College basketball is now just about three weeks away, meaning the return of Joe McKeown’s Wildcats will be back in action! Continuing with our women’s basketball preview series, we will look at Paige Mott, a junior forward attempting to expand her role in the rotation.
Who she is
Junior; forward; 6-foot-1; Philadelphia, Pa.; chose Northwestern over Illinois
14.4 minutes per game; 3.4 points per game; 0.5 assists per game; 2.4 rebounds per game; 39.4 FG%; n/a 3PT%; 65.4 FT%.
Paige Mott maintained her position as a key rotational player cemented firmly in Joe McKeown’s secondary rotation last season. Coming off a freshman campaign in which she appeared in 25 games and started 16 due to an injury sustained by starting forward Courtney Shaw, she began the 2021-22 season on an equally strong foot averaging around 20 minutes per game before her time waned during Big Ten play, despite not starting one.
Most often used as a fresh set of legs to give Shaw a rest, Mott managed to make a decent impact toward the middle of the season with her best performances coming at the turn of the year. Her most impressive outing came Jan. 9 versus Ohio State, where she notched nine points, two rebounds and three blocks. Her biggest strength lies in her defensive ability, where she thrives at the board. On the offensive side, she only managed 3.4 points per game, just shy of her 3.6-point average from the year before while her field-goal percentage stayed nearly the same. In the absence of meaningful improvement up front, Mott never found herself back into the starting lineup — but, now into her junior season, the hope is she can make bigger strides offensively and earn more minutes in the process.
One area in which Mott has always been an ace is her aggressiveness — when she’s on the court, she goes for the ball and sacrifices her body to get it. That tenacity in the paint marked her at fourth in total blocks on the ‘Cats with 13 on the season despite averaging fewer than 15 minutes per game. She also pulled in 49 defensive rebounds, good for fifth on the team, boosting her stock underneath the basket on that end of the court.
One area in which she actually improved offensively from last year is her free-throw percentage — jumping from 56.3% to 65.4%, a mark better than all but two of last year’s starters. And, though her field-goal percentage didn’t improve from the year prior, her 39.4% mark there puts her in front of all but three starters as well. That being said, it’s worth considering her shot volume was also noticeably lower than players with more meaningful minutes. It’s safe to say her aggressiveness has been best utilized on defense so far, but if she can translate that into more confidence offensively and work both ends of the court, she could make much more of an impact.
While Mott’s aggressiveness can be a strength, it can be a weakness at times. Despite coming in ninth on the squad in minutes per game, she earned the fifth most whistles with 44 personal fouls on the year. This isn’t a horrible number, but it can be improved nonetheless, especially if she is expected to play more frequently in the paint against Big Ten competition like Iowa’s Monika Czinano that knows how to draw those calls.
Another area where she can improve is her offensive effort at the board. It’s clear she knows how to rebound given her stellar numbers on the defensive end, but she pulled in less than one offensive rebound per game last season. Given her presence revolves largely in and around the paint, Mott needs to utilize her aggressiveness there on both ends of the court to truly reach her full potential.
The hope is Mott keeps her role as a mainstay in the secondary rotation at the very least — obviously though, expanding her impact from her last two seasons would be ideal. That being said, she has challengers in sophomore big Caileigh Walsh who enjoyed a lot of playing time last season and two incoming forwards Lauren Trumpy and Alana Goodchild, both of whom were highly touted recruits coming into this year. Mott’s forecasted output depends on how much work she put in during the offseason and if she emerged as not only a leader but a contributing factor over her teammates.