Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in women’s college basketball

How do you improve upon being the best? South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston has that task this 2022-23 women’s college basketball season, and there is little doubt she relishes the challenge. Save the loss to Kentucky in the SEC tournament final, pretty much everything went the Gamecocks’ way in 2021-22. Boston earned a huge collection of awards, and now she and the defending national champion Gamecocks have a chance to do it all over again.

What about the rest of the country’s top talent this season? It’s plentiful, as you will see with not just the players who made our 2022-23 preseason ESPN top 25 rankings, but the ones we were forced to leave off.

The players here range from super-seniors back for a fifth season and who are likely to break school records (or add to ones they have already broken) to standout sophomores who made an impact in their first season. Some of these players have transferred to new schools this season, while others are finishing their college careers as program legends.

ESPN’s Charlie Creme, Alexa Philippou and M.A. Voepel voted to compile our rankings, taking into consideration last season’s performances and what might be expected of these players this season. We will revisit the list again throughout this season, and changes are inevitable. Maybe some big ones.

Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

1. Aliyah Boston, South Carolina

Forward | 6-foot-5 | senior
2021-22 stats:
16.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.4 BPG

The reigning national player of the year heads into her senior year after 30 doubles-doubles last season, including an SEC-record 27 in a row. She was also national defensive player of the year and has 257 career blocks, second in program history to only WNBA star A’ja Wilson. Boston now will try to replicate a national championship season for her and the Gamecocks. She hasn’t publicly stated yet that she will bypass her super-senior year, but if she does, Boston is the overwhelming favorite to be the WNBA’s No. 1 draft pick in April 2023. — Voepel


1667321135 434 Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

Guard | 6-foot-0 | junior
2020-21 stats:
27.0 PPG, 8.0 APG, 45.2% FG

Even with three years of eligibility remaining, it’s hard to imagine Clark accomplishing any more individually. She led the country in scoring as both a freshman and a sophomore and last year became the first player to top the nation in both scoring and assists in the same season. She has unlimited shooting range and astonishing court vision, but NCAA tournament success is the one thing that has so far eluded Clark. The level of greatness she reaches this season, and her chances of overtaking Boston for national player of the year, might rest with how the Hawkeyes fare beyond the Big Ten. — Creme


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Guard | 6-foot-1 | senior
2021-22 stats:
13.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.7 APG

Jones has dazzled since arriving to The Farm in 2019. But this season we’ll see her assume a role she hasn’t had to do too much during her college career: point guard. Thanks to the graduation of Anna Wilson and the Hull twins, this is truly Jones’ team now in what she has said will be her final season at Stanford. For the Cardinal to win their second NCAA title in three years and fourth overall, Jones will have to put together another All-American-caliber season, one in which she reminds onlookers why she was the 2021 Final Four Most Outstanding Player. — Philippou


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Guard/forward | 6-foot-1 | senior
2021-22 stats:
20.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.0 APG

Joens is our highest-ranked super-senior, and goes into her fifth season already holding the program scoring record (2,369 points). She is 129 rebounds away from becoming Iowa State’s all-time leader in that category as well. Joens is Iowa State’s first preseason Associated Press All-American, and she’s also preseason Big 12 Player of the Year. A two-time winner of the Cheryl Miller Award as the nation’s top small forward, she hopes to lead the Cyclones to their first Big 12 regular-season title since 2000. Voepel


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Forward | 6-foot-6 | senior
2021-22 stats:
18.1 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG

The reigning ACC Player of the Year was tough enough for opposing defenses to guard. But now that Virginia Tech adds multiple talented players alongside her — Taylor Soule from Boston College and Ashley Owusu from Maryland — things might only further open up for Kitley to get to work down low. Kitley says she has spent the offseason expanding her game, from a 3-pointer to adding a sky hook to her bag of go-to moves. For the Hokies to capitalize off what coach Kenny Brooks said is his most talented group yet, he’ll need Kitley to lead the charge in a stacked ACC. — Philippou


