New women's basketball recruit rankings: Rising prospects and takeaways

Notre Dame commit Emma Risch went from being the No. 64 recruit in the 2023 class to No. 20 overall. Brittany Graham

We updated our women's college basketball recruiting rankings for the 2023 espnW 100, 2024 espnW 60 and 2025 espnW 25 following a busy summer evaluation period.

There was The PRIME Event - East in June, one of the country's most competitive non-viewing club team events.

There was the FIBA U17 World Cup in July, in which Judea Watkins earned tournament MVP honors for the gold medal-winning USA team. Her performance (leading the U.S. with 13.1 points per game) led to her rising from the No. 2 ranking to reclaiming the top spot in the 2023 class.

In addition to the elite invite-only camps in August, five-star LSU commit Mikaylah Williams, now the No. 2 senior, led USA Basketball to the gold medal in the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup.

And early October brought the best seniors, juniors and sophomores in the country together at the Wootten Camp.

Aside from the race for the No. 1 senior, several prospects made big statements and climbed the rankings after impressing over the summer. We also learned a lot about the teams that are making big splashes on the recruiting trail a month before national signing day on Nov. 9 and how the new recruiting calendar is impacting the women's college basketball landscape.

Here are the biggest takeaways you need to know off the latest rankings update.

Jump to:
Rising seniors | Rising juniors | Top sophomores
Strong 2023 classes | Recruiting calendar

The three biggest rising seniors

G Emma Risch
2023 espnW 100 ranking: 20 (previously: 64)
Committed to: Notre Dame

The Notre Dame commit had a fantastic summer shooting the basketball. With improved strength and overall fitness, the 6-foot-1 Risch elevated her ability to create space, relocate and make shots. Risch, who plays for Palm Bay High School (Florida) and East Coast United, has a court awareness that makes teammates around her better; in turn, it aids her ability to hunt long-range shot-making opportunities. She has potential to be an All-American.

G Oluchi Okananwa
2023 espnW 100 ranking: 27 (previously: unranked)

At 5-9, Okananwa competes with intensity on both ends of the floor. She soared up the rankings by expanding her handle (especially with her non-dominant left hand), creating space with some shake off the dribble and shooting the 3-ball more consistently. More importantly for her Worcester Academy (Massachusetts) and Mass Rivals teams, she makes winning plays. Among the teams she is considering include Boston College, Michigan, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Mississippi State, Rutgers, TCU, Duke and Miami.

G Rylie Theuerkauf
2023 espnW 100 ranking: 85 (previously: unranked)
Committed to: Wake Forest

Theuerkauf is arguably the best long-range shooter in the country when it comes to distance from the rim, knocking down shoots from 28 to 30 feet during the Nike EYBL Championships, where she averaged 16.2 points per game. The Wake Forest commit has a knack for finding windows for catch-and-shoot opportunities. Physically, the 5-9 Theuerkauf, who plays for Tenafly High School (New Jersey) and NY Exodus, has a strong base, which helps with her range, ability to pull up and finish at the rim.

The three biggest rising juniors

F Justice Carlton
2024 espnW 60 ranking: 3 (previously: 21)

The 6-2 Carlton proved herself as one of the most versatile forwards in the country, leading Cy Fair Elite to an EYBL championship in Chicago in July by leading the league in scoring (20.6 PPG) and steals (4.0 spg) while also averaging 6.4 rebounds. Her game stands out from the high post and face-up areas on the court. Her fantastic touch and hands allow her to make pull-up jumpers and finish with either finesse or with power. A junior for Seven Lakes High School (Texas), her defensive instincts and footwork lead to getting tips and her hands on loose balls and passes. She released her top 20 list on Aug. 10 and has recently taken a visit to Texas.

F Sarah Strong
2024 espnW 60 ranking: 4 (previously: 5)

Strong specializes in skill and fundamentals, which helped her win gold with USA Basketball at the FIBA U17 3x3 World Cup. She is effective both inside and outside with a sturdy 6-2 frame and great hands. A forward for Grace Christian School (North Carolina) and Lady Strong, she is savvy in and around the paint, has a soft touch past the 3-point line and is an incredible passer, allowing her to both score and facilitate for others. She holds offers from many of the top schools in the country, including UConn, South Carolina, NC State, North Carolina and LSU.

F Me'Arah O'Neal
2024 espnW 60 ranking: 43 (previously: 60)

O'Neal, the daughter of NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal, has always had a soft touch and a natural feel for the face-up game, but she improved her activity level, on-court aggression and methodical ways to find offensive opportunities this past summer. Even at 6-3, she can handle the ball and put it on the deck. A forward for Episcopal High School (Texas) and Sports Academy GBL Cal Swish, O'Neal gained base and core strength, which allowed her to be more physical as she attacks the boards harder and mix things up defensively. Cal, San Diego, Georgia Tech, Rutgers and LSU are among the teams pursuing her.

