Video: UConn signee Paige Bueckers highlights
Hopkins star is one of 11 on Player of the Year Watch List.
February is a perfect time to take a look at the candidates for girls
basketball MaxPreps National Player of the Year honors.
Though Paige Bueckers has done nothing to mar the shine on her reputation as the top player in the country, the emergence of La Jolla Country Day and Te-Hina Paopao (who was coming back from an ACL last year) has tightened up the race. Of course, things could change dramatically in the final weeks of the season, so any one of the outstanding players on the list below could stake a claim for the award with a great stretch run.
Note, however, that our choice will not only reflect individual achievements, but also team success, and will take into account only the 2019-20 high school season.
Here's our current list of finalists (listed alphabetically) with
an opportunity to bolster their case for Player of the Year honors
behind a strong postseason run.
MaxPreps girls basketball National Player of the Year Watch List
KK Bransford, Mount Notre Dame (Cincinnati)
5-11 | Wing | Sophomore | Undecided
The only sophomore on this list is the key cog for a balanced Cougars team that is unbeaten and No. 3 in the nation. Despite plenty of surrounding talent, Bransford leads the team in points (20.1), rebounds (6.4), and steals (2.4) and is second in assists (2.5).Paige Bueckers, Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.)
5-11 | Point Guard | Senior | UConn
The preseason favorite has seen a challenge by Te-Hina Paopao, but her brilliant passing, balanced scoring and superb all-around play for the unbeaten Royals sets a very high standard.Kamilla Cardoso, Hamilton Heights Christian Academy (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
6-6 | Post | Senior | Syracuse
It's easy to get caught up with offensive numbers, but the 6-6 Cardoso changes everything at the defensive end for the second-ranked Hawks. She's still a work in progress at the other end of the floor, but she's 6-6 there too, and will punish teams that have no answer for her inside.
Caitlin Clark, Dowling Catholic (West Des Moines, Iowa)
5-11 | Point Guard | Senior | Iowa
Her talents are barely visible on the national stage, as Iowa teams don't travel much and don't play a lot of games. But still, 33.9 points every time out is a pretty big number and even more impressive when the 50.9 percent overall shooting and 39.9 percent from range are factored in.Diamond Johnson, Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia)
5-6 | Point Guard | Senior | Rutgers
The Saints play a challenging schedule, and Diamond Johnson is the focus of every opponent's game plan — yet she still excels. Johnson can score, run a team and is Pennsylvania's defending Gatorade Player of the Year. We're not sure why she didn't make the McDonald's game, but she's definitely on our list.Deja Kelly, Duncanville (Texas)
5-8 | Point Guard | Senior | North Carolina
The Panthers have dominated opponents since the calendar turned over. A big reason why is the dynamic Kelly, who leads the uptempo favorites to win the always challenging 6A Texas title. Te-Hina Paopao, La Jolla Country Day (La Jolla, Calif.)
5-9 | Point Guard | Senior | Oregon
The Torreys are the No. 1 in the nation, and the team's success all revolves around Paopao. Yes, there are other talented players, but she has the ball in her hands at critical moments and must make the shot or the pass that will decide the game. If La Jolla Country Day can survive the California Open Division playoffs, and finishes No. 1 in the country, her case for Player of the Year will be very strong.Angel Reese, St. Frances Academy (Baltimore)
6-3 | Wing | Senior | Maryland
Coaches love athleticism — and Reese has a lot of it. Coaches love size — and Reese has a lot of that, too. On top of those valued attributes, Reese has averaged 19.2 points and 10.7 rebounds a game against one of the stronger schedules in the country.Saniya Rivers, Ashley (Wilmington, N.C.)
6-0 | Guard | Junior | Undecided
The lone junior in this group plays for a good but not elite team in North Carolina, and averages 23.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 6.1 steals and 3.7 assists a game. In short, she does it all, and though her team may be a long shot in the 4A playoffs, her talent is undeniable.Hailey Van Lith, Cashmere (Wash.)
5-7 | Guard | Senior | Louisville
Despite playing for a small school several hours away from the big cities in Washington, Van Lith is clearly the best player in the Evergreen State. When Cashmere traveled to Oregon to play three top-shelf teams from that state, Van Lith led the way to three big wins that kept Cashmere unbeaten and in the conversation for a spot in the national rankings.Madeline Westbeld, Fairmont (Kettering, Ohio)
6-2 | Wing | Senior | Notre Dame
Westbeld is a familiar name to Ohio girls' basketball fans, as her older sister Kathryn, who went to Notre Dame, is now playing professionally in Australia. But with her 23.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists a game, Madeline is definitely carving out her own niche as one of the Midwest's best players.