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Kelsey Plum caps accomplished college career with Wooden Award

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Plum wins Wooden Award (1:38)

Kelsey Plum of Washington wins the Wendy's Wooden Award for women's player of the year and reflects on becoming the leading scorer in women's basketball. (1:38)

LOS ANGELES -- University of Washington shooting sensation Kelsey Plum dribbled the ball between her legs, toying with her defender in the first quarter of an NCAA tournament second-round game against Oklahoma on March 20.

A half-second later, Plum crossed the ball back over with a silky ankle-breaker that gave her all the space in the world to elevate up for the 3-point shot.

The ball swam through the net for three of her 38 points, enough to break Missouri State standout Jackie Stiles' NCAA single-season points record that night. (Plum finished with 1,109 points her senior season.)

So how did the 5-foot-8 playmaker, who also shattered Stiles' NCAA career points record (3,527), torch opponents as women's college hoops' most lethal scorer?

"I think you have to start out being super aggressive," Plum said Friday when she accepted the John R. Wooden Award during ESPN's College Basketball Awards show in downtown Los Angeles. "And then you allow the defense to choose what they're going to take away, and then whatever they take away, you take what they don't take away."

The consensus national player of the year, who led the nation by averaging 31.7 points per game, was the obvious choice for the Wooden Award. Pick-and-roll? Three-pointer? Step-back? Elbow? Floater? Layup? There wasn't a shot Plum couldn't drain. She was too quick, too crafty, too skilled to be contained.

Just ask UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, a finalist for the men's Wooden Award, who said he enjoys watching Plum play.

"It's crazy," Ball said after the ceremony at The Novo at L.A. Live. "I haven't seen a girl play like that since I've been on this earth. The way she scores the ball is truly amazing. ... I think it's her attitude. She's also smart, as you can see. She knows where to get the ball."

Plum, the projected No. 1 pick for the 2017 WNBA draft, which will be held on April 13 at the Samsung 837 in New York, has treasured Wooden's wisdom since she was a young girl, walking around with a ball attached to her hip while growing up in Poway, California.

"When I was growing up, I had a quote by John Wooden," Plum said. "It said, 'Working hard doesn't guarantee success, but not working hard guarantees failure,' and I've always remembered that and stuck with it, so to win an award with his name on it, it's a prestigious honor."

Plum helped transform Washington into a national contender over her four-year career. After reaching the Final Four for the first time in 2016, she led the Huskies to a program-record 29 wins and a Sweet 16 appearance in 2017.

The team's 75-64 loss to eventual national runner-up Mississippi State stung. While Plum scored 10 of her game-high 29 points in the third quarter, she fought back tears at the news conference afterward. She tucked her head toward her jersey and pressed her hands to smooth back her hair, before staring straight ahead at reporters with the same steely resolve that made her unguardable during duress.

Now that she has had some time off to reflect on the tournament loss and her college career, Plum said she's grateful for the time spent in a Husky uniform.

"It was a phenomenal season in terms of how fun it was," Plum said, "and winning a lot of games, being nationally ranked in the Pac-12, I couldn't ask for a better year. ... I think it's been a little bit of a whirlwind, just with a lot of stuff going on, but I just think of gratitude. That's the thing that sticks out to me."

Plum headlines a list of 10 prospects, including South Carolina's Alaina Coates, who will attend the upcoming WNBA draft. The San Antonio Stars own the first pick, then the Chicago Sky select second, followed by back-to-back picks for the Dallas Wings

"I'm super excited," Plum said. "It's a dream come true. I've dreamed of playing professionally in the United States as a woman ever since I could remember. I'm just looking forward to the opportunity, wherever I go, just have the right fit and just be a great teammate, come in and work really hard."

Naturally, Plum is already plotting about how she can improve her game. Her records, her dizzying crossovers, her no-look passes into the paint, got her this far. But the process begins again, and Plum said she's looking forward to soaking up as much information as she can from the veterans who will be around her.

"It's a dream come true. I've dreamed of playing professionally in the United States as a woman ever since I could remember."

Kelsey Plum

"I think you start from a clean slate," Plum said. "Now that I'm going to be a rookie, I'm excited to just learn, and learn from all aspects on the court, off the court ... I'm just going to try to take in the moment, because it's fun, in that process of starting over."

Plum is often compared to her NBA male counterparts. She bobs and weaves through traffic to score on the run like James Harden. She flicks her wrist and achieves perfect backspin on her jumper like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

But Plum has created her own legacy, a legacy girls can cling to as they, too, dream of playing professionally one day.

"To be able to be an ambassador of women's basketball and to be able to bring the game further ... I'm honored," Plum said, "from the people that came before me, and hopefully little girls were inspired this year and continue to take that legacy and break every record and everything that was set this year.

"Growing up, I had people that I looked to, strong women like Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, people like that, so for me to be able to be one of those people for maybe an up-and-coming young girl or young boy says a lot about how far the game has come, and hopefully I can bring some more hype to the women's game. We play basketball, not women's basketball."