Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every week of the women's college basketball season.
Jessica Shepard pretty much always wanted to be a Nebraska Cornhusker. And so far in her freshman season, she's making the kind of impact that everyone expected since she committed to the Huskers before she was even in high school.
Shepard, a 6-foot-4 forward from Fremont, Nebraska, is our espnW national player of the week after leading the Huskers to big road victories at Purdue and Michigan. Nebraska has won five straight and is 14-5 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten, after starting 0-3 in conference play.
Shepard had 22 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots in Wednesday's 62-61 victory over the Boilermakers, as Nebraska held off Purdue's big fourth-quarter rally. There were still lessons to learn in that game for the rookie Shepard, who had nine of Nebraska's 27 turnovers.
Sunday in a 93-81 victory at Michigan, the Huskers had just 13 turnovers. And only two came from Shepard in her best performance in a season that has had plenty of highlights already. She had 35 points and 20 rebounds with two blocked shots. It was the Huskers' second-highest point total of the season, as they shot 50 percent from the field.
Shepard's only struggle Sunday was from the foul line (9-of-16), but for the week she shot 20-of-38 (52.6 percent) from the field.
For the season, she's averaging 20.9 PPG and 9.5 RPG. She has twice hit the 35-point mark -- a Nebraska single-game record for a freshman -- doing it previously against Northern Arizona on Dec. 19. Her 20 rebounds Sunday is her best total so far. She has eight double-doubles, one off the school's season record for a freshman. Shepard already has been named the Big Ten's freshman of the week seven times, and the league player of the week once.
Shepard played for two different high schools, but there never was much doubt about her one and only college choice. It was Big Red all the way.
Shepard played her first two prep seasons at Lincoln Southeast. Then when her father, Mark, became superintendent of schools in Fremont -- about 50 miles north of the state capital of Lincoln, home of the Huskers -- Shepard moved back to that town, which is where she'd grown up.
Shepard suffered an ACL in injury in late December of her senior year of high school. But here she is now, just a little over a year later, showing that she's already one of the interior powers not just in the Big Ten, but also in the country.
Also nominated: Imani Boyette, Texas; Steph Kostowicz, Milwaukee; Kitija Laska, South Florida; Brittney Martin, Oklahoma State; Kendall Noble, Western Kentucky; Azura Stevens, Duke
Previous winners: Kelsey Mitchell (Nov. 29) | Courtney Walker (Nov. 22) | Vanessa Panousis (Dec. 6) | Makayla Epps (Dec. 13) | Megan Podkowa (Dec. 20) | Kelsey Mitchell (Jan. 4) | Stephanie Brunner (Jan. 11) | A'ja Wilson (Jan. 18)