The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame released its 20-player watch list for the Lieberman Award, which goes to the best point guard in women’s college basketball, on Monday, and South Carolina was represented on the list, though not by whom you might expect.
Senior Bianca Cuevas-Moore made the watch list cut, essentially putting her among the top 20 point guards in the country. The watch list doesn’t guarantee anything — players outside of it can be considered for the award, which is handed out during the Final Four in April — but it does mean some of the most respected minds in women’s college hoops consider Cuevas-Moore an elite guard worthy of consideration alongside All-Americans like Connecticut’s Kia Nurse and Duke’s Lexie Brown.
The odd thing is, Cuevas-Moore might not even start for the Gamecocks this season. Despite being the team’s second-best returning scorer, she is part of a crowded USC backcourt that includes sophomore Tyasha Harris, who started more than her last year, redshirt senior Lindsey Spann, a former All-Big Ten player who transferred in this season, and junior Doniyah Cliney, who, according to head coach Dawn Staley, has improved more than any other player during the offseason.
All three started ahead of Cuevas-Moore during the team’s lone exhibition last Friday against Coker, and after the game Staley said that the starters in that game had performed the most consistently during practice and were, barring any drastic changes, on track to start in the regular season as well.
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But Cuevas-Moore is an explosive scorer who began last season as a starter, was relegated to super sub status early on, then returned with the injury of Alaina Coates and played a pivotal role in South Carolina’s championship run. She averaged 8.3 points per game and swiped a team-high 59 steals.
During the Coker exhibition, Cuevas-Moore played 15 minutes, gathering four points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals.
The watch list for the award will be narrowed at midseason to 10 players, then again to five finalists before the winner is revealed in Columbus, Ohio, the site of this season’s Final Four.