Forwards to watch: Preseason watch lists for Cheryl Miller and Katrina McClain awards announced

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 05: DiDi Richards #2 of the Baylor Bears celebrates their win over the Oregon Ducks at Amalie Arena on April 5, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - APRIL 05: DiDi Richards #2 of the Baylor Bears celebrates their win over the Oregon Ducks at Amalie Arena on April 5, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images) /

Which forwards should everyone be watching this season? The WBCA and Hall of Fame have their suggestions.

After taking care of the point guards and shooting guards to start the week, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame turned their attention to forwards on Wednesday and Thursday. The preseason watch lists for the Cheryl Miller Award, given to the nation’s best small forward, and the Katrina McClain Award, which honors the best power forward, have been released.

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Each list contains 20 players to start the season, but players are able to play themselves onto and off of the list as the season progresses. Fans will also be able to vote as part of the Women’s Starting Five Fan Voting beginning on Oct. 25. All five positional awards will be presented in Los Angeles, California at the College Basketball Awards on April 10, 2020.

Once again, Pac-12 players dominated the watch lists. However, three other conferences were able to match the West Coast power on the Katrina McClain Award list.

The Cheryl Miller Award

The Cheryl Miller Award watch list includes five Pac-12 players: Satou Sabally (Oregon), Mikayla Pivec (Oregon State), DiJonai Carrington (Stanford), Michaela Onyenwere (UCLA), and Borislava Hristova (Washington State).

Next up was the Big XII, including the expected representative of the defending national champions, DiDi Richards of Baylor. She was joined by fellow Big XII members Ashley Joens (Iowa State), Ana Llanusa (Oklahoma), and Vivian Gray (Oklahoma State).

The SEC placed three small forwards on the watch list: Rhyne Howard of Kentucky, Tennessee’s Rennia Davis, and Texas A&M Aggie Kayla Wells.

Other conferences with multiple players on the watch list were the AAC, ACC, and Big East. Megan Walker (Connecticut) and Mia Davis (Temple) represent the AAC. The ACC has Georgia Tech’s Francesca Pan and Notre Dame’s Sam Brunelle in the mix. DePaul Blue Demon Chante Stonewall and Shadeen Samuels of Seton Hall join the group.

Filling out the list are Kalia Charles (Maryland/Big Ten) and Courtney Woods (Northern Illinois/Mid-American).

Last year’s award was won by Iowa State’s Bridget Carleton. She rewrote the Cyclone’s record book last season by scoring 760 points and averaging 21.7 ppg. The member of the Naismith Starting Five shot 46.8 percent from the floor while setting records in shots attempted (543) and made (254).

The Katrina McClain Award

For the first time this preseason, the Pac-12 didn’t completely dominate an award watch list. It just tied for the top. When it comes to power forwards, the committee thinks the Big XII, Big Ten, and SEC has just as much top talent.

The list is headlined by a member of the national champs, Baylor’s Lauren Cox. She is joined by fellow Big XII members Peyton Williams (Kansas State) and Joyner Holmes (Texas).

The Big Ten contributed Maryland’s Stephanie Jones, Michigan Wolverine Naz Hillmon, and Taiye Bello out of Minnesota.

Unique Thompson (Auburn), Ayana Mitchell (LSU), and N’dea Jones (Texas A&M) join the list from the SEC.

The Pac-12 added Ruthy Hebard (Oregon), Cate Reese (Arizona), and Francesca Belibi (Stanford). Belibi is the only freshman on the list, and she joins Reese as one of only three underclassmen to get the nod.

The ACC and the Ivy League also saw multiple players from their leagues make the list. The Duke Blue Devils’ Leaonna Odom and Florida State Seminole Kiah Gillespie come from the ACC. The academic elite of the Ivy League shows its athletic promise with Eleah Parker of Pennsylvania and Bella Alarie of Princeton.

Rounding things out are Hanna Crymble (Vermont/America East), Summer Hemphill (Buffalo/Mid-American), Sara Rhine (Drake/MVC), and Brooklyn McDavid (Pacific/WCC).

In 2019, Connecticut’s Napheesa Collier took home the Katrina McClain Award. She averaged a double-double with 20.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg while shooting 61.2 percent from the floor. After being drafted by the Minnesota Lynx, she went on to be named the 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year.

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