Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith and Jordan Lewis led the Preseason Big 12 Women’s Basketball Awards, released on Thursday.
Along with the two superlative awards, the Bears placed Smith on the All-Big 12 Team, along with returning center Queen Egbo.
The Bears are coming off a 2020-21 in which they won the Big 12’s regular-season and tournament titles but lost in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight to UConn. After the season, long-time head coach Kim Mulkey left for LSU, and Atlanta Dream head coach Nicki Collen replaced her.
Smith’s selection as preseason player of the year is not stunning. The defending WBCA National Player of the Year award winner was named a First-Team All-American by AP, WBCA, Wooden and ESPN.com after averaging 18 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season. She was the Big 12 Player of the Year, as well. The 6-foot-2 senior should again be one of the best power forwards in the country (and she won the Katrina McClain award last year, which is given to the best player at that position).
Lewis earned the Big 12’s preseason newcomer of the year award. But the 5-foot-7 senior guard is hardly green. She transferred to the Bears from Alabama, where last year she averaged a career-best 17.0 points and 4.2 assists per game, as she earned All-SEC Second Team honors.
Texas forward Aaliyah Moore was named the Big 12’s preseason freshman of the year. The 6-foot-1 freshman goes to Austin as a McDonald’s All-American and one of five finalists for the Naismith Trophy National Girls High School Player of the Year. The Top 10 prospect was a two-time Oklahoma Player of the Year and averaged 25.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots as a senior at Moore High School in Moore, Oklahoma. She has already played internationally, having won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
Twelve players made the preseason team, with Smith, Iowa State guard/forward Ashley Joens, Kansas State center Ayoka Lee, Oklahoma guard/forward Madi Williams, TCU guard Lauren Heard, Texas Tech guard Vivian Gray and West Virginia forward Esmery Martinez all unanimous selections.
Because of tied votes, 12 players made the team as opposed to the usual 10. Egbo, Texas guard Joanne Allen, Iowa State guard Lexi Donarski, Kansas guard Holly Kersgieter and Oklahoma guard Taylor Robertson rounded out the team.
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Preseason Big 12 Women’s Basketball Awards
Preseason Player of the Year
NaLyssa Smith, Baylor, F, 6-2, Sr.
Preseason Newcomer of the Year
Jordan Lewis, Baylor, G, 5-7, Gr.
Preseason Freshman of the Year
Aaliyah Moore, Texas, F, 6-1, Fr.
Preseason All-Big 12 Team
*NaLyssa Smith, Baylor, F, 6-2, Sr.
*Ashley Joens, Iowa State, G/F, 6-0 Sr.
*Ayoka Lee, K-State, C, 6-6, Jr.
*Madi Williams, Oklahoma, G/F, 5-11, Sr.
*Lauren Heard, TCU, G, 5-9, Gr.
*Vivian Gray, Texas Tech, G, 6-1, Sr.
*Esmery Martinez, West Virginia, F, 6-2, Jr.
Queen Egbo, Baylor, C, 6-3, Sr.
Joanne Allen Taylor, Texas, G, 5-8, Jr.
Lexi Donarski, Iowa State, G, 6-0, So.
Holly Kersgieter, Kansas, G, 5-10, Jr.
Taylor Robertson, Oklahoma, G, 5-11, Sr.
*Denotes unanimous selection
A tie for the 10th spot resulted in 12 selections
Honorable Mention (listed alphabetically by school):
Ja’Mee Asberry (Baylor), Jordan Lewis (Baylor), Emily Ryan (Iowa State), Taylen Collins (Oklahoma State), Rori Harmon (Texas), KK Deans (West Virginia), Kari Niblack (West Virginia)