February 21, 2024 

Who will win Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Year this season?

Let’s list the top contenders — and consult the historical record

Last season, Princeton guard Kaitlyn Chen found out she’d won Ivy League Player of the Year in a team meeting. Her teammates swarmed her, but she curled up in a ball. “She just wants to celebrate everyone else,” then-senior Maggie Connolly told The Next.

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Chen, now a senior, might need to allow her teammates to celebrate her this year, too, as she is again one of the favorites to win the award. But she has stiff competition from around the league — and even from a teammate.

Meanwhile, the favorite for Ivy League Rookie of the Year is arguably Penn’s Mataya Gayle, who has won seven Rookie of the Week awards and is the Quakers’ engine at point guard. However, Princeton’s Skye Belker, the first freshman to start from Day 1 under head coach Carla Berube, leads a group of challengers.

One variable that might impact Player of the Year voting is team performance. Since 1992-93, 25 of the 30 winners have come from teams that won at least a share of the regular-season Ivy League title. That includes each of the past 12 winners, as Chen’s Tigers tied with Columbia for last year’s title.

A graph showing that 25 of the past 30 Ivy League Players of the Year, but only seven of the past 30 Rookies of the Year, have been on teams that won the regular-season title that season.
Over the past 30 years, most Ivy League Players of the Year have come from the regular-season champions, but that’s not true for Rookies of the Year. (Graph by Jenn Hatfield using data from the Ivy League record books)

It’s been a different story for Rookies of the Year: 23 of 30 have not come from the regular-season champions. In fact, from 2015 to 2022, seven consecutive winners were from teams that didn’t win the title. But last year, Princeton guard Madison St. Rose snapped that streak.

Let’s review this season’s top contenders for Ivy League Player and Rookie of the Year before the eight head coaches cast their ballots. Data on historical trends comes mainly from the Ivy League and team websites. Unless otherwise hyperlinked, data for this season is from Her Hoop Stats, which only includes games against Division I opponents.

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Ivy League Player of the Year contenders

Over the past 30 seasons, the Player of the Year award has been split nearly evenly between guards and forwards, but most winners (80%) have been juniors or seniors. Five players have won the award at least twice, with Chen having a chance to make it six.

Looking at the past 15 seasons, when per-game statistics are more readily available, the median production for Ivy League Players of the Year is 15.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 32.1 minutes per game.

Princeton guard Kaitlyn Chen shoots an open right-handed jump shot from just behind the free-throw line.
Princeton guard Kaitlyn Chen (20) shoots in a game against Penn at The Palestra in Philadelphia, Penn., on Feb. 10, 2024. (Photo credit: Hunter Martin)

Kaitlyn Chen, senior guard, Princeton

2023-24 stats: 16.0 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.1 SPG; shooting 49.7% from the field and 37.3% from 3-point range; 3.4 win shares

Chen ranks second in the Ivy League in win shares, second in assists per game and fourth in points per game this season. Her statistics are similar to a year ago, but in some ways, she’s been even better. For example, she has improved her 3-point shooting from 26.5% to 37.3%, which opens up driving lanes for both her and her teammates.

That spacing was evident during a win over Yale on Feb. 2 in which Chen scored 27 points. She made two of four 3-point attempts and 10 of 16 shots inside the arc.

“I was just able to find those gaps early, and I just kept hunting them,” she said afterward on ESPN+.

“The way that she can change direction and with great craftiness and speed is elite,” Berube said on Princeton’s “Get Stops” podcast in January. “And she’s kind of got that ball on a string and just has great control of it and control of her body. … She’s driving hard baseline and then all of a sudden, it is going back middle, and you can’t stop it.”

In December, Chen scored 31 points in a 61-58 win over Villanova. No other Tiger scored more than 12, illustrating how Chen can take over games when needed.

Chen has also increased her assists from 3.8 per game last season to 4.6 this season. That’s no small feat after the Tigers graduated Julia Cunningham and Grace Stone, both All-Ivy players and Chen’s top two targets last season. But Chen has adjusted well, playing a big role in St. Rose’s breakout sophomore season by setting up more than half of St. Rose’s assisted baskets.

And Chen, along with St. Rose, has kept the Tigers rolling despite those departures. They’re in first place with a 10-0 conference record, which could be consequential in how the Player of the Year voting shakes out.

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Abbey Hsu, senior guard, Columbia

2023-24 stats: 20.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 SPG; shooting 44.5% from the field and 39.1% from 3-point range; 3.7 win shares

Hsu, a likely WNBA draft pick after this season, is the conference’s leading scorer for the second straight year and recently broke Columbia’s career scoring record. But her improved all-around game this season has stood out just as much as her gaudy scoring numbers, putting her in strong position to win Player of the Year. 

