April 2, 2021
For Immediate Release
Contact: Malcolm Moran
UConn, Iowa stars share freshman honor; Stanford legend earns bookend award
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SAN ANTONIO (USBWA) – Setting records on their respective campuses, in their conferences and even in receiving weekly honors from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, UConn's Paige Bueckers and Iowa's Caitlin Clark get to set one more in sharing the 2020-21 Tamika Catchings Freshman Player of the Year Award from the USBWA. Both first-year stars were named first-team All-Americans today as well.

At the same time, 32 years after receiving the first USBWA coach of the year award, Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, whose Pac-12 champion Cardinal are part of the national semifinals here in the Alamodome, is back to claim her second honor.

The Ann Meyers Drysdale National Women's Player of the Year Award will be announced Sunday afternoon ahead of the NCAA women's championship contest between tonight's winners.

Bueckers and Clark lit the women's landscape as soon as they stepped on their respective campuses. Bueckers set a USBWA record in earning the Tamika Catchings Freshman of the Week award in four consecutive weeks (Jan. 24-Feb. 14). Clark earned four herself, taking the initial weekly honor on Jan. 3, sharing it with Bueckers in a first-ever USBWA weekly dual honor on Feb. 14, then closing the season with the last two Feb. 21 and 28. Combined the duo earned seven of the nine weekly awards and all of them from Jan. 24 on.

A 5-11 guard from Hopkins, Minn., in suburban Minneapolis, Bueckers became the first freshman in UConn's storied program that groomed future Olympians and WNBA champions to score 30 or more points in three straight games. In UConn's first year returning to the Big East, Bueckers claimed the conference's Freshman and Player of the Year awards.

She set a USBWA record, earning the Tamika Catchings weekly freshman award four straight times and once in that stretch a USBWA first-ever dual honor in receiving the Ann Meyers Drysdale weekly player award.

Bueckers leads the Huskies in scoring (20.1), assists (5.9), steals (65) and three-point field goal percentage (.459) and set a UConn single-game record with 14 assists record against Butler on Feb. 27, while also scoring 20 points and grabbing seven rebounds. She earned Big East Tournament Most Valuable Player honors and scored 28 points in the Riverwalk Regional Final win over Baylor, earning Regional MVP honors in leading the Huskies to their 13th straight Women's Final Four. Her 146 assists this season is a freshman school record.

"Thank you to the USBWA for naming me Tamika Catchings Co-Freshmen of the Year," Bueckers said upon learning of winning the award. "I wouldn't be here without my teammates and coaches; so credit to them for being with me all season and making me a better player. Congratulations to Caitlin for earning the award as well."

Buckers is the fourth UConn player to win Tamika Catchings Award, named for the former Tennessee, WNBA and Olympic great, She joins Maya Moore (2008), Tina Charles (2007), and Shea Ralph (1997) as winners. Bueckers also earned First Team All-America status from the USBWA. She is UConn’s first freshman selection since Moore in 2008 and only its third all-time, and earns UConn a first-team selection in each of the last five seasons since the USBWA began splitting the squad into first and second (2017-18) and then third (2018-present) teams.

Clark, a 6-0 guard from West Des Moines, Iowa, is the first Hawkeye to win the Tamika Catchings award. She was also a record-setter, winning four USBWA weekly awards and becoming the first Iowa women’s player to earn national freshman of the year recognition from any media outlet. The nation's leading scorer at 26.6 points per game set Big Ten records with 12 30-point games, 13 Big Ten freshman weekly awards and a Big Ten-record five player of the week awards for a combined 22 conference honors. She scored a career-high 39 points vs. Nebraska – at the time her third straight 30-point game and one that set a Huskers' home-court Pinnacle Bank Arena record for single-game scoring for men or women. She's the first Iowa freshman to reach 600 points, 150 rebounds and 150 assists in a single season. Her 12 30-point games are the most in the nation by a freshman since 2000.

"I am happy for Caitlin to receive this well-deserved honor," Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said. "I am excited about her future and all the ways that she can improve her game and at the same time help the continued success of our program."

VanDerveer, in winning her second USBWA Coach of the Year Award, joins multiple winners Geno Auriemma of UConn (6), Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame (3) and Kim Mulkey of Baylor (3).

Forced to be off campus from the start of the season until mid-February due to restrictive COVID-19 protocols in Santa Clara County in Northern California, VanDerveer has guided the Cardinal to a 29-2 record, the Pac-12 regular-season and conference tournament titles, the overall top seed in the NCAA tournament, and a second-half comeback in the Alamo Regional title game that led Stanford to a national semifinal showdown with South Carolina. The forced exile has led to a national-best 23 road victories.

In December, VanDerveer passed the late legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and is now the all-time career leader among Division I women's coaches with 1,123 triumphs. She has coached 21 USBWA All-Americans at Stanford, including senior guard Kiana Williams, a third-team selection this season, two Ann Meyers Drysdale Award National Players of the Year (Kate Starbird in 1997 and Jennifer Azzi in 1990) and Freshman of the Year Candice Wiggins in '05 before the award took on Catchings' namesake.

VanDerveer is second all-time with 593 appearances in the Associated Press women's poll, combining her Ohio State and Stanford eras in the 45-year history of the poll. She trails only Summitt, who was at 618 before retiring in 2012.

The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential organizations in college basketball. It has selected a women's All-America team since the 1996-97 season. For more information on the USBWA and its award programs, contact executive director Malcolm Moran at 814-574-1485.