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Three Buckeyes women’s basketball stars earn spots on postseason award watch lists

Two graduate seniors and the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year earn preseason accolades

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Clare Grant/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Wednesday, a third member of the Ohio State women’s basketball team earned a spot on postseason awards watch lists, the third in three days. The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame identified guards Jacy Sheldon, Celeste Taylor and forward Cotie McMahon for three illustrious awards.

While none of them won the award, which are announced before the NCAA National Championship game, the watch list spots let the country know that the potential is there.

Jacy Sheldon - Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year

On Monday, it began with Sheldon. The college shooting guard turned point guard’s name is on the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year award list. It’s an outstanding accomplishment who didn’t start playing college point until three and a half years into her NCAA career.

The former Dublin Coffman High School point guard shifted to a shooting guard role when she joined head coach Kevin McGuff’s Buckeyes back in 2019. Sheldon slid into the spot in early 2022 when then point guard Kateri Poole went down with an injury. Although the injury didn’t put Poole out long, McGuff favored Sheldon’s style of point guard play and kept her in the role.

Sheldon kept the role until suffering an injury of her own at the start of last season. Fellow guard Madison Greene, who’s had two season-ending knee injuries in the past two seasons, went down after Sheldon. That meant when Sheldon returned for the 2023 postseason, she was back in the point guard role.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament Seattle Regional-Ohio State vs UCONN Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Of the individual awards given by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the Lieberman Award dates back the furthest. UConn guard and basketball legend Sue Bird won the first three editions of the honor. No Buckeye has won the award in its history, but it's been in the Big Ten for the past two years, won by Iowa Hawkeyes superstar Caitlin Clark.

While the odds of Clark having a down year feel near impossible, the nomination alone shows the diversity of Sheldon. Two seasons ago, Sheldon was on another award list in the second half of the season, the Ann Meyers-Drysdale Shooting Guard of the Year award. An award list that features a different Buckeye in 2023.

Sheldon is one of five Big Ten players on the list. Including Clark, Illinois Fighting Illini’s Makira Cook, Penn State Nittany Lion Makenna Marisa and Maryland Terrapin Shyanne Sellers.

Celeste Taylor - Ann Meyers-Drysdale Shooting Guard of the Year

Tuesday it was Taylor’s turn. The Ann Meyers-Drysdale Award’s list featured a different Buckeyes transfer in past seasons in Taylor Mikesell. While Mikesell was on the award for dynamic offense, Taylor’s presence this year is all about the defensive side of the ball but the spot on the list is nothing new for the incoming Ohio State guard.

This year is the third season in a row with Taylor’s name on it, with Ohio State’s name now in place of Duke University. There’s warranted hype surrounding Taylor’s move to Columbus, coming off a 22-23 season that ended with an ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and one of three finalists for National Defensive Player of the Year.

Last season, Taylor was a revelation at Duke. The guard led the team in points, steals and assists per game. Taylor’s 72.7 defensive rating was the best in the ACC and eighth best in the country and in the tournament, she made history.

In a loss to the Colorado Buffaloes, Taylor broke the NCAA Tournament record for steals in a game with 10. She’s also the only person in the history of the tournament to have at least eight points, rebounds, steals and assists in a game. Also, Taylor’s 10 steals and 10 rebounds in that second-round defeat is another achievement no one has hit in women’s March Madness history.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round - North Carolina Photo by Peyton Williams/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

While defense is what surrounds Taylor’s reputation, the guard assured people in summer media availability that she can score too. With Mikesell’s absence, Taylor and her teammates will have to pick up the team-leading 17.2 points per game. While it's a number that isn’t up there with the highest in the country, it comes with defenses homing in on the guard because of how dangerous Mikesell was with the ball in her hands.

There are four Big Ten names on this year’s list, including a former winner of the award. Penn State’s Ashley Owusu, who won the honor as a Maryland Terrapin in 2021 joins the list with Michigan Wolverine Laila Phelia and Indiana Hoosier Sara Scalia.

Cotie McMahon - Cheryl Miller Small Forward of the Year Award

Joining the Naismith Award conversation is McMahon. Last season, the freshman started every game for the Buckeyes. After starting off slow, and learning to take her time on the court, McMahon exploded, resulting in a spot on the Miller Award watch list.

McMahon’s name was a surprise on the starting roster in Ohio State’s first game of the season last year. Going up against the Tennessee Volunteers, McMahon’s energy and speed grabbed two steals and she scored 10 points in the surprising Buckeyes second half dominance.

While the learning curve is high from high school to the NCAA, McMahon got over it relatively quickly. After getting benched after six minutes against the Louisville Cardinals, McMahon responded.

With an aggressively successful move to the basket and learning how to dump off passes to teammates, McMahon became a focal point of the Buckeyes’ offense. Following that rough going against Louisville, McMahon averaged 16.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game through the rest of the year.

In those performances were three double doubles and a fourth game where McMahon grabbed at least 10 rebounds. On Dec. 20, just 21 days after the trip to Kentucky, McMahon hit a career-high of 30 points in one of many comeback victories for the Buckeyes, that time against USF. McMahon had the game-winning assist off a USF turnover to make up the 18-point first half deficit.

McMahon hit another stratosphere in the postseason. Through three games of the Big Ten tournament and four NCAA tournament matchups, McMahon almost averaged a double double. The forward scored 19.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest. McMahon also started hitting three-pointers, making five in seven games, which was a leap from making 10 in her first 29 games. Including going 2-for-3 against the UConn Huskies in the Sweet Sixteen.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament Seattle Regional-Ohio State vs UCONN Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

That win especially took McMahon from a name standing out in the conference to someone to watch as a future NCAA superstar. Now, McMahon’s earning the individual national attention because of it.

This season is only the sixth time the Hall of Fame will bestow the Cheryl Miller award, with no Big Ten names coming in that list of winners. In the past two years, Iowa State forward Ashley Joens earned the award, who now plays for the Dallas Wings in the WNBA.

Within the Big Ten are four total candidates. Including Minnesota Golden Gophers sophomore Mara Braun, Jakia Brown-Turner from Maryland and Indiana’s Yarden Garzon.