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NCAA Women: 2016 All-Australian Awards
The 2015-16 season brought some real highlights for the Australians in Division I college basketball.
Stephanie Collins and Alicia Froling set statistical records for Southern Methodist, Claire Ioannidis won Atlantic Sun Newcomer Of The Year, and Marena Whittle and Funda Nakkasoglu were named to their respective All-Conference First Teams. However, the undoubted highlight was watching Nicole Seekamp round out her college season by being named Summit League Player Of The Year as well as Tournament Most Valuable Player as South Dakota went all the way in the NIT.
So he are the All-Australian awards to complete a successful 2015/16 season for the Aussie women.
Player Of The Year
Nicole Seekamp | South Dakota
Seekamp was the undoubted star of the 2015/16 season, accumulating honours almost at will. The South Dakota senior won Summit League Player Of The Year and Women’s NIT Most Valuable Player as the Coyotes won their first national postseason title.
Seekamp shot 45% from the field and 86% from the line on her way to 15.9 points per game, leading the team by over 5 points. The senior also averaged 6.4 assists per game, whilst on the defensive end, Seekamp picked up 2.4 steals per game. However, Seekamp’s impact goes beyond the stats. Her leadership of the Coyotes’ team was clear to see, with her ability to bring teammates into the play exceptional. Also an excellent defender, Seekamp’s all-round ability has even seen her name sneak into a couple of WNBA mock drafts, and hopefully these predictions turn out to be true.
Most Improved Player
Marena Whittle | North Dakota State
What looked to be a promising season for North Dakota State fell apart in the conference season, but Whittle was able to lead the team and put up excellent numbers on a consistent basis. Whittle averaged a double-double, finishing with 16.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, a healthy improvement on 2015's 8.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. More impressively, she averaged a double-double in conference play alone, despite the team winning just 2 of 16 games. Whittle was also second in the team in assists, with 82 in 28 games, and led the team in steals with 2.1 per game. Despite the team’s poor record, Whittle was named alongside fellow Australian Nicole Seekamp in the All-Summit League First Team.
Defensive Player of the Year
Stephanie Collins | Southern Methodist
Forming one half of Southern Methodist’s Australian front court alongside Alicia Froling, Collins made up for missing the first half of last season by acting as a human fly swatter this season, breaking both the single-game and season blocks records for SMU. Collins was more than just a shot blocker though. The sophomore averaged 8.5 points per game, shooting 47.9% from the field in the process. Collins was also second in rebounds for SMU with 5.9 per game, trailing only front court partner Froling. In a side that almost doubled its win total from last season, Collins’ transformation from bit-part player to defensive weapon was a large part of the side’s improvement.
Freshman of the Year
Rachel Brewster | Utah State
A trio of Aussie freshmen had excellent campaigns this season: Utah State’s Rachel Brewster, Saint Mary’s Megan McKay, and Northern Illinois’ Courtney Woods. All three had moments of brilliance this season and have set themselves up to become integral parts of their respective teams next season, but Brewster's performances throughout 2015/16 just put her ahead of McKay and Woods.
Starting all bar one of the side's 31 games, Brewster finished second for Utah State in points, rebounds, assists, and steals as the young Victorian established herself as a vital presence for the Aggies. Brewster completed the season averaging 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, and contributed 68 assists and 36 steals in her first college season as she was named to the Mountain West All-Freshman team. With Funda Nakkasoglu leaving the team, Brewster's responsibilities will increase markedly next year, but she has shown herself to be ready for whatever may come her way.
Guard: Nicole Seekamp | South Dakota Guard: Funda Nakkasoglu | Utah State Guard: Lauren Nicholson | Saint Mary's Forward: Alicia Froling | Southern Methodist Centre: Stephanie Collins | Southern Methodist
Player Of The Year Nicole Seekamp leads the team, alongside scoring machines Funda Nakkasoglu and Lauren Nicholson. Both Nakkasoglu and Nicholson finished in the top 20 in the nation for free throws this season, with Nakkasoglu also finishing 29th in the nation in scoring. Southern Methodist pairing Froling and Collins comprise the front court. As the holders of school single-game and season records in rebounds and blocks respectively, the sophomores were by far the most dominant Australian front court players this season. Froling also collected 13 double-doubles this year, whilst Collins averaged a tidy 8.5 points and 5.9 rebounds alongside her 2.4 blocks a game, which were good enough for 34th in the nation in blocks.
Guard: Kristy Wallace | Baylor Guard: Georgia Stirton | Gonzaga Forward: Marena Whittle | North Dakota State Forward: Hannah Young | Virginia Tech Forward: Megan McKay | Saint Mary's
The second team's backcourt may not have the sparkling numbers of some of the other players listed here, but there is no doubting the influence that Kristy Wallace and Georgia Stirton have had on their respective teams this year. Wallace's hustle on defence was regularly on show for all to see, with her full-court sprint in the NCAA Tournament to steal back the ball from an opponent who had stolen it from her the epitome of the sophomore's efforts this season. Stirton, on the other hand, brought calmness and order to a Gonzaga side which on occasion has had the propensity to become slightly erratic.
The statistical star of the second team is Marena Whittle. The All-Summit League First Teamer and North Dakota State MVP averaged a double-double and also finished in the top 40 in the nation for rebounding as the senior shined in a disappointing campaign for the Bison. Hannah Young and Megan McKay round out the side. Young increased her scoring average from 6.2 to 10.3 points per game in her final season at Virginia Tech, whilst McKay earned her way into the Saint Mary's starting lineup late in the season. The freshman played 32 games and scored 7.3 points per game, shooting 61.9% from the field in her freshman season as the Gaels narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament.
Four players on the All-Australian third team were in their first season at their current team in 2015-16, and all four made significant impacts on their teams. Junior college transfer Claire Ioannidis won Atlantic Sun Newcomer of the Year and set the second-highest scoring average for a season in North Florida's Division I history in her first year with the team. Courtney Woods and Rachel Brewster both became vital parts of their teams' offensive output in their freshman seasons. Brewster was Utah State's second-leading scorer with 9.3 points per game, whilst Woods was one of four Northern Illinois players to average double figures.
Jacinta Vandenberg returned to college basketball after sitting out a season due to transfer rules, and after a slightly slow start, eventually averaged 6.2 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. Vandenberg was stuck behind star forward Jillian Alleyne for much of the season, but after Alleyne went down with a serious injury, Vandenberg stepped up excellently in the later part of the season. Vanessa Panousis' scoring numbers were down this season, from 13.4 to 8.6 points per game. However, her floor game improved. The junior point guard reduced her turnover numbers from 90 in 2014/15 to 57 this season, and her ability to marshal the team around the court was plain to see. With the Hokies shooting poorly as a unit - in the bottom 25% of the country - this did not translate into assists for Panousis, however this has been the story for the Hokies for the last two seasons.
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Listen to Lachy break down his award winners and All-Australian teams as he joined Chris and Damian on a special edition of The Pick and Pop podcast!