JuJu Watkins vs MiLaysia Fulwiley: Which Sensation Holds The Odds For 2024 NCAA Freshman of The Year Award?

Published 12/04/2023, 8:57 AM EST

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The South Carolina Gamecocks freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley announced her dominance in the college basketball circuit during her game against the Duke Blue Devils as previously she was only given her three minutes against the UNC. She basketed a buzzer beating logo three against the Duke during the end of the first quarter. Her outstanding dropping skills make her comparable to another freshman the USC guard JuJu Watkins.

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The two are top contenders for the ‘Freshman of the Year’ award. A close look at their performances will give a more decent view into who might win it

JuJu Watkins: A Star is Born

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The USC have won all their 7 matches, thanks to an enormous contribution by their freshman JuJu Watkins. Watkins has touched the 30-point mark five times and has become the alpha of the team only in her first year.

She has dropped the team’s highest points in all her seven games and is a force to reckon with. The USC have been able to dominate till now riding on the back of Watkins.

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The California-born displayed exemplary figures of 32,35,31,30 and 30 respectively in their game against the Ohio State Buckeyes, Le Moyne Dolphins, Penn State Lady Lions, Cal Poly Mustangs, and San Diego Toreros.

She has an astounding average of 27.2 points in the seven games she has played and is also second to the Iowa Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark in terms of points average.

The 18-year-old demonstrated her defensive skills too in a clash against the Penn State Lady Lions when she grabbed 12 rebounds. The 6-feet-2-inch guard besotted a career-high of 35 points against the Le Moyne Dolphins only in her third game of the freshman season.

Watkins has been making all the right noises and is also considered a contender to Clark, and might sweep all the major national player of the year awards.

She has an exceptional 75% field throw percentage that she had bettered over time while playing the current NCAA season. This also proves her dedication and indicates a quality that only big players have of improving the game as the season progresses.

For her display, Watkins is also considered a top player for clinching the ‘Freshman of the Year’ award. Previously she has already been awarded the Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2023) and the Gatorade National Player of the Year (2023)

MiLaysia Fulwiley: The Breakout Star

The South Carolina Gamecocks freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley announced her coming when she basketed 17 points in her first game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Gamecocks are another team who have won all their seven games till now and Fulwiley has contributed immensely to them.

Though her game time has been fluctuating, it doesn’t take away the fact that she is going great and has become a significant player for her team only in her first season.

Her highest came against the Clemson Tigers when she dropped 18 points in the only 16 minutes she played in the game. Fulwiley was also close to a double-double in that game when she seized 9 rebounds. Fulwiley has therefore outstanding offensive and noteworthy defensive skills. 

Fulwiley also edged past her seniors A’ja Wilson, Aliyah Boston and Tifanny Mitchell when she besotted a cumulative 47 points in first three games. On the other hand, Wilson, Boston and Mitchell had pocketed 37,37 and 32 points respectively.

Her other rosy performance came against the Mississippi Valley State Devilettes when she smashed 17 points in a humongous 101-19 win.

One thing to be noted here is that the Gamecocks are a more teamwork-aligned college. Their basketball wins have more or less equal contributions from all their members and hence Fulwiley has got only an average of 19.2 minutes. 

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Overall, Fulwiley has an average of 12 points in the seven-game she has played so far with 2.8 assists per game. Additionally, she was also benched against the North Carolina Tar Heels since her head coach Dawn Staley wanted to go with a better defensive player. Had Fulwiley not been asked to sit out, her average would have improved further.

Taking cognizance of a nominal playing time, Fulwiley can really challenge Watkins once she starts getting more time and also if the Gamecocks change their strategy and start relying more on her.

Fulwiley definitely has the potential to oust Watkins from the national freshman of the year race, and a lot depends on her coach Staley.

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Watch This Story: Sending Shockwaves in The Basketball World, Know 18YO MiLaysia Fulwiley’s Story

Whereas if Watkins continues like she has been doing and Fulwiley is given an ordinary game time then Watkins will be a sure-shot winner of the freshman awards.

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Written by:

Ritvan Pande

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Edited by:

Bilal Handoo

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