Hsu has been an elite 3-point shooter throughout her career, but this year, she’s driving to the rim like never before. She now takes about 44% of her shots from behind the arc and 30% within 10 feet of the rim, compared with about 60% and 21% over the previous two seasons.

She has also increased her rebounding, producing four double-doubles after entering the season with two in her career. Her 7.1 rebounds per game are the most of any guard and fourth overall in the conference. And last summer, she transformed herself from an average defender into one tasked with defending opponents’ best guards.

“It just built a lot of confidence in myself knowing that I could take on the best matchup [on defense],” Hsu said in January on Columbia’s “Morningside Hoops” podcast. “And I think … that translates to my offensive game.”

Hsu has won six Ivy League Player of the Week awards this season and is on the Naismith Trophy Midseason Watch List for the best player in college basketball.

“She has been the most consistent kid [in the league],” Columbia head coach Megan Griffith told The Next on Feb. 16. “… People know she’s the toughest kid to guard day in and day out. Nobody game plans around anybody else in the league like her. … And I think also she’s defending, which is making her so special.”

Princeton guard Madison St. Rose shoots a 3-pointer as a Dartmouth defender closes out with her hands up.
Princeton guard Madison St. Rose (23) shoots a 3-pointer in a game against Dartmouth at Leede Arena in Hanover, N.H., on Jan. 15, 2024. (Photo credit: Brian Foley)

Madison St. Rose, sophomore guard, Princeton

2023-24 stats: 14.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 1.3 APG; shooting 42.6% from the field and 34.0% from 3-point range; 2.6 win shares

St. Rose has taken a major leap from last season, nearly doubling her scoring and assists and shooting much more efficiently. In doing so, she’s created a rare quandary for Player of the Year voters: Is Chen, the defending Player of the Year, even the best player on her own team, or is it St. Rose?

Chen and St. Rose have been neck-and-neck in scoring for Princeton all season. Chen is the main distributor, but St. Rose’s biggest distinguishing factors from Chen and the other candidates are her low turnover rate (10.3%) and her high steal rate (3.2%). In other words, she earns her team extra possessions and doesn’t give many back. She also sometimes guards the opponent’s best perimeter player, sharing those duties with Belker.

St. Rose showed her offensive improvements right away this season, scoring 22 or more points in three of her first five games. Across those five games, she had just four total turnovers.

“She’s just getting her feet set well and using ball screens really well,” Berube said after St. Rose scored 24 points in a November win over Oklahoma. “And she … wasn’t just settling for threes; she was getting into the paint and making plays. … She’s definitely gotten better since last year. She’s a more complete three-level scorer.”

St. Rose also starred in Princeton’s biggest conference win of the season, over second-place Columbia in January. With Chen in foul trouble, St. Rose had 21 points on 9-for-17 shooting, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

If St. Rose wins the award, she’ll become the 13th Ivy League player since 1992-93* to win both Rookie and Player of the Year in her career.

Harvard guard Harmoni Turner dribbles the ball with her right hand near midcourt, with no defender on her.
Harvard guard Harmoni Turner (14) handles the ball during a game against Columbia at Lavietes Pavilion in Allston, Mass., on Feb. 18, 2024. (Photo credit: Dylan Goodman)

Harmoni Turner, junior guard, Harvard

2023-24 stats: 18.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.9 SPG; shooting 39.5% from the field; 2.1 win shares

Like St. Rose, Turner is a former Rookie of the Year. She is Harvard’s point guard and leading scorer, and she’s done everything for the Crimson, who lack depth because of injuries but are still third in the Ivy League at 7-3.

Turner ranks second in the league in scoring behind Hsu, even though her 3-pointer hasn’t fallen as much this season. She’s also second in steals and fourth in assists per game.

For evidence of Turner’s impact, it’s easy to point to her scoring 22 or more points in four straight nonconference games, including 29 at Baylor on Nov. 19. But there’s also what happened after Turner suffered a knee injury against Michigan on Dec. 2.

When Turner got hurt, Harvard was leading Michigan 28-20. The Wolverines outscored the Crimson by 22 points from there, winning 80-64, and Harvard dropped three of its next four games without Turner. Overall, Harvard is 12-6 with her and 2-3 without her this season.

Turner made a surprise return on Jan. 6 against Yale, and the Crimson rolled to a 73-54 win. Their star looked better than ever, showing her elite change of speed and pouring in 28 points on 11-for-19 shooting. She also tacked on five steals, three rebounds and three assists.

“She’s tremendous because she can create her own, she can make tough shots, she can make free throws down the stretch, and she can make the right pass, too,” Harvard head coach Carrie Moore said on ESPN+ after Turner scored 31 points in a win over Penn on Jan. 17. “… We need her to play well, especially when we’re down a couple in numbers. … I’m glad she’s on our team.”

