Zeryhia Aokuso Named WCC Freshman of the Year. Gaels Ali Bamberger and Maia Jones Receive Honors as Well.

Aokuso was a seven-time recipient of the WCC Freshman of the Week Award this season. Bamberger topped 1,000 points. And Jones came on strong in conference play.

by Tim Fitzgerald, Director of Communications, SMC Athletics | March 5, 2024

Zeryhia Aokuso has been named the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and WCC All-Second Team for 2023–24 as voted on by the conference's coaches. Ali Bamberger was named All-WCC Honorable Mention, and Maia Jones joined Aokuso on the WCC All-Freshman Team as well. 


Freshman of the Year: Zeryhia Aokuso

Women's basketball player Zerhyhia Aokuso drives with the ball
WCC Freshman of the Year Zeryhia Aokuso / Photo by Tod Fierner for SMC Athletics

Aokuso was a seven-time recipient of the WCC Freshman of the Week Award this season. She is the first Gael to win Freshman of the Year since Corrie Mizusawa in the 2000–01 campaign, and she becomes the fourth player to win the award in program history.

The Amarillo, Texas native has scored in double figures 19 times this season and averaged 12 points per game. Aokuso shot 46.9% from the field, 80.9% from the free-throw line, and averaged 3.3 rebounds per game. She had a career high seven rebounds and seven assists twice on the year, while averaging 3.2 assists per game.

Several times this season she hit critical, late-game baskets or free throws to win or extend the game. And just last week she scored a career-best 28 points in the Gaels’ home finale to earn that seventh Freshman of the Week award. 


All-WCC First Team Honorable Mention: Ali Bamberger 

Women's basketball player Ali Bamberger prepares to shoot
All-WCC First Team Honorable Mention Ali Bamberger / Photo by Tod Fierner for SMC Athletics

Ali Bamberger received an Honorable Mention after making All-WCC First Team the last two seasons. She averaged 10.2 points per game this year, and though her total numbers were slightly down this season, she set career highs in field-goal percentage (47.1%) and in 3-point percentage (34.2%) for her most efficient season at SMC.

The Walnut Creek, California, native still scored in double figures 13 times on the season, including a season-high 22 points against North Carolina A&T, just four points off her career-high. She also pulled down eight-or-more rebounds four times this year. Bamberger finished the year with 1,179 career points as a Gael, and 1,285 total including her 101 points as a freshman at Washington.

She also earned a unique spot in NCAA Division I annals: In scoring more than 1,000 points at Saint Mary’s, she followed in the footsteps of her father, Eric Bamberger ’92, who accomplished that feat at SMC more than 30 years ago. They are the only father-daughter duo to score 1,000 points at the same school in NCAA Division I history. 


WCC All-Freshman Team: Maia Jones

Women's basketball player Maia Jones
WCC All-Freshman Team Member Maia Jones / Photo by Tod Fierner for SMC Athletics

Maia Jones came on strong in conference play after flashing her potential in an exhibition against Chico State. She scored in double figures in four of the Gaels’ last eight games, while scoring eight and nine points in two of those contests.

She burst onto the scene by scoring 22 points in SMC's win over Santa Clara on January 27, and she topped that with 31 points in a decisive win over Pepperdine on February 17. She shot 43.1% from downtown and 44.8% from the field in WCC play, and averaged 9.4 points per game and 80% from the free-throw line against conference foes.


Headed for WCC Tournament Friday

The Gaels are gearing up for the WCC Tournament that begins for them on Friday, March 8, at 2:30 p.m. for a second-round game against LMU at the Orleans Arena.

READ MORE: This story as it appears at SMCGaels.com

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