INDIANAPOLIS (USBWA) – Connecticut senior standout
made United States Basketball Writers Association history Sunday
afternoon, becoming the first women's star to win three Ann Meyers Drysdale
National Player of the Year honors, named for UCLA Hall of Famer.
The former Bruin great helped present the award, as she has done
annually since her name went on the award in 2012.
Meanwhile Geno Auriemma, who has guided the UConn program to
10 previous NCAA titles, picked up his fifth USBWA National Coach of the
Year award to lead the organization's list, which has Notre Dame's
Muffet McGraw in second place with three previous presentations.
The two honors were among several others were announced at the
annual USBWA Women's Awards press conference, which was held here
at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, site of the NCAA Women's Final Four.
Because the event was held close to the scheduled time for the
Huskies' tipoff against Oregon State in the first semifinal game
before Washington met Syracuse, neither could attend to receive
But former USBWA All-American Stefani Dolson, a recent teammate
of Stewart, accepted on behalf of the native from Syracuse.
"On behalf of Breanna, I'd like to thank the basketball writers,"
Dolson said. "She deserves this award. She worked for everything
she accomplished. She's something special. She's one of my really,
really good friends. She worked so hard in every facet of this game
and I'm sure she's so proud to get this award.
Auriemma, who will be coaching the USA women's squad for the
second time in the Olympics this summer, was also seeking to break
the NCAA basketball tie with the late UCLA men's mentor John Wooden,
going for his 11th title.
Connecticut started the day still alive in the a quest
to become the first women's team to win four straight NCAA titles.
The USBWA's National Freshman of the Year winner was also revealed, with
the honor going to California's Kristine Anigwe, a 6-4 forward/center
from Phoenix. During the season, she picked up a Pac-12 record eight
Freshman of the Week awards on the way to winning the rookie postseason
award in the conference.
Her 20.3 points per game made her the highest scoring freshman
in Cal history and she led all freshmen at Power 5 schools with
8.9 rebounds and was third overall nationally.
When told during last week of her honor, Angiwe responded, "I
feel humbled and grateful to win this award.
"It was fun and challenging to play against some of the top players
in the country this season. I couldn't have done it without the
support from my teammates and coaches," she continued, adding, "I'm
blessed that they believed in me and I'm looking forward to building
on what I learned this season while I live my dream playing at Cal."
Her coach Lindsay Gottlieb said a few words here additionally
on Anigwe's behalf.
"I'm sure she would like to be here, more important I'm sure
she would like to bring her team here one day," Gottlieb said. "I'm
sure it would be lots of fun. There are a lot of people who care
about women's basketball. You tell our stories and make us relevant.
"As for the University of California, it is really important
for the university to have someone receive a national award. Cal's
about excellence. There's Noble Prize winners. There's women at
the top of their field. To have a young woman stand at the top of
her field is important.
"She loves the game of basketball. She brings a lot to it."
Two winners previously announced were here to pick up their awards.
Danielle O'Banion, who is now between jobs after coaching at
Kent State, is this year's winner of the Pat Summitt Most Courageous
Former Tennessee star Michelle Brooke-Marciniak helped present
the award in Summitt's absence while the Hall of Famer continues
her battle against Alzheimer's Disease.
"Pat is thrilled that you are this winner," she said. "Courageous
is one word to describe my coach. She knew exactly what to do to
fight just as you know exactly what to do, Danielle, to fight. Pat
would like to thank you for showing your special strength and character."
O'Banion in the fall of 2014 was diagnosed with lymphoma during
a routine visit to her doctor. She continued to coach Kent State
the entire season and this past May was declared cancer-free."
O'Banion said she was honored to be recognized in the same year
by USBWA as former Butler star Andrew and (his wife) Samantha Smith.
Caroline Williams, the primary media liason for USA Basketball's
women's programs, including the Olympic squad, among her other duties,
is the second winner of the Mary Jo Haverbeck Award named for the
late pioneering women's sports information director at Penn State.
The award is similar to the Katha Quinn Award on the men's side.
Williams was told of the award in a surprise announcement in
February during the USA Women's National Team training camp sessions.
Two other extra presentations occurred with the Women's Basketball
Coaches Association Mel Greenberg Media Award going longtime women's
broadcast Brenda VanLegen.
The organization restructured its convention activities for Indianapolis
and asked if the presentation could be made at the USBWA event.
WBCA president and Oklahoma Coach Sherri Coale helped hand out
the award, which has been given in the past by yours truly. She
is also member of the 2016 class that will be inducted at the Women's
Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn., in June.
Additionally, Kelli Williams, who has produced a documentary
film about the famed Wayland Baptist Flying Queens team that toured
the country and won 131 straight games from 1951-1958, spoke briefly
about her project.
The Wayland Team was one of four finalists from the women's side
for the 2016 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction class, whose
group is to be announced Monday morning at the men's NCAA Final
Four in Houston.
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in
1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers.
With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential
organizations in college basketball. For more information on the
USBWA and its award programs, contact executive director Joe Mitch
ANN MEYERS DRYSDALE AWARD WINNERS (USBWA PLAYER OF THE
1988 Sue Wicks, Rutgers
1989 Clarissa Davis, Texas
1990 Jennifer Azzi, Stanford
1991 Dawn Staley, Virginia
1992 Dawn Staley, Virginia
1993 Sheryl Swoopes, Texas
1994 Lisa Leslie, USC
1995 Rebecca Lobo,
1996 Saudia Roundtree, Georgia
Kate Starbird, Stanford
1998 Chamique Holdsclaw,
1999 Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee
Tamika Catchings, Tennessee
2001 Ruth Riley, Notre
2002 Sue Bird, Connecticut
2003 Diana Taurasi, Connecticut
2004 Alana Beard, Duke
2005 Seimone Augustus, LSU
2006 Ivory Latta, North Carolina
2007 Candace Parker,
2008 Candace Parker, Tennessee
Maya Moore, Connecticut
2010 Tina Charles, Connecticut
2011 Maya Moore, Connecticut
2012 Brittney Griner,
2013 Brittney Griner, Baylor
2015 Breanna Stewart, Connecticut
2016 Breanna Stewart, Connecticut
The award was named in honor of Ann Meyers Drysdale