Meet the No. 1 women's college basketball recruits in each class - and the prospects on their tails

Stanford commit Lauren Betts, a 6-foot-7 post player, is the top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2022. Brittany Graham

We have updated and published our espnW rankings for the Classes of 2022, 2023 and 2024. While there is an emphasis on which players improved their recruiting stock and moved up the charts, it also puts a sharp focus on who the No. 1-ranked players are in each class.

Rankings change with each update, sometimes dramatically. Questions emerge about which players rose or dropped, and there are different philosophies and thoughts into why those things happen.

We evaluate based on production, potential and performances in important matchups and on big stages. Just because a player is ranked No. 1 today does not mean she will be No. 1 in the next round of updates.

Here, we break down the players in the 2022, 2023 and 2024 classes and how the Nos. 1 and 2 prospects in each class stack up against each other in terms of strengths, areas of improvement and future potential.

Class of 2022

C Lauren Betts
Grandview High School (Colorado)
espnW 100 ranking: 1
Committed to: Stanford

Betts might be considered a "throwback" big because of what she brings to the table: an interior defensive presence and a player on offense who operates predominantly on the block and in and around the paint. But make no mistake: that is coveted in today's game.

Recently, Betts won gold with the U19 USA team in Debrecen, Hungary. She was the youngest member of the team, but the best post player even among current college players. She averaged 11.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and shot 64.7% from the field.

The 6-foot-7 Betts does an amazing job defensively patrolling the paint and challenging or blocking shots. She is a major disruption to her opponents' offensive rhythm. Her efforts on the boards are outstanding, and when she secures them, she is a quality outlet passer.

Offensively, she has always had a good touch out to 15 feet, even as a freshman. She proved to be a good high/low passer. Over time, she has gone from someone who scores on offensive rebounds and putbacks to a player who can take a post entry pass and make a move or a counter move to score with power finishes or jump hooks.

Betts will need to add overall body strength -- especially in her base and her core -- but that is to be expected of a young big. For a player with such a good touch, her free throw percentage will need to improve as well as she looks to become one of the elite players at the college level and beyond once she arrives at Stanford.

G Kiki Rice
Sidwell Friends High School (Washington, D.C.)
espnW 100 ranking: 2

Rice is one of the most dynamic guards in her class. She has the ball on a string and knows how to get to her spots to score the basketball. Rice quietly goes about her business and, in true competitive fashion, can put her team on her back. Rice has been named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Washington, D.C., for both basketball and soccer.

In August, she was part of the USA 3x3 U18 team that won gold in Debrecen, Hungary, playing alongside top-ranked junior Mikaylah Williams. Although a different style of game, Rice proved to be extremely hard to guard with the spacing the 3x3 game provides. She also won gold with the U16 FIBA Americas USA team in 2019.

Rice has always excelled in transition. In the open court, she has a feel for how to attack the opposing team, whether she drives to the rim or uses her skillful pull-up jumper. She has added more of a 3-point threat to her game, although it is an area of improvement for her to get to the next level. Due to her aggressive scoring nature, teams commit a lot of attention to Rice, which allows her to set up teammates for opportunities as well.

In the half court, Rice's quick first step and explosiveness out of dribble moves and ball screens has always been there. As she looks to add to her game, watch for her to become more adept without the ball in her hands in terms of reading screens or setting up her defender in different actions. As she becomes more efficient in half-court possessions, she can only expand her game even more. With her footwork and instincts for the basketball, she can become an elite defender as well.

Class of 2023

G Mikaylah Williams
Parkway High School (Louisiana)
espnW 60 ranking: 1

We may have a historic battle about who is going to end up the No. 1 player in the 2023 class, and we are more than ready to watch it play out. This class has two of the most complete scoring guards in the country and recent memory, drawing comparisons to the 2020 class battle of Paige Bueckers vs. Caitlin Clark.

Williams put the world on notice when she won the MVP of the FIBA 3X3 U18 World Championship in August. She was the youngest on the four-player roster and proved why she was the best player on the floor. She is strong and fast, and can elevate with the best of them. She has a broad 6-foot frame, and as a multisport athlete (softball and track and field), she has the coordination and footwork that helps her excel on the court and on the field as well.

Skill-wise, she has it all. A natural scorer, she can slide over and play some point guard if her team needs it. Williams has a creative handle and can shake a defender in the open court or in the half court. She can drive and finish with both her left and right hands, and she is a strong, acrobatic finisher in the paint and at the rim.

