Jan. 18, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Three Notre Dame women's basketball players -- senior forward/tri-captain Natalie Achonwa (Guelph, Ontario/St. Mary's Catholic), sophomore guard Jewell Loyd (Lincolnwood, Ill./Niles West) and senior guard/tri-captain Kayla McBride (Erie, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) -- are among 21 student-athletes who were named to the 2013-14 John R. Wooden Award Women's Midseason List, it was announced late Friday by the award's presenter, the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
The Fighting Irish were one of two programs in the nation (along with Connecticut) to feature three candidates on the Wooden Award rundown. Only one other school (Duke) had multiple players chosen for the list, although one of the Blue Devils' two selections (Chelsea Gray) will miss the remainder of the season with an injury.
Led by Notre Dame and Duke, the Atlantic Coast Conference had more players (seven) selected to the Wooden Award Midseason List than any other conference. The American Athletic Conference was second with five, followed by the Big Ten (three), the Pac-12 (two) and the Big 12 (two).
The Wooden Award Midseason List is made up of players who are considered the front-runners for one of college basketball's elite national player of the year awards. The list is determined by the Wooden Award National Advisory Board and is based upon individual performance and team records.
This marks the second consecutive year that McBride has made the Wooden Award Midseason List, while both Achonwa and Loyd are appearing on the rundown for the first time in their respective careers. Achonwa and McBride were on the Wooden Award Preseason Watch List, while Loyd was added to this week's Wooden Award Midseason List based upon her performance through the first half of the 2013-14 season.
Achonwa, who also is a top contributor on the Canadian Senior National Team that has qualified for this summer's FIBA World Championships in Turkey, ranks fifth in the ACC in field goal percentage (.576), as well as eighth in both rebounding (8.6 rpg.) and blocked shots (1.4 bpg.), 11th in free throw percentage (.795) and 21st in scoring (13.5 ppg.). In addition, she has a team-high five double-doubles this season, including a career-high 26 points and a season-best 16 rebounds in her team's Jan. 12 win at Virginia.
Loyd ranks ninth in the ACC in scoring at a team-best 17.3 points per game, while also standing seventh in free throw percentage (.800). She has scored in double figures in every game this season, extending her active string to 22 consecutive games in double figures, tying for the fourth-longest run in school history.
McBride, who recently was named to the 2014-16 USA Basketball National Team player pool, ranks 13th in the ACC in scoring (16.3 ppg.), as well as third in three-point percentage (.471), 12th in assist/turnover ratio (1.56) and 15th in assists (3.5 apg.). She and Loyd also share the team lead with five 20-point games this season.
This year's Notre Dame trio will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of three-time Wooden Award finalist Skylar Diggins ('13), who went on to earn a spot on the Wooden Award All-America Team in both 2012 and 2013.
Players that are not part of the 21-member Wooden Award Midseason List still are eligible for the award's National Ballot, which consists of 15 top players who have proven to their universities they are making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a 2.0 cumulative grade-point average (GPA).
The 15 Wooden Award finalists named to the National Ballot will be announced in mid-March. The Wooden Award All-America Team, consisting of the nation's top five players, will be unveiled during the week of the NCAA Women's Final Four (April 6-8 in Nashville, Tenn.), and the quintet then will be honored at the 38th annual Wooden Award Gala the weekend of April 11-13 at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women's basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @ndwbb), like the program on Facebook (facebook.com/ndwbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the front page at UND.com.
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director