CBT's D1 Women's Update: The Best Defense
Incredible offense enthralls basketball fans. However, no amount of offensive prowess can stand alone without a fortified defensive effort. As the adage says, “defense wins championships.” To support this statement, here is an overview of five of the most impactful defenders in D1 women’s basketball.
Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech
Elizabeth Kitley won this season's ACC Player of the Year, squashing any doubts of her talent and skill...not that there were any to begin with. A junior at Virginia Tech, the 6’6” center originally hails from Summerfield, North Carolina. She has been a key player for the Hokies since she started with the program in the 2019-2020 season. As a freshman, she tallied six double-doubles and averaged 7.5 rebounds per game. As a sophomore, she increased this number to 10.4 rebounds per game to cement herself among the ACC’s leaders in rebounds, blocks, points, and field goal percentage. In her junior season, she continues to improve on these numbers. Kitley dominates the court as one of the most well-rounded centers in the NCAA.
Aliyah Boston, University of South Carolina
Aliyah Boston emerged from the small island of St. Thomas, USVI, and quickly solidified herself as an NCAA Women’s Basketball household name. The 6’5” junior forward at the University of South Carolina has racked up an impressive list of accolades throughout her career as a Gamecock. In her first season, she earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year. Her performance throughout her sophomore season garnered her National Player of the Year and SEC tournament MVP honors. Her stats for this 2020-2021 sophomore campaign were already impressive, with 2.6 blocks and 11.5 rebounds per game. Yet, she has managed to further improve on these numbers in the 2021-2022 season with 2.7 blocks and 11.9 rebounds per game. A top contender for NCAA Player of the Year, Boston continues to impress with her defensive power and overall play.
Brooke Flowers, St. Louis University
Looking for an under the radar defensive superstar? Look no further than Brooke Flowers. Although you may have never heard her name, the senior at St. Louis University has been key to the St. Louis University program since her start in the 2018-2019 season. After an impressive freshman season for which she made Atlantic 10 Conference All-Defensive Team honors, the 6’5” forward/center from St. Louis, Missouri, has only continued to progress. Last season Flowers averaged a double-double and finished ranked 2nd in all-time blocks in program history. This season, Flowers averages an impressive 11.3 rebounds per game and shines in her improved blocks per game, increasing from 2.2 last season to a dominant 3.3 this season. A top defender in her conference, Flowers boasts monumental numbers and continues to impress for the Billikens in her senior NCAA campaign.
Ayoka Lee, Kansas State University
Ayoka Lee recently tied the NCAA Division 1 record for points in a single game with 61. However, her offense is not even the most impressive component of her game. The 6’6” junior center from Byron, Minnesota, commands her team’s defensive efforts at Kansas State. This season, Lee averages 10.3 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game – all improved numbers from last season. Her imposing defensive prowess has made her a clear candidate for the Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year, and the Wooden Award. These honors would add to her already impressive list which includes ESPN National Player of the Week on three occasions, Big-12 Freshman of the Year, four-time Big-12 Player of the Week, and All Big-12 First Team in both 2020 and 2021. Beyond her defense, Lee makes waves on offense too, averaging 23 points per game shooting 56% from the field. Lee executes with extreme lethality, putting up points while effectively shutting down offenses.
Aneesah Morrow, DePaul University
A freshman rarely gains recognition as one of the best players in the NCAA. Yet, Aneesah Morrow, in her first year at DePaul University, creates quite the stir. Although she is the youngest, and smallest player on this list at 6’1, the forward is proving herself as an extremely balanced defender. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, she currently tops the NCAA in rebounds per game with 13.8. Beyond her rebounding skill, she has also recorded impressive numbers in blocks and steals with 1.86 and 2.67 per game respectively. Morrow has also racked up an inspiring list of accolades. She became only the first player in Big East history to sweep the Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week awards three times, besting UConn star Paige Buekers, who did so twice last season. Morrow also just made history as the first player in the league to earn eleven Big East Freshman of the Week honors in a single season, and the first player to earn U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) National Freshman of the Week three times in a single season. This relentless rookie continues to take NCAA basketball by storm and promises an extremely exciting future.
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