Pac-10 Women's Basketball Midseason Report

Photo: Cal forward DeNesha Stallworth leads the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game. She is also averaging 6.8 rebounds.
Anne Marie Schuler/Staff
Cal forward DeNesha Stallworth leads the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game. She is also averaging 6.8 rebounds.

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Pac-10 Player of the Year: Jeanette Pohlen, Stanford

It's tempting to pick Stanford's junior forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike as the Player of the Year so far. The reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year and All-American is averaging 16.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Fellow forward Kayla Pedersen is worthy as well. The senior leads the team with 8.2 boards a game and logs 12.3 points all the while playing out of position at the three.

But Pohlen is the engine that makes the Cardinal go. The senior guard, who paces the squad with 16.5 points and five assists per game, is the only Stanford player to have started every game this season. She has almost doubled her scoring average from last year. She's deadly from 3-point range (43.5 percent) and automatic from the free throw line (90.6 percent).

Pohlen has stepped up in the biggest games. She poured in 31 points, racked up nine boards and dished out six assists in the Cardinal's upset of top-ranked UConn. She scored 24 points in Stanford's loss to No. 5 Tennessee, almost single-handedly keeping her team in the game.

The Brea, Calif., native has been the Cardinal's only consistent guard, and at times its only starting guard. And to top that, she is playing out of position at the point, as she is a natural shooting guard. She has handled UCLA's full court press and outshot Maya Moore, arguably the nation's best player. Pohlen is having the best season on a Stanford squad that is clearly the best team in the conference, if not the country.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

Pac-10 Coach of the Year: Nikki Caldwell, UCLA

This season, it seems that the only Pac-10 opponent UCLA struggles with is No. 6 Stanford. But that wasn't the story just three years ago, when the Bruins finished with a barely-winning 10-8 Pac-10 record, 16-15 overall. UCLA's overall record has improved each year since that season, timing that coincides perfectly with the addition of Nikki Caldwell to the coaching staff.

Now the No. 10 Bruins boast an 8-1 conference record at midseason and are 18-2 overall. The rise of standouts such as Darxia Morris, Markel Walker and Rebekah Gardner has undoubtedly contributed to that.

Caldwell's selection of what ESPNU HoopGurlz ranked as the No. 4 recruiting class will ensure that improvement due to new blood will continue. The past two years the records Caldwell has coached UCLA to have ranked in the top ten of the team's history, and it seems that this year will be another record-setter for the third-year coach.

-Alex Matthews

Pac-10 Freshman of the Year: Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford

Even after losing All-American center Jayne Appel and her roughly 13 points and nine boards each game, Stanford hasn't lost a beat - thanks in part to Chiney Ogwumike. The freshman forward may not be at her older sister Nnemkadi's All-American level just yet, but Chiney has certainly stepped out of her shadow.

The Gatorade National Athlete of the Year as a high school senior, Ogwumike is averaging just over 11 points and seven rebounds per game for the Cardinal. Not bad for the team's fourth option. She's also shooting an astounding 57.4 percent from the field. Her numbers have been even better of late. The Cypress, Texas native had back-to-back double-doubles against USC and Oregon, including a stat line of 18 points, 12 boards and three blocks against the Ducks.

While her older sister has produced more on the offensive end, Chiney has been Stanford's defensive stopper. She was the primary defender on Connecticut's Maya Moore, holding the presumptive (and former) National Player of the Year, to a season-low 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting. Ogwumike also helped force Cal's stalwart power forward DeNesha Stallworth into a four-point performance.

-Jonathan Kuperberg

Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year: El Sara Greer, Oregon State

While the Beavers' 0-9 conference record suggests anything but a standout defense, El Sara Greer has been dominating the Pac-10 individual stat boards.

She is tied with Cal's Talia Caldwell for rebounds, averaging 8.4 per game, but it is Greer's shot blocking abilities that are really out of the rest of the conference's league. She averages 3.45 per game in a conference where not one other player has achieved more than 1.5 blocks per game. That statistic makes Greer seventh in the nation for blocked shots.

Greer also leads the Pac-10 with her 58.1 field goal percentage. On a team just struggling to emerge from conference play without a perfect losing record, Greer's 6-foot-2 frame has managed to stand out and to some extent contain the rest of the conference's ability to beat up on Oregon State.

-Alex Matthews


Jonathan Kuperberg and Alex Matthews cover women's basketball. Contact them at [email protected]

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