Two first-year women’s basketball players are powerhouse

Anaya James

First-year student-athlete Anaya James

Two University of the Pacific women’s basketball players are making a profound impact as first-year standouts.

Anaya James and Elizabeth Elliott are racking up the honors. The West Coast Conference names a Freshmen of the Week, and James and Elliott have ownership of that title. In the past six weeks, James has received the award four times and Elliott was honored once.

“Per usual,” Pacific Assistant Head Coach Amy Starr posted on Twitter after James’ most recent weekly honor, nodding to the consistent outstanding performance.

The freshman duo leads the Tigers in scoring: James averages 15.5 points a game, and Elliott averages 12.7. James also leads the Tigers in steals, assists and minutes played. Elliott is second in blocks and rebounds per game and second in the WCC in points scored per 40 minutes. 

Their connection goes back further than their first day on campus. The Inglewood, Calif., freshmen have known each other since fourth grade. 

“In the fourth grade, we were on the same team,” James said. “Then we played against each other in high school.” 

“And in middle school, we competed on different AAU teams,” Elliott added.

When asked if they had planned to play together in college, they shook their heads no, and laughed. 

“I feel like we already had chemistry,” James said. “It never went away; it’s just there.” 

“It’s comforting,” added Elliott. “She knows where I come from. When I talk about being back home, she knows what I am talking about. We come from the same place, so we are very similar.”  

James played at West High School in Torrance, where she had a remarkable career, earning team most valuable player honors three times. Elliott played at St. Mary’s Academy, where she was a dominant player and earned league MVP honors.

Elliott has been a consistent scorer all season, tallying in double figures in her first eight college games. She moved into the starting lineup in the fifth game of the year. James became a starter in the second game. Her scoring highlight was a 31-point performance in a close loss to 16th-ranked Oregon State.

Both feel they are adjusting to the demands of Division I college basketball.

“School and basketball were hard in high school,” said Elliott. “But now that you live at school, and now that school is your life and basketball in your life, it is definitely heavier.” 

Pacific has a 3-8 record, having lost three games by four or fewer points. The Tigers posted a 75-62 road win against Weber State on Dec. 21. 

"I couldn't be prouder of this team's toughness and resiliency," Head Coach Bradley Davis said. "This has been a grueling preseason of road games, adversity, and injuries. What we lack in experience, we make up for in competitiveness.”