Williams knows when to pull up for the jumper and when to use her frame and footwork to get to her spot for closer scoring opportunities. Because she is the focus of opposing defenses, she sees a lot of early help and double teams, and she is precise with when and where to distribute the ball to teammates.

What makes Williams so complete is that she is also a lockdown defender. Her effort and focus both on and off the ball set her apart from her peers and have her more college ready than anyone in her class. Her strength and nose for the ball allow her to rebound against the bigs and start the break instantly.

In April, the only moderate concern was her consistency and confidence from the 3-point line. By July, she erased that, stroking shots from deep with ease, either off the catch or off the dribble. That was clearly on display at the Premier Basketball Super 64 Championship game vs. No. 3-ranked junior Ciera Toomey and her NEPA Elite squad. By halftime, Williams had 20 points, including multiple 3s. The challenges that face her will be how she handles the attention of being in the No. 1 spot. But as a humble worker, she should be just fine.

G Judea Watkins
Sierra Canyon High School (California)
espnW 60 ranking: 2

Watkins is a smooth operator. As one of the bigger and stronger guards in her class for some time, the 6-foot guard set herself apart a long time ago, showing off her scoring abilities as early as middle school.

Watkins had a major breakout at the USA U16 trials in 2019, proving herself against older players as she finished in traffic with ease and knocked down numerous pull-up jumpers. Although she did not make that team, she certainly left an impression. Fast forward two years, she was named MVP of the gold-medal USA U16 team, scoring 28 points in a win over Canada.

Watkins' game is about precision, not flash. She has a craftiness to her handle and knows how to get defenders off balance so she can get to her spots. Because she is known for her pull-up jumper, she is able to utilize hesitations and change-of-speed moves to her advantage. Often bigger than her opponent at the guard spot, defenders have to play a bit higher with their hands and hips, and that allows her to attack angles to score and get to the paint.

Over time, Watkins has improved her 3-point shooting. She was able to drive to the paint at will when she was younger, scoring on a barrage of layups, short pull-ups and and-1 finishes. As opponents grew and matured, she made her range more of a priority.

Watkins is as talented a scorer as anyone in her class, yet as savvy as she is, she must focus more defensively and not feel pressured to carry the offensive load for entire games when she makes the jump to the next level. She improved that concept by playing in a more complete system under coach Vanessa Nygaard at Windward School in Los Angeles. Although she transferred to Sierra Canyon, she will have plenty of opportunities to grow entering her junior season.

Class of 2024

F Joyce Edwards
Camden High School (South Carolina)
espnW 25 ranking: 1

It is currently difficult to pigeonhole Edwards in a particular position and paint the complete picture. She is a forward by nature but shows glimpses of wing skills, as well as power forward-type playmaking. She has a nice touch from within 15 feet and rebounds with the best in the country. It is extremely difficult to block her out to keep her off the offensive glass, as she has a way of sliding through the defense to get her hands on the basketball.

Edwards' biggest asset might be her motor. She makes plays that may be unorthodox to the traditionally fundamental basketball eye simply because she makes the effort to do so. Defensively, she can guard the 2-5 positions. She has a long, bouncy 6-foot-2 presence on the floor and she makes smart, simple plays.

Her versatility helped lead FBC United The Family to the Under Armour 17U circuit championship in July. She used her mid-range jumper when her opponent was guarding her with space to defend against her slashing and driving ability.

Edwards does have room for improvement, notably in sharpening her change of direction in her handle and knocking down the 3-ball more consistently. But while she is entering only her sophomore season, she has shown vast potential.

PG Jaloni Cambridge
Ensworth High School (Tennessee)
espnW 25 ranking: 2

Cambridge and Edwards were teammates on the 17U championship-winning FBC United The Family squad. A month after that, Cambridge scored 18 points to lead the USA U16 FIBA America team to a gold medal over Canada. Simply put, she is a winner.

Point guards with Cambridge's range are rare to find. With her ball pressure and quick hands, she immediately sets the tone defensively. She is truly willing to pick up the opposing guards for 94 feet and compete to make them work for every inch of the floor. She can pick opponents' pockets or record steals in the passing lane, which can lead to a fast-break race she usually wins.

Her quickness and handles make her tough to guard, too. She changes directions very swiftly and sharply, and shoots it well enough to keep defenders off balance. She has proven she can knock down the 3-ball both in catch-and-shoot situations and off the dribble.

Cambridge sustained an elbow injury at the end of her high school season that sidelined her for over a month. But she took that time to lock in and study the game's nuances. Plus, it reminded her how competitive she truly is. As she improves her overall strength and half-court effectiveness, don't be surprised if she makes a strong case for the No. 1 spot when all is said and done.