As we get closer to the tip-off of the WAC Women’s Basketball Season, it has become increasingly clear that there is no true and undisputable champion contender. In the same vein, there is no clear front runner for WAC Player of the Year, either.
Although quite difficult, I was able to narrow the incredible group of WAC players down to just five that I believe are contenders for this prestigious award.
Let me make a few things clear before we get started. Unlike Kyle with the men’s predicted POTY, I am taking teams’ predicted success into account. Much like at the professional level, team success should have a big part in this decision. I have no interest in choosing a player that averaged a ton of points on a team that didn’t play well otherwise. I prefer players that have individual and team success. That’s the point of the sport.
I also did not want to pick two players from the same team, which is why players like Zya Nugent, Syd Palma, and Jireh Washington are not on this list when they absolutely could be.
As I said, choosing these five was not easy. But with all of that being said, let’s get into it. Here they are in alphabetical order.
Chyna Allen – Sam Houston
Don’t recognize this name? Well, she’s a brand new face in the WAC. Allen spent the past two seasons at Nicholls State. Last season as a senior, The 5’7” guard averaged 14 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2 assists in her 26 games played, of which she started 22.
As I mentioned in my write-up about her as the key newcomer for the Bearkats, Allen is a bonafide winner. In high school, she led her team to four straight state championship appearances. At the collegiate level, she won back-to-back MACJC south division titles and NJCAA Region 23 championships at Jones College.
Her winning experience, as well as all-around skill at both ends of the court, should translate extremely well in the WAC. She is a welcome addition to the Bearkats, and should certainly be considered when discussing the candidates for WAC Player of the Year.
Aaliyah Collins – Grand Canyon
As a freshman for Chicago State, Aaliyah Collins did everything and then some to land not only the eyes of the entire conference but the country as well. She led the Cougars in multiple categories offensively, defensively, and in minutes played per game.
Her 14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.4 steals were good enough to earn All-WAC second-team honors. Her scoring and steals placed her top 10 in the nation in both statistics by the end of the season. She was also named Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Week five times. On the national level, Collins earned USBWA National Freshman of the Week honors as well.
A clearly defensive-minded but offensively capable player, she will fit into GCU Head Coach Molly Miller’s system absolutely perfectly. She could definitely be the difference maker for a team looking to win their first WAC title. But individually, this new system will undoubtedly give her the tools to once again garner the national spotlight. She is more than capable of being the WAC Player of the Year if she continues to play anywhere near the play we’ve seen from her previously.
Breaunna Gillen – Utah Tech
Last season as a junior, the 5’9” guard was 5th in the WAC in scoring with 15.2 PPG. She was also 2nd in the WAC in assists with 5.4 per game. She also averaged 5.3 rebounds, an impressive stat for a guard.
Saying her basketball career has been successful would be an understatement.
In high school, Gillen lettered all four years and won four regional titles. In her senior year, she averaged 18.0 points and 6.2 rebounds. She was also a McDonald’s All-American nominee and two-time region and team MVP. She went on to spend all three years of her collegiate career so far at Utah Tech and is going into her senior season in 2022-23.
With the exit of Shanijah Davison, Gillen is expected to have more of an offensive role. Paired with the offensive talent of Redshirt Junior Emily Isaacson, Gillen’s stats on that side of the ball have the potential to be even more impressive this season than the last.
Starr Jacobs – UT-Arlington
21 points. No not a season-high. Certainly not a one-time thing. Starr Jacobs averaged 21.0 points per game for the Mavericks last season in 28 games played. Mind you, not one of these points was a 3-pointer either. Strictly mid-range shots and post play and she averaged 21 points. Just wow.
Jacobs is no one-trick pony, however. The 6’2” forward also averaged 6.6 rebounds, 2.3 steals and even had 49 assists on the season as well. Her impressive play earned her six different awards and recognitions, including Sun Belt Conference POTY, Sun Belt Conference Tournament MVP, and World Exposure Junior College Transfer of the Year Finalist. You read that right. All of this in her first season in Division I.
She is a scarily talented player to say the least. Another new face in the WAC, but she could easily lead UTA to a championship season in just their first year in the conference. If her play translates to the WAC this season, she is arguably the front runner to be the WAC Player of the Year.
Aiyana Johnson – Stephen F. Austin
It really is difficult to choose just one player from the reigning WAC champions to place on this list. However, with the exit of Stephanie Visscher, Aiyana Johnson is expected to be handed the keys during her Graduate season.
Last year as a senior Johnson averaged 13.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. She averaged 26.1 minutes per game, placing her 4th on the team. Despite this, she was 2nd in scoring and rebounding, and 1st in blocks. Her 1.1 rejections per game also placed her 4th in the WAC.
This kind of stat line wasn’t anything new for Johnson. Over her three other years at SFA, she consistently led the team in multiple areas including rebounds and scoring. She has regularly boasted a field goal percentage above .500, including last season when she shot 54%. That percentage placed her 32nd in the country, just one spot behind South Carolina phenom Aliyah Boston.
Similar to the other players on this list, Aiyana Johnson is dominant on both sides of the court. Look for her to excel as the Ladyjacks try to repeat their almost perfect season.