Today we’ll discuss the ‘Cats leading scorer this season, sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh. The Jersey native had a breakout campaign, proving to be a great player in the paint, and even a threat from three at times. Here’s a look at her season and what’s next for the budding star in Evanston.
These stats are taken from sports-reference.com:
Walsh was certainly hot and cold throughout the season. If you look at her game logs, there were stretches during which she was feeling it and dropping 20 points a night, and also stretches when she was stringing together single digit performances.
It all averaged out to 12.1 points per game on 39.3% shooting. Walsh also had 4.7 boards per contest and shot the three-ball at a 31% clip. Overall, those are solid numbers for a sophomore just coming into her own as a Big Ten player. Could she have been more efficient? Yes. Could she improve her work on the glass? Yes. But that will all come with time. Walsh’s counting stats are nothing but promising for the ‘Cats’ future.
These stats are taken from cbbanalytics.com:
Walsh has the potential to do a lot on the offensive side of the court for Northwestern. She’s proven to be a bruiser in the post, a player who can get you a bucket down there when you need one. However, she also has a smooth stroke to make an impact from beyond the arc.
Walsh shot just under 30% from three this season. That’s something she can work with and is clearly trying to incorporate as a large part of her game — taking 35% of her shots from long distance.
Free throw shooting was a positive for Walsh this year. She shot much better at the line this year than last, improving from 60.5% to 76.3%. For a player with as much versatility as Walsh, being able to convert at the line when she inevitably gets fouled is key. It was a huge contributor to her improved overall statistics.
In almost every area of the game, Walsh was better this season than she was as a freshman. Walsh shot better; she played better defense; she attacked the glass better. Additionally, Walsh is starting to grow into a leader as she gets older, and she’s starting to do the things that veteran savvy players do. For example, she hits her free throws. That’s huge.
To put it bluntly, Northwestern is an uncompetitive team without Walsh this season. She won games for the ‘Cats and kept them in others. Walsh will be a key cog in next year’s lineup and has proven that she has the potential to help take them places.
Walsh has yet to make the leap from talented young player who produces in spurts to consistent superstar who carries a team. Walsh cannot always be relied upon to lead the team in scoring. Prior to scoring 24 in the ‘Cats’ Big Ten Tournament loss to Rutgers, Walsh had two straight games in which she didn’t score more than eight. She also had a four-game string in February in which she capped out at nine points. You can’t have that from your best player down the stretch in a season.
A lot of Wlash’s inconsistencies stem from the fact that she isn’t the most accurate shooter in the world yet. Her percentages are fine, but they aren’t great. Her field goal percentage of 39.3 was good enough for sixth on the team. For a player with as much talent as she has in the post, that shouldn’t be the case, even if she’s shooting from distance as well.
Shooting. If Walsh is going to incorporate her three point shot as often as she does, it would be nice for it to become a weapon. It’s also the type of thing that is easy for players to work on in an off-season. Walsh should spend her’s in the gym putting up as many shots as possible, from all locations in her repertoire. She could improve everywhere.
Defensively, Walsh was solid this season. There wasn’t much to complain about. Her focus really should be on using her unquestionable offensive talent to put the ball in the hoop more often and more efficiently than she did this season. We’ve seen her make strides between seasons before; she can absolutely do it again.
The Bottom Line:
Caileigh Walsh took a step up this year and was the Wildcats’ best player. That was a fantastic development, and also the reason why Northwestern wasn’t particularly good this season. While Walsh is a stud, she wasn’t quite good enough to lead a winning team. The talent is there, though, and all signs point towards Walsh continuing to develop and becoming even more of a force on the court. Be excited about her. She’s pretty good.