Brown guard Kyla Jones looks at the basket as she jumps off of one leg to shoot a right-handed layup.
Brown guard Kyla Jones (2) elevates for a layup during a game against Dartmouth at the Pizzitola Sports Center in Providence, R.I., on Jan. 27, 2024. (Photo credit: Emma Marion)

Kyla Jones, senior guard, Brown

2023-24 stats: 16.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.8 SPG; shooting 45.0% from the field; 1.4 win shares

As the only candidate listed here who’s not on a top-three team, Jones could be considered a sleeper pick for Player of the Year. But the Bears have climbed up the Ivy League hierarchy over the past few years, and Jones has been the one leading them there. This year, they’re in fourth place with a 5-5 record, which is already their most wins in Ivy play since 2016-17.

Jones is the conference’s third-leading scorer, and she also ranks seventh in steals per game. She’s scoring so prolifically even though Brown’s offense only averages about 62 points per game, compared with 69 or more for Columbia, Princeton and Harvard.

Like Turner, Jones has struggled from 3-point range, but it hasn’t mattered because of her elite speed and lethal first step. She scored 27 points on Columbia on Feb. 9 and 22 against Harvard in January.

“She’s a driving machine and she’s a force off the dribble,” Moore told The Next after that January game. “I felt like we did a really good job … executing the game plan there to kind of get in gaps, and she still finished with 22 points.”

On Feb. 17, Jones led Brown to a crucial win over fifth-place Penn, scoring 22 points on 11-for-21 shooting. Several of her shots, including the game-winner with 1.5 seconds left, were acrobatic finishes over much taller players.

“She’s so clutch,” Brown head coach Monique LeBlanc said afterward on ESPN+. “… She just did a great job being a senior and putting the team on her back there at the end.”

Over the past 30 seasons, the Ivy League Player of the Year has never come from a team that finished below third in the regular season. But Jones is making a compelling case for voters to consider doing things differently this season.

Columbia guard <a rel=
Penn guard Mataya Gayle (top) and Columbia guard Riley Weiss battle for the ball during a game at The Palestra in Philadelphia, Penn., on Jan. 27, 2024. (Photo credit: Mike Nance)

Ivy League Rookie of the Year contenders

Like the Player of the Year award, the Rookie of the Year award has been nearly evenly divided between guards and forwards over the past 30 seasons. Forwards have a slight edge, but the award is likely to go to a guard this season, as most of the top contenders are backcourt players.

Over the past 15 seasons, the median production for Ivy League Rookies of the Year is 12.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 steals in 28.8 minutes per game.

Mataya Gayle, guard, Penn

2023-24 stats: 15.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.6 SPG; shooting 40.5% from the field; 1.0 win shares

Gayle leads all Ivy League rookies in minutes, points, assists and steals per game, and she’s third in win shares. She has been the Quakers’ starting point guard from Day 1 and carried the heaviest load of any freshman in the conference.

When Gayle is on the court, 28.2% of Penn’s possessions end with the ball in her hands. That usage rate is the highest of any Ivy freshman and fourth in the conference overall (among players who’ve played at least 100 minutes this season).

“I don’t think she plays offensively like a freshman,” Griffith told reporters in January. “I think she’s ready to go. She’s shooting a good percentage from inside three. … She’s not afraid to take the [open] shot.”

Gayle also has a knack for rising to the occasion: She scored 23 points at then-No. 23 Marquette, 19 at Harvard and 21 against Columbia. And she won the USBWA National Freshman of the Week award after putting up 28 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals against Maine on Dec. 30.

“She knows these [opposing players] are really good, and … she loves it. It drives her,” McLaughlin told The Next. He added, “I haven’t had anyone at Penn in a little while that can score the ball at that position like she has.”

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Skye Belker, guard, Princeton

2023-24 stats: 9.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.7 SPG; shooting 42.0% from the field; 1.9 win shares

Belker has the most win shares of any Ivy League freshman, and she’s emerged as the third offensive option that Princeton needed after graduating Cunningham and Stone. She has shot an efficient 49.5% from inside the arc, and though her 3-point percentage is just 29.9%, she’s had five games where she’s made at least two 3-pointers on 50% shooting or better.

Those games include a 20-point performance at then-No. 3 UCLA in November and a career-high 21 points against Columbia on Jan. 20.

Beyond her scoring, she has been a steadying hand offensively with a 1.35 assist-to-turnover ratio, the best mark among the top Rookie of the Year candidates.

Belker has also earned Berube’s praise defensively, a rarity for a freshman. Against Columbia, she drew the primary matchup on Hsu and helped limit her to 8-for-22 shooting.

