NCAA Women’s Basketball – The Top 5 Freshmen to Watch


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The women’s college basketball season is still young and while South Carolina is the early favorite to defend the title, there are plenty of exciting match ups to watch. Especially exciting, are the matchups featuring some of the highest ranked recruits of this season’s freshman class, who are just starting their college careers.

This year’s class of newcomers is filled with incredible basketball talent, but with that talent come high expectations for highly ranked high school players to also excel at the college level. Some players find their footing sooner than others but, regardless of how players start, their development continues throughout the entire season. Let’s take a look at the top five freshman to watch in women’s basketball this season:


Kiki Rice went to a UCLA Bruins team that finished seventh in the PAC-12 and missed the NCAA tournament last season. Rice was the 2022 Gatorade Player of the Year, a McDonald’s All-American, and the Naismith High School Player of the Year. Outside of high school competitions, she led team USA to a gold medal at the FIBA U18 Americas championship and was named the tournament MVP, among other accomplishments with USA Basketball.

Rice finished her high school career as the no.2 recruit and best point guard of her class. What makes her such a good point guard is her ability to remain clam and collected in high-pressure situations and control the offense with her amazing handles and great vision. Of course, being 5’11 also helps her at the point guard position.

She is more than just a pure floor general, directing the offense, though. Rice can handily create her own shots and score plenty of points. UCLA does not usually land high-profile point guards like Rice, and she could be exactly the kind of player they need to get the team back on the winning track.

Despite her freshman status, Rice started in her college debut and played a team-high 29 minutes. In those minutes, she recorded 12 points and 7 assists. Over three collegiate games so far, Rice is averaging 11 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists in around 28 minutes of playing time. These are solid numbers, and Rice will certainly continue to see a lot of time on the court, as she leads the Bruins’ offense through the season.

Over the next few months, it will be interesting to see how well Rice will handle being thrust into such a big role right away and if her team will continue to win. Kiki Rice is also a name to watch off the court. She was named Jordan’s first Name, Image and Likeness college signee. This means that Rice and the Jordan brand will work together to serve the local community and improve gender equality in youth sports.


Coming out of high school, Lauren Betts was deemed the number 1 recruit across the country, collecting numerous accolades in her high school career and plenty of hardware with national teams.

Betts is a 6’7, agile two-way player who runs the floor and can put up big numbers. She has a defensive presence as a shot blocker and is one of the most versatile offensive players in her class. Betts does not have a great three-point shot yet, but she is a reliable mid-range threat.

At Stanford, she is part of an already stacked frontcourt. With Cameron Brink and Ashten Prechtel laying a claim on frontcourt minutes already, the question is how much time will remain for Betts to have an impact in her first collegiate season. So far, this has not been a problem yet. In just her second game of the season, Betts led the team in scoring off the bench with 18 points.

The season is still young but so far Betts looks solid, averaging 9.8 points, 6 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and almost 70 percent shooting on field goals in around 11 minutes. Betts certainly has a lot of eyes on her and expectations for herself after such an outstanding high school career. Hopefully, she will get to see some more playing time as the season continues and an opportunity to remind everyone why she was the nation’s top recruit.


Following her senior season in high school, Grace VanSlooten was a Mc Donald’s All-American and a Jordan Brand All-American. She also has a gold medal from the U18 FIBA Americas Championship on her resume. Nevertheless, she was ‘only’ ranked as the nation’s number 13 prospect.

Now, she is a part of the University of Oregon’s incredibly strong recruiting class, whose talent the team is hoping to utilize right away. Oregon’s top front court option from last season, Nyara Sabally, is playing in the WNBA now, leaving a hole on the roster that VanSlooten is expected to fill.

VanSlooten is very agile, can stretch the floor and score on all three levels. In her college debut, she scored a game-high twenty points while shooting 62.5 percent on field goals in 23 minutes of playing time. She then kept up the strong performance in the second game of the season by scoring 16 points, grabbing 9 rebounds and blocking 3 shots in 27 minutes on the court.

VanSlooten certainly looks ready to excel at the college level, so now it just remains to be seen if she can keep up her numbers or if they will go down a little after the initial excitement of rising to this new challenge fades away.


Janiah Barker was this class’s third-best recruit and the best prospect at forward. In high school, she was a McDonald’s All-American and a Jordan Brand All-American, leading her teams to victory in both competitions. Barker also won a gold medal with the U16 National Team and the 2021 3×3 U18 World Cup team.

Barker is very athletic and versatile. She can rebound on both ends of the floor, and score in the paint or hit shots from midrange. While Barker already has a rather college-ready frame, she is now learning to play more physical in the paint and to unlock her obvious defensive potential. New Texas A&M head coach Joni Taylor seems to be the right person to achieve that and turn Barker into a better two-way player.

Barker joined a Texas A&M program that lost its top four scorers from last season and has holes on its roster waiting to be filled. With her combination of size and skill, Barker has the potential to fill some of the team’s pressing needs and play a big role right away. Over two games so far, Barker is averaging 12.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4 steals and 1.5 blocks in 22 minutes. Those are solid numbers, but she is also averaging 4.5 turnovers and only shooting 35.5 percent on field goals.

Those issues, however, will hopefully resolve themselves, as Barker grows more comfortable with her new team and adjusts to the new level of playing. Over the course of the season, she will get a chance to show everyone that she deserved to be named one of the top prospects in her class and that she can have a big impact at the next level, too.


Ayanna Patterson was the nation’s no.4 recruit and the top-ranked wing prospect in her class. She is a very explosive small forward with guard-like skills. UConn can definitely use her playmaking and for now, Patterson will be tasked with providing that while also bringing a boost off the bench. She always brings energy and hard work onto the court, which makes her such a valuable asset.

Patterson was named the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year, which created high expectations for her game. Usually, UConn is a difficult program for freshman to get lots of minutes, but this season might be somewhat different. The team lost three significant scorers from last season, Paige Buckers is sidelined with an injury, and three players are returning from injuries, so that leaves plenty of time for Patterson to show what she can do.

In high school, Patterson showed that she can drive or hit shots, depending on what the situation asks for, but also that she is at her best in transition and has great defensive potential. In her first two collegiate games so far, Patterson has been rather quiet. In her debut she scored 5 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and had 2 assists in 13 minutes but fouled out. She did not score in her second game, but had 4 rebounds and a block.

These are not mind-blowing stats, but Patterson has a great work ethic, determination and a high ceiling. It is possible that she will just take a little while longer than some of her peers to adapt to the new lifestyle of being a college student, the new environment and the new team. Two games do not mean a lot yet, and Patterson is still one of the most intriguing freshmen to watch this season, as she hopefully finds her place in UConn’s system.