also mobile in transition.

Grace VanSlooten, Oregon, 6-3, Forward
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 13

VanSlooten is already making a good first impression on the Ducks. She led Oregon in its exhibition win over Carroll College with 12 points and nine rebounds and pushed the ball in transition, all of which likely made Ducks coach Kelly Graves very happy.

Gabriela Jaquez, UCLA, 5-11, Forward
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 19

Close to home, the Camarillo native has put up some eye-popping numbers in her prep career, averaging 24.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.1 assists. She averaged 34.2 points a game in her senior season. Her older brother, Jamie, plays for the UCLA men’s program and she was the co-MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game with her Bruin teammate Kiki Rice.

Indya Nivar, Stanford, 5-9, Guard
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 20

The North Carolina native is going to compete for a lot of playing time out of the gate for the Cardinal at the point guard spot. Nivar averaged 18 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 3.5 steals in her senior season.

Paris Clark, Arizona, 5-8, Guard
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 21

Clark impressed in the Wildcats’ exhibition opener, scoring 11 points with four steals. Aggressive at both ends of the floor, the New York native will bolster the Conference's second-best scoring defense from a season ago (57.4 points per game).

Londynn Jones, UCLA, 5-4, Guard
espnW HoopGurlz Ranking: No. 22

What Jones lacks in size, she more than makes up for in work ethic and drive, says UCLA coach Cori Close. "She's got charisma and she's also not afraid to say the hard things to her teammates. I think that's something you don't see very often from freshman. She's not afraid to be coached hard."