“Skye did a really good job. She was just always kind of in the vicinity [of Hsu],” Berube said postgame. “… She was really all over the place. And then, yeah, she shot the ball really well; she attacked really well and made some great decisions with the ball.”

Dartmouth guard Nina Minicozzi looks up as she dribbles the ball with her right hand. She has her left arm bent and in front of her to protect the ball for a Bryant defender.
Dartmouth guard Nina Minicozzi (1) attacks in a game against Bryant at Chace Athletic Center in Smithfield, R.I., on Nov. 6, 2023. (Photo credit: Dartmouth Athletics)

Nina Minicozzi, guard, Dartmouth

2023-24 stats: 7.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.8 SPG; shooting 39.4% from the field and 35.2% from 3-point range; 0.4 win shares

Like Gayle, Minicozzi has been tasked with leading her team as a rookie point guard from Day 1. Her statistics generally aren’t as gaudy as Gayle’s, but that’s partly because of Dartmouth’s system. First-year head coach Linda Cimino has had the Big Green play one of the slowest paces in the country and try to grind out wins defensively.

Still, Minicozzi has shown some offensive firepower, including a career-high 19 points in a December win over Navy. In that game, Cimino told Minicozzi in a timeout that she needed more production from her, and Minicozzi delivered.

“She’s like, ‘Got it. Thank you.’ And then she went out and hit two [shots],” Cimino told The Next. “… She responded better than I could have ever imagined.”

Most recently, Minicozzi had six points, three rebounds, three assists and just one turnover in a Feb. 17 win over Cornell — Dartmouth’s first Ivy League win since February 2022.

That game could also help Minicozzi’s Rookie of the Year chances because it moved Dartmouth from eighth place into a tie for seventh. No player in the past 30 years from a last-place team has won the award, but two players from seventh-place teams have, both in the past seven seasons.

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Riley Weiss, guard, Columbia

2023-24 stats: 7.8 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.6 SPG; shooting 42.1% from the field and 33.3% from 3-point range; 1.1 win shares

Griffith has already said that she expects Weiss to be as talented offensively as Hsu one day. So far, Weiss has shown that potential primarily through her 3-point shooting.

Though Weiss only averages 16.0 minutes per game, the fewest of the top Rookie of the Year candidates, she takes 4.7 3-pointers per game. She has made multiple threes 10 times and hit a career-high five twice, against Georgia in November and against Villanova in December.

“She’s so talented,” Griffith told reporters in February. “I mean, if you put her in the gym with anybody, she’s going to be one of the most skilled players. … She’s honed her craft. I’m sure she’s shot more shots than a lot of people even think about taking.”

Weiss has mostly come off the bench for the Lions, which may impact how voters view her. All but two Rookies of the Year in the past 15 seasons started at least half of their teams’ games.

However, she has the best 2-point shooting percentage of the top contenders for the award, making 60.8% of her 2.2 attempts per game, and the lowest turnover rate, at 10.9%. And her usage rate is the second-highest behind Gayle’s, showing how important she has already been and will be in Columbia’s offense.

Cornell guard/forward Rachel Kaus drives the ball with her left hand near the baseline and inside the 3-point arc.
Cornell guard/forward Rachel Kaus (5) drives the ball during a game against Yale at Newman Arena in Ithaca, N.Y., on Feb. 10, 2024. (Photo credit: Cornell Athletics)

Rachel Kaus, guard/forward, Cornell

2023-24 stats: 8.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG; shooting 45.6% from the field; 0.5 win shares

Kaus is another player who doesn’t start, but she plays 22.6 minutes per game for Cornell and has been on the court to close 17 of 22 games this season. She is Cornell’s third-leading scorer, and her rebounding rate of 8.2% leads the top Rookie of the Year candidates.

On Nov. 29, Kaus had a career-high 20 points on 10-for-13 shooting in a one-point win over Binghamton. Her best Ivy League performance came on Feb. 17 at Dartmouth, when she had 18 points, a career-high seven rebounds and a career-high five assists in nearly 35 minutes.

“[She] has a knack for the game. She’s really a smart basketball player [and] can finish inside,” Cornell head coach Dayna Smith told reporters in the preseason. She highlighted similarities between Kaus’ style of play and that of Cornell’s leading scorer this season, sophomore Emily Pape.

It’s a credit to Kaus that, even with Pape and junior Summer Parker-Hall anchoring Cornell’s frontcourt, she’s been able to earn meaningful minutes late in games.

* Brown’s Martina Jerant won Rookie of the Year in 1991-92 and Player of the Year in 1992-93, but she isn’t counted among the 13 players to win both because this article covers the 1992-93 season to today.

Written by Jenn Hatfield

Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.

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