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Forward | 6-foot-4 | junior
2021-22 stats:
13.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.6 BPG

Jones doesn’t have to shoulder the load for Stanford entirely on her own: She can also turn to Brink, the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Brink has said she spent time on her 3-point shooting this offseason after just 61 attempts from deep across her first two years at Stanford — meaning it’s not entirely unrealistic for coach Tara VanDerveer to potentially go with a jumbo lineup with Brink at the 3. Most critically for Brink, though, is finding ways to stay on the floor: She is fairly foul-prone, causing her to average fewer than 22 minutes per game as a sophomore. — Philippou


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F | 6-foot-3| sophomore
2021-22 stats:
17.8 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 49.9% FG

Having lived up to the potential that comes with being the No. 2 recruit in the country with a brilliant second season at Maryland, Reese decided to leave the Big Ten for the SEC and becomes the Tigers’ new centerpiece. She was one of just two players to earn first-team All-Big Ten and make the conference’s all-defensive team, and the only one to average a double-double. With LSU replacing two-thirds of its backcourt and Reese trying to expand her game, she might see more time on the perimeter this season. — Creme


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G| 5-foot-10 | sophomore
2021-22 stats:
13.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 7.4 APG

While it feels like Miles still hasn’t approached her full potential, she has already blossomed into one of the nation’s top point guards. Perhaps the most dynamic passer in the country, Miles finished second to Clark in assists per game and was named first-team All-ACC as a freshman. With her length and speed, Miles thrives in transition as both a distributor and finisher. If offseason work helped improve her 3-point shooting (27.0%), Miles has first-team All-American potential. — Creme


1667321135 762 Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

Guard | 5-foot-7 | junior
2021-22 stats:
14.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.2 APG

Van Lith heated up in ACC play last year, and then really showed her stuff in the postseason as the Cardinals made the program’s fourth Final Four appearance. She scored 20 points or more in Louisville’s first four NCAA tournament games and was the Wichita Regional’s Most Outstanding Player. Van Lith also has the fire that coach Jeff Walz likes to see in his players, which showed on court and in some funny media moments — such as when she jokingly chided Jimmy Fallon for picking against Louisville. — Voepel


Guard | 5-foot-6 | sophomore
2021-22 stats:
11.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.0 APG

Harmon announced herself on the national stage last season with her performance in the Big 12 tournament, where she was named Most Outstanding Player. She then helped the Longhorns advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. She had 180 assists to 80 turnovers and led the team in steals with 86. She might be a more effective 3-point shooter this season, and is already a strong on-ball defender. Although she’s only a sophomore, Texas needs her to move into a leadership role right away. — Voepel


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G | 5-foot-10 | senior
2021-22 stats:
19.7 PPG, 4.2 APG, 50.4% FG

Perhaps this will be the season that Sheldon no longer qualifies as one of the most overlooked players in the country. She led an injury-riddled Ohio State team to a surprising share of the Big Ten regular-season title and has been remarkably consistent and reliable. Sheldon has fallen short of double-figure scoring just five times in the past two years and has emerged as the Big Ten’s best two-way guard. She was sixth in the league in scoring, led all Big Ten guards in field goal percentage and is the only returner from the all-defensive team. — Creme


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Forward | 6-foot-1 | senior
2021-22 stats:
25.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 49.3% FG

One of the country’s top scorers each of the past two years, Siegrist — the reigning Big East Player of the Year — helped Villanova become the first team in nine seasons to beat UConn in conference play. She later guided the Wildcats to the second round of the NCAA tournament for just the second time in nearly 20 years, where they kept things close against Michigan much of the way. Siegrist could become the first player to repeat as Big East Player of the Year since Skylar Diggins-Smith in 2012 and 2013, though she’ll have to adjust to the loss of two starters from last season’s squad. — Philippou


