Akhator, Epps Named to Naismith Trophy Watch List
LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky women’s basketball seniors Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps have been named to the Naismith Trophy Top 50 Preseason Watch List after both have started their senior seasons in impressive fashion.
The 50-player watch list was compiled by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Board of Selectors, which based its criteria on player performances from the previous year and expectations for the 2016-17 college basketball season. The list will be cut to 30 in early February with the women’s college player of the year being announced during the Final Four. A complete list can be found here.
Akhator is making her first career appearance on the prestigious watch list, while Epps was named to the preseason top-50 and midseason top-30 lists last year. The Southeastern Conference had 11 total selections to the list.
Akhator has had a great start to her senior season, recording a double-double in five of the Wildcats’ first six games. For her career, Akhator has 18 double-doubles, which ranks her sixth in program history. The native of Lagos, Nigeria, started the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds against highly ranked Miami (Fla.) before a career-high 28 points with 13 rebounds against Albany. The senior post has scored in double figures in every game this season and is averaging 16.8 points per game with 11.7 rebounds per game, including over 28% of the team's total rebounds and 32% of the team's offensive rebounds this season.
Akhator has earned several honors already this year, including being named the National Player of the Week by CollegeSportsMadness.com and SEC Player of the Week after her impressive opening weekend. Earlier this preseason, Akhator was named to The Sporting News Preseason All-America Third Team, while last year she was tabbed an All-SEC performer by The Associated Press and league coaches.
Epps, who has scored 1,310 career points to rank 18th on UK’s all-time scoring list, is off to a great start this season for the Wildcats. The native of Lebanon, Ky., is averaging a team-best 17.2 points per game and leads the team with 31 assists and nine steals. The senior has scored in double figures in every game but one this year, including two games with 20-plus points. Epps currently has 321 career assists needing just 26 more to rank top 10 in program history in assists.
Epps earned lofty praise this preseason after averaging 17.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists last season. On top of her nomination to the Nancy Lieberman Watch List, which annually recognizes the top point guard in division I women’s basketball, Epps was named to College Sports Madness’ and The Sporting News’ Preseason All-America First Team, Athlon Sports Preseason All-America Second Team and was named Preseason All-SEC by league media and league coaches. Last season, Epps earned honorable-mention All-America honors by both The Associated Press and WBCA.