Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Elite 25: Inside the Top 15

Virginia's Sarah Imovbioh
Our countdown continues with four players who showed tantalizing glimpses of Division I stardom last season. And while the fifth hardly played at all, she's already proved the kind of impact she can make.

Ashley Rininger
15. Ashley Rininger, 6-4 R-Soph F/C, Liberty
Efficiency score: 10.85
Another member of the All-Great Hair team, Rininger redshirted her first year on campus but got to practice every day against Lady Flames stars Avery Warley and Tolu Omotola. Those lessons paid off in 2012-13 as only an incredible season by Winthrop's Schaquilla Nunn prevented Rininger from being named Big South Freshman of the Year. Our favorite stat - Rininger scored in double figures 10 times; the Lady Flames were 10-0 in those games. But the best number is 4.0 - Rininger's grade-point average as a criminal justice major. She's on track to graduate in three years.

14. Sarah Imovbioh, 6-2 Jr. F, Virginia
Efficiency score: 12.86
Last season Imovbioh was to the Cavaliers what Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig is to the Los Angeles Dodgers - an unfinished yet breathtaking talent who makes you go "Wow!" at least once or twice every game. Although her raw numbers (8.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) were relatively modest, Imovbioh's 2012-13 resume is loaded with superlatives, from her 21-point, 11-rebound effort in her Cavaliers debut against JMU to her 18-rebound performance against Wake Forest. Those numbers better reflect the upside of this uniquely gifted player.

Kristina King
13. Kristina King, 5-10 Sr. G, Richmond
Efficiency score: 12.12
If personality and likability were part of these calculations, King would have been among the first names on our list. Look solely at performance and the Spiders star still makes it with room to spare as a career-high 29 point explosion against JMU was just the biggest highlight of her breakout junior season. Consider: Going into the season King's career high was 13 points, a tick under last year's team-leading season average (13.1). She also led the Spiders in steals and free-throw shooting (82.4).

Nikki Newman
12. Nikki Newman, 6-2 R-Sr. F, JMU
Efficiency score: 7.0
We weren't sure where to slot Newman since she missed most of last season with a foot injury. And as you can see by her score, she wasn't terribly efficient in the few games she played. So what's she doing on this list? Well, to paraphrase the (once) great Mo Vaughn, Nikki's got hardware. Namely, the 2011-12 CAA Defensive Player of the Year award, after a season in which she, among other notable feats, checked Elena Delle Donne better than a lot of WNBA players. The efficiency formula doesn't measure the ability to lock people up. But we all know that's an extremely valuable skill, and Newman does it as well as just about anyone.

Uju Ugoka
11. Uju Ugoka, 6-1 Sr. F, Virginia Tech
Efficiency score: 10.00
The Lagos, Nigeria native had a smashing Hokies debut as she dropped 28 points on Wake Forest. Of course, it would be nearly impossible to produce like that every night in a league like the ACC, especially while battling knee issues. Still, it was overall an impressive debut - 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds in 17 games - and with Tech seemingly having upgraded its roster, a healthy Ugoka is poised to make even more of an impact this season.

Previous rankings:

Thursday: Cracking the Top 10

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