Whyte has potential to win Pac-12 women's basketball Player of the Year award
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA’s Women’s Basketball lost Sunday afternoon to Washington State University at Mckale Center.
With just around three weeks remaining in the regular season, candidates for this season’s Pac-12 women’s basketball Player of the Year award are starting to thin out.
Entering the season, the favorite to win the award was two-time defending recipient Chiney Ogwumike of Stanford. Now, more than three-quarters of the way through the season, the 6-foot-3 junior forward is still the favorite to win, but Arizona’s Davellyn Whyte has the opportunity to steal the spotlight.
“[Ogwumike is] so dangerous,” Arizona head coach Niya Butts said Monday night on her weekly radio show. “Not only is she solid down in the post, but she’s a threat to hit a jumper.”
Ogwumike is the leading scorer in the conference, averaging 22.4 points per game. She is the only player in the conference averaging over 20 points per contest and is the only player with over 500 total points on the season, with 537.
Ogwumike is an efficient shooter as well, making 58.8 percent of her attempts, which is second in the conference to only California’s Talia Caldwell (60.7 percent). However, Ogwumike has taken more than 200 more field goal attempts than Caldwell.
Along with being the leading scorer in the conference, Ogwumike is a top-notch defender and rebounder. The defending defensive Player of the Year is first in the conference in offensive and defensive rebounds, averaging 4.4 and 7.9 per game, respectively. Ogwumike also averages 1.4 blocked shots per game, which ranks her fourth in the conference.
Ogwumike has helped her Cardinal to a 11-1 conference record that has the defending Pac-12 champions sitting tied for first with Cal.
While it is difficult to pick against Ogwumike’s three-peating, one could make the argument that she plays on a team with other candidates, such as point guard Amber Orrange and forward Joslyn Tinkle, so she is not as valuable to her team as some other conference players are to theirs.
If we use that logic, then Ogwumike’s biggest threat is Arizona’s all-around playmaker and senior captain Whyte.
“I don’t think anyone can guard her [Whyte] one on one,” Butts said. “She’s extremely valuable to our team.”
Whyte is currently fourth in the conference in scoring, averaging 16.4 points per game. She is also grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game, while predominantly playing away from the basket. Her 129 rebounds this season are just three fewer than teammate Alli Gloyd, who leads the Wildcats in the rebounding category.
Whyte is one of the best floor generals in the Pac-12, too. The Wildcat offense usually starts with Whyte and often ends with her as well, but Whyte has sometimes been known to dish out the ball, which is why she has the second-most assists in the conference (110).
“Teams are going to game plan around me,” Whyte said, “which gives other girls the opportunity to make plays. So I just got to find them.”
The preseason first team all-conference selection has six regular season games left in her career to try to pinch the gap between her and Ogwumike. Whyte’s biggest weakness is that Arizona is ninth in the Pac-12 with a 3-9 conference record and is mathematically eliminated from winning the regular season conference title.
That being said, if Whyte can lead Arizona to an impressive finish and end the season in the top five in the standings, she will strengthen the case for her winning the Player of the Year award.
UCLA’s Markel Walker and Washington’s Jazmine Davis are also two candidates who could compete for the award.
“She means a lot to our team,” Butts said about Whyte. “She can absolutely win it.”