Members of the talented 2022 women's college basketball recruiting class are now on campuses across the country.
Let's flash back to how the last recruiting cycle went. UCLA, Oregon and Oregon State finished with the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 classes, respectively. Stanford, which finished fifth (behind UConn at No. 4), landed the No. 1 overall recruit in post player Lauren Betts.
While their collective debuts come with high anticipation, each freshman will adjust to the college game differently. Each will go from being veteran leaders as high school seniors to having a learning curve at the next level.
Some freshmen will need time to develop into future stars. Some will be blocked by more experienced players and transfers. That said, there will be newcomers who impact the game significantly as freshmen, whether they put up numbers in the scoring column or make defensive stops. Value can be defined in many ways.
Of course, no one knows how freshmen will fare until they step onto the big stage. With a week until the season tips off, we break down six freshmen we expect to have an impact early on.
LSU | 2022 espnW 100 ranking: 26
Johnson, a 5-foot-10 guard, arrived on campus with a massive social media following due to her exceptional talent as a basketball player and as a rapper.
Coach Kim Mulkey graduated two guards who averaged more than 30 minutes per game in Khayla Pointer and Jailin Cherry, and Johnson will have ample opportunity to replace that production.
She is no stranger to the big stage and has a knack for the big moment. A gifted scorer, Johnson had 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting (while also chipping in with three assists) in 28 minutes in LSU's first exhibition game.
"Flau'jae is a very talented basketball player," Mulkey said. "Her competitiveness, her work ethic and her desire to get better in all areas of the game are qualities that will make her an even better player."
Texas A&M | 2022 espnW 100 ranking: 3
Barker has some of the greatest potential in all of college basketball. She is agile and strong with all-around skill. She sees the floor and is powerful in the paint. She proved in her senior year at Montverde Academy (Florida) that she can knock down the 3-ball.
Texas A&M changed coaches in the offseason, as Joni Taylor replaced Gary Blair. Barker originally signed with Taylor at Georgia, but opted to follow her to College Station in the spring.
At 6-4, she is one of four players on Texas A&M's roster who is 6-3 or taller, but her versatility makes her stand out on the roster. While it will take Barker some time to adjust to the pace and discipline it takes to play without fouling, she has the build and the talent to excel in the physical SEC.
Oregon | 2022 espnW 100 ranking: 13
VanSlooten started her first exhibition game for Oregon and led the team with 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting. The 6-3 forward also pulled down nine rebounds in 27 minutes.
With the graduation of Nyara Sabally (26.9 minutes per game), the transfer of Kylee Watson (16.4 minutes per game) and the season-ending injury of Sedona Prince (22 minutes per game), there is a void to be filled inside for the Ducks, who are ranked 20th in the preseason AP Poll.
VanSlooten is an intelligent and extremely skilled forward with the aggressiveness to match the physicality of the college game. Oregon plays a style with pace and spacing, and VanSlooten's ability to facilitate and make sound decisions is valuable.
"She fits how we play perfectly," coach Kelly Graves said. "She's our best player in transition. She can take it coast to coast. She makes very good decisions with the ball and is becoming a go-to player in the half court as well."
Timea Gardiner and Raegan Beers, F
Oregon State | 2022 espnW 100 rankings: 6, 10
Gardiner (6-3) and Beers (6-2) are outstanding complementary forwards in Oregon State's class. Coach Scott Rueck signed two similar highly touted frontcourt players in the 2019 class in Kennedy Brown and Taylor Jones, who both moved on via the transfer portal. So these two freshmen will have plenty of opportunity to see the court.
Rueck is no stranger to inserting freshmen into the starting lineup early, and both Gardiner and Beers were McDonald's All Americans and Jordan Brand Classic participants. Gardiner is a bit more mobile and versatile on the perimeter and will play the 3 or the 4. Beers is more physical with the ability to play inside and out and stretch the floor at the 4 or 5.
According to the staff, Gardiner has scored consistently from all three levels during preseason workouts and practices. Beers, who is healthy after recovering from injuries, has showcased her aggressiveness and energy. In the Beavers' exhibition game, she was a rebound away from a double-double.
Kiki Rice, G
UCLA | 2022 espnW 100 ranking: 2
Rice is one of the most decorated high school athletes ever. She was a multi-sport and multi-year Gatorade Player of the Year in Washington, D.C. She was a McDonald's All American (co-MVP) and Jordan Brand Classic participant. Her Sidwell Friends (D.C.) squad was the No. 1 team in the country last season.
The 5-11 guard came to UCLA with high expectations, headlining the Bruins' No. 1 recruiting class. She'll also have ample opportunity, as coach Cori Close's program graduated approximately 100 minutes per game in perimeter playing time.
Rice's maturity will ease her transition. Her versatility along the perimeter and ability to play on and off the ball will allow her to fill multiple roles. She is a bigger guard who can defend, and her basketball instincts will be a strong asset as she picks up Close's system. She fits in well in the Pac-12, as the league tends to be filled with teams that play with finesse and when high-scoring affairs are at a premium.
Thirteen more freshman to watch
C Lauren Betts (Stanford): With veterans inside and throughout Stanford's roster, there could be a chance for the former No. 1 recruit to play at the 5 with Cameron Brink at the 3, which would allow the Cardinal to play a big lineup.
F Ta'niya Latson (Florida State): Latson's defensive prowess and aggressiveness to the rim should earn her minutes early for new coach Brooke Wyckoff. She can score, too, as evidenced by her 22 points in FSU's exhibition game.
F Hannah Stuelke (Iowa): Although Iowa returns five starters, the versatile Stuelke, who totaled 18 points and six boards in the Hawkeyes' exhibition, can change the Hawkeyes' pace and spread the floor more off the bench.
G Mara Braun (Minnesota): Braun, who scored 23 points and made five 3-pointers in the Gophers' exhibition, is a fundamental shot-maker who has a legitimate chance to leave an early mark on the floor for coach Lindsay Whalen.