As the SEC is stacked with nothing short of talent, five names are sure make their presence felt early and throughout the season.
1) Rhyne Howard — Kentucky
At 6-foot-2, Howard has emerged into a lethal scorer, having averaged 23.4 points per game as a sophomore. Whether it be from beyond the arc, midrange, or in the paint, Howard is a threat with the basketball. Though she can be streaky at times, Howard’s decision making is her biggest asset. Even when off, Howard is well aware of high percentage shots and will often capitalize when given the opportunity.
In addition to her offensive game, Howard is formidable defender. Being 6-foot-2 at the guard spot gives Howard the ability to create and take advantage of mismatches. With that, Howard posted 62 steals and 29 blocks. Expect Howard to be the face of the SEC next year with a fully developed all around game.
2) Rickea Jackson — Mississippi State
Having burst onto the scene as a freshman, Jackson immediately caught the SEC and nation off guard. Jackson led the Bulldogs in scoring with just over 15 per game. With that being said, Jackson must develop a shot from distance. If able to do so under the stewardship of coach Nikki McCray-Penson, Jackson may just elevate the Bulldogs a level higher.
Jackson’s defensive game skyrocketed late last year and throughout the SEC tournament. Like Howard, Jackson stands at 6-foot-2 and is a mismatch nightmare. Jackson plays with a high energy and can make a game changing play when necessary. Look for McCray-Penson to develop Jackson’s overall game and leadership.
3) Aliyah Boston — South Carolina
A force in the paint, Boston’s balanced game is sure to be a problem come next year. With 81 blocks and 41 steals as a freshman, Boston shined defensively. She makes an immediate impact on games from opening tip and throughout, as coach Dawn Staley should make her the centerpiece of next year’s squad.
Offensively, Boston’s numbers are respectable, as she averaged 12.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. At 6-foot-5, she can get to the rim crash the boards with ease. The Lisa Leslie Award winner should average a double-double next year.
4) Zia Cooke — South Carolina
In addition to Boston’s, Cooke is a Gamecock name that will be heard on a regular basis. Cooke is a true point guard who can score while taking on the role of floor general. Though Cooke’s shot needs work, she, like Howard, makes the right decisions when necessary.
With the departure of Ty Harris, Cooke has big shoes to fill. That said, the two were equal in points, as both averaged 12.1. Moreover, Cooke is just one inch shorter that Harris in height at 5-foot-9. Cooke knows her role and will be ready. Expect her to maker her name as a sophomore.
5) Jessika Carter — Mississippi State
Sure to be the Bulldogs primary paint presence, Carter’s game is on the rise. Though a bit inconsistent at times, Carter’s versatility in the paint is unmatched. Like Boston, she can score and crash the offensive and defensive boards. While foul trouble has been an issue, coach McCray-Penson should have an answer, as Carter is a star in the making.
Carter averaged 13 points and 8.7 boards per game as a sophomore. She added 60 blocks and 23 steals to her stat line. Carter’s impact is a crucial piece to the Bulldogs success, as she should be on point come next year.
While the five mentioned above have had their way, all will be counted on as leaders going forward, well aware of what it takes to win.