Brittney Griner finished her Baylor career as one of the most dominant frontcourt players in women’s college basketball history. Skylar Diggins-Smith was one of the best players to ever put on a Notre Dame jersey. Sabrina Ionescu was the No. 1 pick in the 2020 WNBA draft for a reason.
But we have a question: Who’s got next?
Here, we identify five high school girls’ basketball prospects who could be the next big thing at the college level.
The next Sabrina Ionescu
As a high schooler, Ionescu was a non-invitee to USA trials who earned her way onto the 2013 USA U16 national team. She worked her way to being the No. 4 prospect in the Class of 2016, was named McDonald’s All American Game MVP and finished her prolific Oregon career as the only Division I basketball player, men’s or women’s, with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.
Who could be the next complete guard like Ionescu? That would be Azzi Fudd, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the Class of 2021 and the 2019 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Both Fudd and Ionescu have tremendous playmaking abilities. They are great at knocking down shots, reading defenses and executing on the floor.
What separates them from the rest of the pack is their incredible basketball intellect. Both of them are students of the game. They know their opponents’ strengths and weaknesses because they study them so carefully. When it comes time to execute, they lock in and take their games to another level.
The next Candace Parker
Parker is a complete player who perfected the ever-growing hybrid position in women’s basketball. If there is a high school player with a game similar to that of the Tennessee great and WNBA champion, it would be rising senior Rayah Marshall, the 14th-ranked prospect in the Class of 2021.
When I first saw Marshall in December 2017 at a tournament in Los Angeles, she was a long, lean, 6-foot-3 guard cleaning the glass with one-handed rebounds, dishing out dimes and knocking down 3s for Lynwood High School. She was only a freshman then, but her smooth play on the court was eye-popping.
Marshall, who averaged 18.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a junior, knows how to exploit a defense with her size and superior wingspan while also using a feathery touch in the paint to dominate opponents. As is the case with the 6-foot-4 Parker, Marshall’s length can create a mismatch nightmare for opponents.
The next big dunker
We all know about dunking phenom Fran Belibi, the Powerade Jam Fest champion who recently finished her freshman season at Stanford. But there could be a new heir to the throne in Ashlyn Watkins.
Watkins, the 12th-ranked prospect in the Class of 2022, threw down as an eighth grader and she was dunking on 9-foot hoops in rec league games as a fifth grader. Word spread rapidly after she emerged on the scene during a 2018 summer event in Louisville, Kentucky, at which she intercepted an errant crosscourt pass and finished with the most authoritative dunk I have seen since Brittney Griner.
Griner, of course, is the undisputed champion dunker of women’s basketball. She can throw it down however she wants to — reverse, windmill, tomahawk, you name it. Watkins, a 6-foot-3 post player who averaged 16.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.1 blocks, might be able to succeed Griner. She is a physical yet agile frontcourt player who can deliver efficiently in the paint and runs like a guard up the court. She is explosive and has hands big enough to get the ball above the rim, with enough power to throw it down forcefully.
The next true center
The last dominant low-post players in the college game were Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan and Baylor’s Kalani Brown, both of whom are now playing in the WNBA. The next big thing could come to the college ranks as early as this fall in incoming freshman Kamilla Cardoso.
A 6-foot-6 post player who signed with Syracuse, Cardoso is the fifth-ranked prospect in the Class of 2020. Although she isn’t as physical as Brown or McCowan — something she will need to improve upon at the college level — she is quick and mobile, and her footwork around the basket makes her an intriguing prospect.
Come to think of it, her agility is reminiscent of that of a young Sylvia Fowles. If Cardoso is able to develop more physicality, she will be even more difficult to deal with.
The next Skylar Diggins-Smith
Diggins-Smith grew up in South Bend, Indiana, and being so close to Notre Dame’s campus made it an easy transition for her to play for the Irish. She was a dominant lefty guard who consistently was able to get to the hoop.
There is a lot of Diggins-Smith in Jada Williams, the seventh-ranked prospect in the Class of 2023. Williams finished her freshman season with an impressive stat line — 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.1 steals — and she already boasts more than 217,000 Instagram followers. Most importantly, her game stands out compared to the rest.
A 5-foot-6 point guard for Blue Springs High School (Missouri), Williams solidified herself among the top future prospects at last summer’s Jr. NBA Global Championship, demonstrating how elusive she can be off the dribble, her quick release on her jumper and how confident she is as a leader on the floor. She has also shown flashes of Chennedy Carter with her scoring mindset and playmaking abilities.