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Guard | 5-foot-11 | sophomore
2021-22 stats:
12.1 PPG, 45.7% FG, 43.0% 3FG

Fudd’s collegiate career started off with a bit of a whimper due to a foot injury that kept her out 11 games and impacted her mobility even after she returned. Now much healthier, Fudd says she feels like the player she always knew herself to be, and that confidence has come through on the court in practice thus far. UConn coach Geno Auriemma has indicated that, with 2020-21 player of the year Paige Bueckers sidelined all season with an ACL injury, Fudd is the one who has superstar potential to step up and keep the Huskies relevant in the national title conversation, and keep their streak of 14 consecutive Final Four appearances alive. — Philippou


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Forward | 6-foot-1 | sophomore
2021-22 stats:
21.9 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 2.7 SPG

Morrow impressed last season, comfortably averaging a double-double (21.9 PPG, 13.8 RPG) behind a physicality and tenacity that didn’t make her seem like a 6-1 freshman. She enters the 2022-23 season after being selected to the Associated Press’ preseason All-America team alongside the likes of Boston, Clark, Jones, Joens and Kitley. Now as a sophomore, but with DePaul’s three other top scorers from last season gone, Morrow will have to carry a larger load as the Blue Demons, who just snuck into the 2022 NCAA tournament, look to stay relevant in the Big East. — Philippou


1667321135 459 Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

Guard | 6-foot-2 | senior
2021-22 stats:
16.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 4.0 APG

Horston especially rose to the occasion versus ranked opponents last season, averaging 20.7 points and 10.7 rebounds against Top 25 foes. She was well on her way to her best season yet at Tennessee when she was injured making a hustle play. She suffered a fractured dislocation of her left elbow when diving for a loose ball on Feb. 17 against Alabama and did not return to action last season. Fortunately for the Lady Vols, this season Horston has a chance to pick up where she left off. — Voepel


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16. Ashley Owusu, Virginia Tech

G | 6-foot-0 | senior
2021-22 stats:
14.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.7 APG

The change in scenery and return closer to home could be just what Owusu needed. After a brilliant sophomore year that saw Owusu earn third-team All-American honors, inconsistency crept into Owusu’s game, and she didn’t always look like the same player last season at Maryland. Even in a “down” year she was the second-leading scorer on a Sweet 16 team and made second-team All-Big Ten. As powerful with the ball as any guard in the country, Owusu can seemingly always get her own shot in the lane and is an elite finisher. — Creme


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Guard | 6-foot-0 | senior
2021-22 stats:
16.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.3 APG

The super-senior has been a huge part of the Hoosiers’ climb to national prominence, including their Elite Eight appearance in 2021. She hasn’t shot the 3-pointer a lot, having made 37 in her Indiana career, but is a very reliable midrange shooter who also has a lot of strength finishing at the rim. Berger is a consistently productive rebounder and playmaker for the Hoosiers, who will contend for the Big Ten title this season. — Voepel


1667321135 756 Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

F | 6-foot-2 | senior
2021-22 stats:
20.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 41.0% FG

Those 20.3 PPG led the SEC before Jackson decided to leave Mississippi State in January. She’s not likely to duplicate that kind of offensive production in Knoxville with so many other quality players around her, but that might also mean a more efficient Jackson. Her elite midrange scoring talents and ability to create her own shot are exactly what the past few Tennessee teams have been missing — and why expectations have soared this season. — Creme


1667321135 439 Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

Forward | 6-foot-0 | senior
2021-22 stats:
18.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.6 APG

Williams has been first-team All-Big 12 the past two seasons and enters her super-senior season hoping to help the Sooners contend for the league title. Her game is a great fit for the up-tempo offensive style of coach Jennie Baranczyk, now in her second season guiding Oklahoma. Williams, an excellent slasher, made more 3-pointers (41) last season than her first three years combined and relished being the go-to player at crunch time. — Voepel


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20. Zia Cooke, South Carolina

