With more than three months of play in the books this women’s college basketball season, we have a pretty clear understanding of who the best players in the country are.
And we can break that down even further to specific skill sets, like passing. We’ve seen which players can control the tempo of the game with their steady hands and unwavering composure, which ones can toss the perfect pass into the post, which ones that can throw lobs ahead for easy points in transition, and which ones can drive-and-kick to create a smooth 3-pointer for a teammate.
There are a few women’s basketball players who have stood amongst the rest when discussing passing and these attributes. These are the players who have racked up assists and have impeccable assist-turnover ratios.
Let’s take a closer look at five of the best passers in the country.
Sabrina Ionescu, Senior, Oregon
Rebounding, scoring, passing — we all know by now that Sabrina Ionescu does it all for the Oregon Ducks. But she’s raised her game in many ways as a senior, and one the skills that she has elevated this season is her ability to put her teammates in a position to score.
Through 24 games, Ionescu has 205 assists, good enough for a per-game average of 8.5. She now has 997 assists for her career, which is good enough for fifth all-time in NCAA women’s basketball history. Considering that she’s had three or more assists in every game she’s played in this season, Ionescu should pass the 1,000 career assists mark on Friday vs. No. 7 UCLA.
— Oregon Women’s Basketball (@OregonWBB) February 8, 2020
Ionescu is on track to surpass the 311 assists she dished out last season. If she keeps dropping dimes at her current pace, she’ll end up within striking distance of Gonzaga’s Courtney Vandersloot for third all-time in career assists in NCAA history. Vandersloot finished her career with 1,118.
This season, Ionescu is first in the country in total assists, first in assists per-game and fifth in assist-turnover ratio with a +3.01 mark. Ionescu is once again a top 10 finalist for the Lieberman Award for top point guard, a trophy she’s taken home in each of the past two seasons.
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Kelly Campbell, Senior, DePaul
Kelly Campbell is a Lieberman Award finalist too. Her ability to control games and put teammates in a position to score has helped lead DePaul to a No. 13 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll and has the Blue Demons on track to claim the Big East title.
A 5-10 native of Wall, New Jersey, Campbell leads the nation in assist-turnover ratio with a +5.54 mark. Campbell takes care of the ball and has kept a clean sheet in the turnover column seven times this season. She’s also sixth in that nation in total assists (144) and 13th in assists per-game (5.8).
Over her last six games — five of which were wins for the Blue Demons — Campbell has averaged seven assists per-game. She had one of her best games of the season in a Feb. 2 win over Providence, where she tallied 12 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds and four steals in 35 minutes of play.
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Taja Cole, Gr. Senior, Virginia Tech
With a 17-6 overall record and a 7-5 mark in ACC play, Virginia Tech is on track this season to make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006. And Taja Cole is a big reason why.
“This point and time in the season is very important. The wins that we’re supposed to get, we got to get. We got to be focused,” Cole said after a game at Duke earlier this season. “I think we do a pretty good job and we’re only going to get better. With this group, I can’t see us not focusing or not getting better the rest of the way.”
A 5-8 graduate transfer from Georgia — where she led the SEC in assists last season — Cole hasn’t missed a beat with the Hokies. She leads the ACC in assists and assists per-game (6.3) this season, and also ranks fifth and eighth in the nation in those statistics as well.
Cole has had nine games this season where’s she’s dished out at least eight assists, and she’s also averaging 5.1 rebounds and 9.5 points per-game for Virginia Tech too. She’s been tenacious on defense too, and an on-court leader for a Hokies’ team that carries just two other seniors on its roster.
“Taja Cole is the one that makes them go,” N.C. State head coach Wes Moore said after facing Virginia Tech in January. “We knew that coming in. She has a 2-to-1 assist-turnover ratio coming in and she’s super quick. We had trouble at times controlling her and containing her. Great player.”
Jayde Christopher, RS Senior, Boise State
Back in the 2016-17 season, Christopher was a starter at Kansas and led the Jayhawks in assists. Fast forward three seasons later, she’s till dropping dimes in the Mountain West Conference for the Broncos.
Christopher is second in the nation — to only Ionescu — in total assists this season with 188, as of Feb. 12. She’s also second in the country in assists per-game with a 7.5 average. Christopher’s +2.29 assist-turnover ratio leads the Mountain West and is 24th best in the nation.
Under Christopher’s direction, the Broncos are 16-9 on the season and 8-5 in Mountain West play. She’s played well in big games too, dishing out a season-high 14 assists against Louisville. A season ago, she helped the Broncos make the NCAA tournament, where they pushed Oregon State to overtime in the first round.
Tyasha Harris, Senior, South Carolina
Much has been written about South Carolina’s freshmen this season, and for good reason too — they’re stellar. But the driving force behind the Gamecocks’ powerful and versatile attack has been Tyasha Harris, the battle-tested veteran.
Harris’ skills were on display on the biggest stage this past Monday night. In 40 minutes of action, she tallied a team-high 19 points and a team-high 11 assists in South Carolina’s first-ever win over UConn. Harris also had four rebounds and never turned the ball over.
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“Ty did a great job of just managing the game. She knew when to shoot it, when to pull it back,” Gamecocks’ head coach Dawn Staley said. “That’s just a seasoned point guard.”
A 5-10 native of Noblesville, Indiana, Harris is a top 10 finalist for the Lieberman Award and is likely to become a first round WNBA Draft pick. Her assist-turnover ratio of 2.62 is 14th best in the nation and her 5.5 assists per-game rank first in the SEC. With Harris steering the ship, there’s no ceiling to how far South Carolina can go this season.
“I feel like we’re up there,” Harris said after the win over UConn. “Obviously, we haven’t played Oregon, but I feel like we’re real contenders for the Final Four.”
Five other passers to watch: Indiana’s Ali Patberg, Texas Southern’s Ciani Cryor, Iowa’s Kathleen Doyle, Baylor’s DiDi Richards, Wake Forest’s Gina Conti