2016 Final Four Weekend Awards Roundup: UConn sweeps, courageous winners and media recognition

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Photos © Lee Michaelson, All Rights Reserved.

United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA)

  • Ann Meyers-Drysdale National Player of the Year: Breanna Stewart (UConn)
  • Coach of the Year – Geno Auriemma (UConn)
  • Freshman of the Year – Kristine Anigwe (Cal)
  • Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award – Danielle O’Banion
  • Mary Jo Haverbeck Award – Caroline Williams (USA Basketball)
  • Mel Greenberg Media Award – Brenda VanLengen



Associated Press

  • Player of the Year – Breanna Stewart
  • Coach of the Year – Geno Auriemma

Nancy Lieberman Award

  • Moriah Jefferson

Other Recently Announced Awards

John R. Wooden Award Women’s Player of the Year – Breanna Stewart

Dawn Staley Award – Moriah Jefferson

Senior CLASS Award Winners

2016 Allstate WBCA Good Works Teams

WBCA Victory Club Honorees Named

WBCA announces inaugural Assistant Coaches of the Year

United States Marine Corps/WBCA NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year – Geno Auriemma

United States Marine Corps/WBCA NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year – Steve Gomez (Lubbock Christian)

United States Marine Corps/WBCA NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year – Scott Hemer (SUNY Geneseo)

Among the festivities of the Final Four are awards ceremonies to honor the nation’s top players and coaches. This year Connecticut completed a sweep of several awards with senior forward Breanna Stewart and head coach Geno Auriemma collecting the majority of the hardware. However, there were also awards to honor courageous coaches, outstanding journalists and academic performance (the NCAA’s Elite 90 honor).

Stewart made United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) history Sunday afternoon, becoming the first women’s star to win three Ann Meyers-Drysdale national player of the year honors, named for the UCLA Hall of Famer. The former Bruin great helped present the award, as she has done annually since her name went on the honor in 2012.

Meanwhile Auriemma, who has guided the UConn program to 10 previous NCAA titles, picked up his fifth USBWA coach of the year award. 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, the UConn honorees could not attend to receive their plaques. Two-time USBWA All-American Stefanie 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.

The USBWA’s 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 freshmen 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 Five 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 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 also on hand 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 Award.

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 liaison 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. USA Basketball Women’s National Team director Carol Callan, Jamie Carey, USA Basketball players, as well as Williams’ husband Dave, were present to watch Williams receive the honor.

Two other presentations occurred during the USBWA’s ceremony. The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Mel Greenberg Media Award went to longtime women’s broadcaster Brenda VanLegen. WBCA president and Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale helped hand out the award.

“Thank you so much for this special recognition, to join the legendary list of former recipients and to be voted upon by them,” Van Lengen said. “I am truly honored and humbled. I actually share common roots with Sherri Coale who is being inducted in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame this year as we both played college basketball at the NAIA level.”

Award-winning director Kellie Mitchell also presented remarks during the ceremony on her soon-to-be released film, Flying Queens: A Basketball Dynasty, a documentary about the Hutcherson Flying Queens of Wayland Baptist College (1953-58). The Flying Queens have been inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville as “Trailblazers of the Game.”

Drysdale commented that she had had the honor of playing against the Flying Queens during the 1960s. Wayland Baptist, and its sponsor Claude Hutcherson, owner of a Texas Beechcraft air service, helped to keep the women’s game alive throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, when the game was being de-certified as a varsity sport by many universities throughout the country.

The documentary has already won several distinguished awards at film festivals in Denver and elsewhere and will soon be shown in Los Angeles.

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