Five women’s basketball players to watch this year

Junior forward Alissa Pili shoots a free throw during a game.
Junior forward Alissa Pili missed 10 games with an injury last season but still averaged 11 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. (Peter Gastis | Daily Trojan)

Women’s basketball is back to practicing in preparation for the 2021-22 season under new Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb. With the season approaching, here are five of the most important players poised to make an impact this season. 

Graduate student forward Jordan Sanders

USC will welcome back 2020-2021 All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention Jordan Sanders, who averaged 11.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 20 games last season. Sanders hit double figures in scores in 11 games which included a streak of nine consecutive games with 10 or more points. She will be one of the veteran cornerstones of the team on the low block and a likely starter. 

Junior forward Alissa Pili

Another All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention last season and the 2019 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Pili enters her third season at USC. Even though she missed the first 10 games of last season because of injury, she still averaged 11.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. In Pili’s Freshman of the Year campaign, she averaged 16.3 points and 8 rebounds per game in 31 games. Pili will be a likely starter in the backcourt and has the potential to be a primary scorer for the Trojans. 

Freshman center Clarice Uche Akunwafo

The No. 2 ranked center in the country for the class of 2021, Clarice Uche Akunwafo is the most highly anticipated Trojan recruit this year. She averaged 20.1 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game in her junior year at Rolling Hills Prep and shot 56% from the floor. Akunwafo was a key component in three regional title runs as well as a California state championship. While there are other veterans on the squad that will compete for minutes in the frontcourt, Akunwafo has a high ceiling and can impact the game on both sides of the ball. 

Freshman guard/forward Rayah Marshall

ESPN’s No. 27-ranked player in the 2021 class was freshman guard Rayah Marshall. A Los Angeles native, Marshall has good size at her position standing at 6’4”, creating mismatches for opposition defenses. She averaged 23.7 points per game in her senior year. Scouts have described her as having “off-the-charts potential,” and Marshall has room to grow into a long-term piece for the Trojans. 

Graduate student guard Tera Reed

Reed also enters her first season at USC as a graduate transfer from Virginia Commonwealth University. Named to the All-Atlantic 10 Third Team last season, Reed averaged 11.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. She was VCU’s leading scorer in her freshman and sophomore year. Reed was also an 82.8% free-throw shooter, which should help boost the team’s average of 74%. Her collegiate experience will be useful for a USC team with a mix of veteran and young talent.