Bueckers, Smith earn player of year honors

    Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

SAN ANTONIO — UConn guard Paige Bueckers and Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith both earned women’s college basketball player of the year honors Saturday.

Bueckers became the first freshman to win the Naismith Trophy since the award debuted in 1983. The junior Smith won the Wade Trophy, the oldest of the women’s hoops awards, dating back to 1978.

Bueckers previously had earned Associated Press and ESPN.com player of the year honors, and she and Smith are among five finalists for the Wooden Award, which will be announced Tuesday on ESPN. Bueckers was not up for the Wade Trophy because its voting criteria states freshmen are not eligible.

Also Saturday, Bueckers and fellow freshman guard Caitlin Clark of Iowa, along with Smith, were announced as part of the 10-member Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American team. It is the oldest of the women’s All-American teams, dating to the 1974-75 season.

The WBCA All-Americans also include two senior guards who will compete for the national championship Sunday (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET): Arizona’s Aari McDonald and Stanford’s Kiana Williams. The other five WBCA All-Americans are South Carolina sophomore forward Aliyah Boston, Arkansas senior guard Chelsea Dungee, Louisville senior guard Dana Evans, Michigan junior forward Naz Hillmon and Kentucky junior guard Rhyne Howard.

Boston, Evans and Howard are the other three Wooden Award finalists, joining Bueckers and Smith.

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