As women's college basketball enters the July club evaluation period, we want to highlight some of the recruits who stand out in certain categories.
Who is the best pure scorer? The best passer? The best ballhandler?
Each of these players are outstanding in their own right regarding different aspects of the game. But are they the absolute best? We pick superlatives for various prospects.
It's easy to get caught up in point guards' dynamic ballhandling and long-range shooting, but in the new era of spacing and small ball, more hybrid players are emerging as facilitators. Early on, Dew's pass-first mentality was evident, then it almost became a liability when she wasn't as aggressive of a scorer. Her 6-foot-2 size allows her to come off of ball screens and see the whole floor as a point-forward type, which causes mismatches in opposing personnel and defensive rotations. She reads defenses well and knows which option to attack. What's more, she has adjusted her approach, and she is not afraid to shoot and make plays herself. A good passing big is extremely valuable at the next level, as it allows quick guards to make plays without the ball in their hands and provides much more spacing for defenders to have to cover.
G Judea Watkins
2023 espnW 100 ranking: 2
Sierra Canyon High School (Calif.) | Cal Swish Sports Academy GBL
Both Watkins is making a strong case for the No. 1 ranking in the 2023 class. Watkins has tightened up every aspect of her game on both ends. If a shot needs to be created, there isn't a better player than Watkins who can take the ball and make a play. She has improved her quickness and creating extremely well off the dribble. Her 3-ball is more consistent and she is one of the best at drawing contact and heading to the free throw line, a sign of any great scorer. After her appearance at USA Basketball trials was sensational. She will chose from among any school in the country for her college experience.
As talented as Watkins is, Williams still sits at the top spot. A physically gifted multi-sport star, the LSU commit puts so much pressure on opposing ball handlers and is able to body up and be physical when necessary. She is good off the ball rebounding defensively, challenging passing lanes and bumping cutters. Williams has the ability to match up with any opposing team's No. 1 scorer to get a stop. While the Watkins-Williams battle for the No. 1 spot will play out through the fall and winter, they will be teammates in July's U17 World Cup.
Honorable mention: G Kaniya Boyd (2024 No. 32)
G Jadyn Donovan
2023 espnW 100 ranking: 3
Sidwell Friends (D.C.) | Team Takeover
Donovan can fly, and that might not do her superb physical ability justice. There is a photo from December's Capital Invitational in which she essentially recreates the Jumpman pose. There's a viral video of her attempting a breakaway dunk at the Atlantic City Showcase from this past May. The 6-foot Donovan can catch lobs in the back of a zone or have a LeBron James-esque chase-down block. Donovan is a leaper in a category of her own.
Honorable mention: F Toby Fournier (2024 No. 15)
G Allie Ziebell
2024 espnW 60 ranking: 9
Neenah High School (Wisc.) | WI Flight
The first thing that comes to mind when discussing shooters is the long range, and Ziebell has that. For our money right now, we would call her number out of a timeout to knock down a 3. She can pull up with a jumper and also finish well at the rim when defenders close out. What truly separates her is that she knows when to get rid of the ball and she is ready to relocate on the floor for a potent catch-and-shoot opportunity. Ziebell is being heavily recruited by every major conference.
W Kennedy Smith
2024 espnW 60 ranking: 18
Etiwanda High School (Calif.) | Cal Sparks
Strong rebounders need to be determined and physical, in constant pursuit of the ball and have a high motor on both ends of the floor while crashing the glass. Smith checks all those boxes. She impacts the game in a major way from her intensity and physicality alone as she gets defensive deflections, secures loose balls or snatches rebounds. She led the first Nike EYBL stop in rebounding at 11 per game. Her recruitment includes all major conferences.
Honorable mention: W Kendall Dudley (2024 No. 4)
PG Kiyomi McMiller
2024 espnW 60 ranking: 7
Trinity Collegiate School (S.C.) | NEPA Elite
Hype around McMiller's talent dates back to her elementary school days. She caught eyes of some national evaluators and local coaches while participating in some individual showcases in the DMV area. She was adept at handling the ball with confidence from the get-go. She breaks down defenders with her handle, footwork and the ability to change tempos on a dime. She has the ball on a string like a yo-yo and keeps defenses at bay with her ability to nail shots from well beyond the arc.
Sahara Williams has an outstanding energy to her in every possession. On a regular basis, she fiercely drives to the rim, goes for rebounds and defends on the ball. Basketball is a game of playmaking and intensity, and Williams is imperative to setting the tone for her team.
In a highlight-driven culture, intangibles can be overlooked. Williams has proved to be a leader inside the locker room whether at La Jolla Country Day, her club program or with USA Basketball -- and surely when she steps on the court as a UCLA Bruin. On the floor, she has an ability to energize others through consistency and in verbally celebrating teammates' successes. Players seem drawn to her in the gym. Williams reportedly already has some NIL deals, and she is utilizing that platform with her peers to grow future opportunities.