Guard | 5-foot-9 | senior
2021-22 stats:
10.7 PPG, 1.7 APG

Cooke’s scoring numbers and field goal and 3-point percentages all saw career lows in 2021-22, but the Gamecocks still managed to assert themselves as the wire-to-wire No. 1 team in the country and win the program’s second national title. With point guard Destanni Henderson, who had a career-best performance in the national title game, now in the pros, Cooke will be tasked with stepping up as a consistent force in South Carolina’s backcourt, which would help take some pressure off Boston in the paint. With Boston, Cooke and Brea Beal — who are each three-year starters for South Carolina — now seniors, this is likely the last chance this star-studded group has to win another title before some if not all move on. — Philippou


1667321135 540 Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

G | 6-foot-3 | senior
2020-21 stats:
13.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.8 APG

Injuries marred Miller’s junior season and limited her to just 22 games. Her overall production dipped from her sophomore year (17.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG), but by season’s end Miller had rounded into form. She scored a combined 48 points in the Terps’ two NCAA tournament wins, carrying them to their second consecutive Sweet 16. Miller, whose size and strength make her an extremely difficult one-on-one matchup, is the lone Maryland veteran to remain from the offseason collection of graduations and transfers. A completely healthy Miller will join Clark and Sheldon as the best guards in the Big Ten. — Creme


1667321135 878 Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

Guard/forward | 5-foot-11 | senior
2021-22 stats:
15.4 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 1.7 APG

After three seasons at Missouri, Blackwell transferred to Baylor. She should be an immediate high-impact player in Waco, Texas, especially considering the Bears lost NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo to the WNBA draft. Preparing for the pro level is one of the things Blackwell hopes to accomplish playing for former WNBA coach Nicki Collen at Baylor. Blackwell was second to DePaul’s Morrow in Division I rebounding average last season, which will help the Bears. Also look for her to expand her perimeter skills this season. — Voepel


1667321135 358 Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

Guard | 5-foot-8 | junior
2020-21 stats:
16.5 PPG, 2.6 APG

The Tar Heels have a lot of momentum coming off last season’s solid run, and much of that has to do with the standout play of Kelly. Helping her and the rest of the squad out is that they return 85% of their scoring production from last season. Kelly has indicated she’ll be playing more point guard this season, and has worked on her consistency from 3 as well. For UNC to take the next step and advance past the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014, Kelly will need to be a superstar for the Tar Heels, making the next jump in her development just as she did from her freshman to sophomore year. — Philippou


1667321135 169 Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

Guard | 6-foot-0 | junior
2021-22 stats:
14.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.8 APG

She was second for Iowa State in both scoring and 3-pointers behind Joens last season. Donarski also did something no other Cyclone ever has: She won the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year award. It’s often not easy for guards to get that honor in any league, as it often goes to forwards and centers. But Donarski earned it with hustle and commitment to shutting down whomever she was guarding. Last year in Big 12 play, the opponent she primarily defended was held to 30% shooting. — Voepel


1667321136 455 Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in womens college

Forward/center | 6-foot-3 | senior
2021-22 stats:
21.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 67.9 FG%

Czinano led Division I in field goal percentage last season and also shot 84.3% from the foul line. The super-senior had 16 games last season in which she shot at least 70% from the field, including 75.6% in the Big Ten tournament won by the Hawkeyes. A first-team All-Big Ten selection, she shot below 50% in just one game all season. One of teammate Clark’s primary targets for assists, Czinano will try to help the Hawkeyes repeat their Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles. — Voepel


Also receiving votes: Aaliyah Edwards, UConn; Mackenzie Holmes, Indiana; Tamari Key, Tennessee; Charlisse Leger-Walker, Washington State Cougars; Taylor Mikesell, Ohio State Buckeyes; Alexis Morris, LSU; Charisma Osborne, UCLA Bruins; Cate Reese, Arizona Wildcats; Taylor Robertson, Oklahoma

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Aliyah Boston and the 25 best players in women’s college basketball

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