Every week, NCAA.com’s Starting Five will bring you a look at some of the top women’s basketball players in the country.
Here are this week’s standout competitors:
Virginia Tech, Sophomore Guard
Virginia Tech has opened the season with six straight wins behind the strong play of sophomore guard Chanette Hicks. The Hokies went 2-0 last week, including a 67-63 win over nationally ranked Tennessee. Hicks registered a career-high tying 24 points against the Lady Vols, while grabbing five rebounds and a career-best eight steals. With the Hokies trailing by five in the early third quarter, Hicks went to work, scoring 17 points. In the final minute with Tech holding a one-point lead, the Norfolk, Virginia, native scored four unanswered points to help secure the win. Earlier in the week, Hicks dropped 22 points and had six steals in a 71-61 win at College of Charleston. Atlantic Coast Conference Co-Player of the Week, Hicks currently leads the Hokies in scoring (18.8 points per game) to go along with 22 assists on the season. Virginia Tech is back in action on Dec. 1 at home against Nebraska.
USF, Sophomore Guard
Named American Athletic Conference Player of the Week, sophomore guard Kitija Laksa averaged 27.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 56.7 percent from behind the arc in a 3-0 week for USF, which included a Junkanoo Jam Lucaya Division championship during Thanksgiving week. The Latvia native was named the Lucaya Division MVP. Laksa started the week with 15 points, and five rebounds in USF’s 64-52 victory over Jacksonville on Nov. 21. She followed with a 34-point performance as USF downed North Carolina, 83-55 in Bimini, Bahamas on Thanksgiving Day, shooting 57.9 percent from the floor (11-for-19) and 60.0 percent from deep (6-for-10). The Preseason All-Conference first-team selection also made all six attempts from the charity stripe and grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds in her first career double-double. In USF’s 81-65 win over Georgia, Laksa repeated with 34 points and tied her career mark of eight three-pointers in a single contest, burying eight of 13 attempts, adding one assist and two steals. USF, which improved to 4-0 on the season, will be back in action at home on Nov. 30 against FIU.
Fans’ Choice: Kristine Nielson
BYU, Senior Guard/Forward
West Coast Conference Player of the Week, Kristine Nielson of BYU was named MVP of the University of New Mexico Thanksgiving Tournament after averaged 16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 block while leading the Cougars to wins over Saint Joseph’s and Tulsa, with both games ending 71-56 in favor of BYU. She had a total of 32 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks while shooting 57.9 percent from the field, 55.6 percent from 3-point range and 71.4 percent from the free-throw line. The 5-foot-11 senior from Crystal Beach, Fla., recorded a career-high 17 points in the win over Tulsa, pulling down five rebounds, dishing out three assists while shooting 60 percent from the field and 67 percent from the free-throw line. The three made treys against the Golden Hurricane established a new career high for Nielson. She tallied 15 points in the win over St. Joseph’s while collecting five rebounds and two blocks, which were also career bests. Against the Hawks, Nielson went 5-of-9 from the field, 2-of-4 from behind 3-point range and was 3-of-4 from the free-throw line. BYU (3-2) is set to compete in another tournament this weekend, when the Cougars travel to Maui, Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. BYU plays UNLV (5-0) on Friday, Dec. 2, and No. 15 Oregon State (3-1) on Saturday, Dec. 3.
Washington, Senior Forward/Center
Washington senior Chantel Osahor had a stellar week, leading the Huskies to three wins over Idaho, Seattle U and Portland. The 6-2 forward/center recorded the first triple-double in program history in a 105-53 win against Idaho on Tuesday (Nov. 22), finishing the night with 11 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists, with the latter two being new career-highs. Four days later in a 94-64 win over the Seattle Redhawks, Osahor put up a double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 13 boards. She also dished out five assists in the contest. The next day against Portland, Osahor accounted for her sixth straight double-double, putting together another fine all-around performance with 13 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and two steals as the Huskies won 83-53. Named the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Week for the first time in her career, Osahor is currently leading the nation in rebounds per game (14.0) while her six double-doubles also tops the NCAA. Next, the Huskies (6-1) are back on the road, traveling to Osahor’s hometown of Phoenix, Ariz. on Thursday (Dec. 1) to face Grand Canyon.
Old Dominion, Senior Guard
Named Conference USA Player of the Week for the third time in her career, Old Dominion’s Jennie Simms had a big week for Monarchs, averaging 25.0 points per game in contests again Duke and North Carolina Central. Simms poured in a season-high 33 points against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Nov. 22 in a game won by the Blue Devils, 92-64. It was the most points allowed by Duke to an opposing player this season. The senior guard shot 12-of-17 from the field, including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc. The Accokeek, Maryland, native then followed with her second double-double of the season, and 15th of her career, with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the 83-52 win over North Carolina Central on Nov. 27. The two-time All-C-USA selection is averaging 24.3 points, which leads C-USA and is tied for fourth in the NCAA, while her 8.8 rebounds per game ranks fifth in the conference. Simms and the Lady Monarchs return to action on Nov. 30 at home against Dartmouth.