ATLANTA (March 25, 2021) – Dana Evans of Louisville, Naz Hillmon of Michigan, Rhyne Howard of Kentucky, and NaLyssa Smith of Baylor are the four finalists for the 2021 Wade Trophy, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association announced today. The prestigious award is presented by the WBCA each year to the best player in college women’s basketball.
Evans, Louisville’s regular-season leading scorer with a 20.0 point-per-game average, has led the Cardinals to a 25-3 record, a fourth straight ACC regular-season title, and a berth in the Sweet 16 round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. The 5-foot-6 senior guard from Gary, Indiana, was named ACC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. The 2020 WBCA Coaches’ All-American is the ninth player in ACC history to win the award in back-to-back years. Evans is a finalist for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and WBCA to the nation’s best shooting guard.
Hillmon, Michigan’s first-ever Big Ten Player of the Year recipient, is only the second player in conference history to earn Freshman, Sixth Player and Player of the Year honors in a career. The 6-foot-2 junior forward from Cleveland, Ohio, has led the Wolverines to a 16-5 record and the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Championship. Hillmon averaged 25.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, and shot 64.5 percent from the field during the regular season. She is a finalist for the Katrina McClain Award presented by the Basketball Hall of Fame and WBCA to the nation’s top power forward.
Howard, the two-time SEC Player of the Year (2020, 2021) and 2019 WBCA and SEC Freshman of the Year, has led Kentucky to an 18-9 record and the second round of the NCAA Championship. The 6-foot-2 junior guard from Cleveland, Tennessee, averaged 20.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and recorded 78 assists, 51 steals and 18 blocked shots for the Wildcats during the regular season. She is a finalist for the Cheryl Miller Award presented by the Basketball Hall of Fame and WBCA to the nation’s top small forward.
Smith, the Big 12 Player of the Year, has led Baylor to a 27-2 record, the Big 12 regular season and tournament championships, and the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Championship. The 6-foot-2 junior forward from Converse, Texas, averaged 18.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game while shooting 54.3 percent from the field and 80.6 percent from the free-throw line during the regular season. Smith added 32 steals on defense to go with 19 blocks for the Lady Bears. She joins Hillmon as a finalist for the Katrina McClain Award.
The Wade Trophy — now in its 44th year — is the oldest and most prestigious national player of the year award in college women’s basketball. It is named in honor of the late, legendary Delta State University head coach Lily Margaret Wade, who won three consecutive national championships with the Lady Statesmen. First awarded in 1978 by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD), now known as SHAPE America, the Wade Trophy has been presented to the WBCA NCAA Division I National Player of the Year since 2001. Freshmen are not eligible for the honor.
Carol Blazejowski of Montclair State was the first recipient of the Wade Trophy. Two-time winners include Nancy Lieberman (1979, 1980) of Old Dominion, Seimone Augustus (2005, 2006) of LSU, Brittney Griner (2012, 2013) of Baylor, Breanna Stewart (2015, 2016) of Connecticut, and Sabrina Ionescu (2019, 2020) of Oregon. Maya Moore (2009, 2010, 2011) of Connecticut is the only three-time recipient.
About the WBCA
Founded in 1981, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association is the professional association for coaches of women's and girls' basketball at all levels of competition. The WBCA offers educational resources that coaches need to help make themselves better leaders, teachers and mentors to their players; provides opportunities for coaches to connect with peers in the profession; serves as the unifying voice of a diverse community of coaches to the organizations that control the game; and celebrates those coaches, players and other individuals who excel each year and contribute to the advancement of the sport. Visit WBCA.org for more details about the association.
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