Sophomores staking top-10 claims

P Sienna Betts
2025 espnW 25 ranking: 5

Betts, the younger sister of Stanford freshman and former No. 1 recruit Lauren Betts, already holds offers from the Cardinal, Colorado, UCLA, Michigan, Florida State, Florida, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Arizona and Kentucky. But it's not just because of her name. The 6-4 post player has a continuously developing inside game with good footwork and a nice touch out to the top of the key. Her ability to create off the dribble in face-up situations or from the trail spot can also confuse opponents. Playing for Grandview High School (Colorado) and Hardwood Elite, Betts is poised when double-teamed and does a nice job passing over the top of the defense as she reads the floor. Defensively, she clogs the paint and challenges shots. Despite her youth, she led the adidas 3SSB circuit in rebounding (11.3 RPG) and blocks (4.8 BPG).

G Keeley Parks
2025 espnW 25 ranking: 6 (previously: 25)

A knee injury sidelined Parks for most of her freshman year at Norman High School (Oklahoma), but she eased her way back into the flow of high-level competition this spring. By July, she returned to form, making big-time shoots with serious range and demonstrating poised finishing skills near the rim. She led Team Trae Young to the adidas 3SSB circuit championship game, where she scored 27 points. Already with offers from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Michigan, Boston College, UCLA, BYU, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Mississippi State, among others, the 5-11 Parks averaged 17.8 points and 3.1 steals.

W Deniya Prawl
2025 espnW 25 ranking: 9

Prawl is smooth and skilled in the open court with natural instincts for creating offense and a high ceiling. A 6-1 wing for Fort Erie (Canada) and Become Once, she is long and quick on the perimeter, which allows her to make plays on both ends. She slashes to the paint for quick scores and slides into passing lanes for steals. She already holds offers from Ohio State, North Carolina, Arizona and South Carolina, among several other Division I schools. Expect her to take a big leap as a sophomore.

The race for the No. 1 recruiting class

Many recruits are taking official visits, trimming their final lists and making decisions with less than a month until national signing day. Already, 77 players in the 2023 espnW 100 have committed.

Who has the lead for the No. 1 class? That goes to Arizona.

Currently, the Wildcats have pledges from No. 8 Montaya Dew, No. 14 Breya Cunningham, and No. 21 Jada Williams. They have also hosted No. 17 Chloe Kitts and No. 16 Cassandre Prosper on official visits.

Five other schools are close behind them and could make noise depending on how the cycle finishes:

Maryland, Iowa State, Washington and Michigan each also have three espnW 100 commits, while Virginia Tech has four.

The changing recruiting calendar's impact

The transfer portal is here to stay and teams are filling their rosters with experienced players rather than incoming recruits.

The extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted players amid the COVID-19 pandemic impacted future recruiting classes; fewer scholarships were available when a player took advantage of the extra year.

Beyond those, there are more changes to the recruiting calendar coming.

The July evaluation period used to be a one-week evaluation period followed by a 10-day evaluation period for a total of 17 days. Then it became two one-week periods. This year, it was cut to a one-week period and a five-day period. Next July, it will be trimmed once more to two four-day periods. (The three-day evaluation periods in April and May are unchanged.)

There is a more dramatic change this year: The number of in-person days college coaches can utilize during the scholastic year has decreased from 112 to 65. They can attend games, practices or open gyms during this time, each visit counting as a recruiting day.

"The thing we all have to remember is the calendar is ever-evolving," one Division I head coach told ESPN.

What does this mean? College coaches will have fewer opportunities to evaluate prospects in person for the first time in quite a while. It will entail a stronger reliance on evaluation services, film and live streaming, as well as analytics. Coaches will be using those to determine where they will go for an in-person recruiting day during the scholastic year since they will need to be more selective.

"Film and analytics are used on a daily basis, not just for our current players and opponents, but for our recruits as well," another Division II coach told ESPN. "To be able to watch our recruits as much as possible gives us the ability to really evaluate their game and their court demeanor to see if they fit our team and culture. Film is a pivotal tool we use for all facets of our job, especially recruiting."

In turn, these changes to the calendar will weigh into a recruit's choice of which route to take in terms of the three sneaker circuits (adidas, Nike, Under Armour), the Select 40 independent circuit, or to stay with a program that solely plays an independent and non-circuit affiliated schedule.

"Kids will have to go to the right certified events," one Division I coach said. "The limitation on days means college coaches will have to focus on certain events."

If coaches want to focus on where there is a higher concentration of elite talent, club programs will need to be more strategic and responsible when it comes to scheduling -- such as making sure elite programs are facing other elite programs -- so their players can play in front of more coaches.

"The ones that get hurt the most are the kids due to limited viewing opportunities," one Division I coach said.