Bishops' Destiny Littleton pumps her fist after sinking a free throw that puts Bishops ahead by 5 points in the second half.
The discussion about the women’s basketball State Freshmen Player of the Year wasn’t as quick, easy or decisive as, say, Stanley Johnson’s Mr. Basketball selection.
An Arizona Wildcat commit, the Mater Dei Santa Ana forward guided the Monarchs to a perfect season, including an Open Division Section and State title, averaging 25 points, 3.6 assists and eight rebounds per contest for the No. 2 team in the country.
Johnson was regarded as the favorite entering the season and solidified his title as California’s best throughout the year.
The girl’s freshmen POY, however, started wide open and dwindled down to a handful of players, most notably Bishop’s Destiny Littleton and Long Beach Poly’s Ayanna Clark.
When the committee convened, they eventually chose the former, naming Littleton despite Long Beach Poly trouncing Bishop’s 70-26 in the opening round of the Open Division State Playoffs earlier this year.
Littleton joined former guard Gizelle Studevent — Bishop’s lone other State Player of the Year selection who received the honor in 2009 — and Horizon’s DiJonai Carrington, who was named the top freshman last season.
“While the performance by freshman post player Ayanna Clark of Long Beach Poly caused some hesitation, Littleton was the state’s top frosh for the entirety of the season and had to step up into much more of a leadership role than expected when the mother of senior star Imani Littleton (no relation to Destiny) passed away suddenly in December,” CalHiSports.com wrote.
To me, this was a no-brainer. Here’s why.
It’s not a team award.
Sure, team success should weigh into the selection, but the honor shouldn’t be solely based on that. Either way, Bishop’s (27-6) achieved success, capturing the Open Division San Diego section crown.
Throughout the season, Littleton dazzled, averaging 20.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.7 steals in 30 contests. The 5-feet-9 guard poured in 42 against Horizon and 32 in a victory against CIF State Division II finalist Archbishop Mitty.
Clark, on the other hand, averaged 11.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest —eclipsing 20 points once. And while both were focal pieces, Clark played on a squad that finished No. 4 in the country and No. 2 in California, so there was no lack of talent surrounding here.
Bishop’s coach Marlon Wells echoed the same sentiment: “She was consistent throughout the year. Destiny he had to do more for our team than Ayanna Clark had to do for Long Beach Poly because they had seven or eight division I players alone. And that’s no disrespect to Ayanna, either, but Destiny had to carry a huge load for us in multiple areas and she’s an all-around student athlete, carrying close to a 3.7 gpa.”
According to Wells, UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who has won nine National Championships with the Huskies, even ventured down at one point during the season to watch Littleton play and left very impressed.
“It’s a step forward for me,” Littleton said. “I’m excited, humbled and grateful to receive the distinction as the top freshman player. This was one of my personal goals coming into the season.”