Full Court congratulates our National Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year for the 2012-2013 women’s college basketball season, as well as all the talented athletes named to our NCAA Division I All-American and Freshmen All-American teams.
In balloting by Full Court editors, correspondents and analysts from across America, Baylor’s Brittney Griner, our National Player of the Year for 2011-2012, has repeated as the top award winner with a score of 254 out of a possible 255 points. Coming in second in this year’s National-Player-of-the-Year voting was Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne who tallied 223 points.
Tennessee’s Bashaara Graves took Full Court's 2013 Freshman-of-the-Year honors, edging out Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd by a narrow, by a 243-to-211-point margin. One factor that might have influenced voters was that Graves was Tennessee’s second-leading scorer in the Lady Vols' run to the Southeastern Conference regular-season crown, while Loyd played a slightly less impactful role as the fourth leading scorer for the Big-East champion Irish.
Read on to see who else earned this year's Full Court All-American collegiate honors.
Full Court 2013 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball National Player of the Year: Brittney Griner, Baylor University
Sometimes, it is hard to find a single word that does justice in describing greatness. Brittney Griner’s basketball prowess may be one such situation. There have been few -- if any -- players in the history of women’s basketball with a combination of physique and raw talent approaching hers. But just as impressive as Griner's height, dunks or shot-blocking abilities has been her consistent improvement A three-time Big 12 Player of the Year and four-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Griner has been dominant defensively even before the inception of her career in Waco. Since her days in high school in Houston where she finished as 2009 WBCA High School Player of the Year and a McDonald’s All-American, she has made opposition post offenses disappear. Now, as she finishes an illustrious college career, she holds the all-time collegiate record -- men's or women's -- for career blocks.
Griner's offensive domination has evolved over the last four years. During this time her field-goal percentage has risen from about 50 percent as a freshman to 60.7 percent in her senior year. Her scoring average is has also soared -- from 18.4 points per game as a freshman, to 23.8 this season. But what the box score does not show is the improvement in her range and shot variety, skills that will serve her well as she makes the transition to the pro game. Griner is obviously best known among fans and the media for her ability to take the game above the rim; she has successfully dunked more often than all other players in women’s college basketball history combined. But she now has a baby hook and a midrange jumper in her offensive arsenal that have done far more to enable her to finish her college career as the second all-time leading scorer in women’s college basketball history. Griner has also grown in her ability to pass out of the double and triple teams she so regularly faces, as reflected in her steady increase to this year's average of 2.4 assists per game.
It would be wrong to judge Griner's career by her final game, a shocking upset loss to Louisville in the round of 16, where Griner, who was not just double- and triple-teamed but at times all but mugged by the Cardinals' post defenders, struggled to score. Many great players never won even a single NCAA championship, while Griner not only carried Baylor to the title last season but also led her team to a near-perfect record this year. Despite the loss, Brittney Griner must remain in the conversation as perhaps the greatest women's college basketball player ever to step on the floor. Whether she will go on to become the greatest ever to play the game remains to be seen as she moves forward into her professional career, but the start she has made while at Baylor has certainly laid a solid foundation.
2013 Full Court All-American First Team
Skylar Diggins has led Notre Dame back to a third consecutive Final Four. (Photo by Kelly Kline)
When it comes to our Full Court All-American first team, it seems like déjà vieux all over again. Four players, including Brittney Griner, return from last year’s first-team selections, while Chiney Ogwumike replaces her sister Nnemkadi who graduated last season and won WNBA Rookie-of-the-Year honors as a power forward for the Los Angeles Sparks.
Elena Delle Donne (Delaware): A multi-year Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, Delle Donne carried her team to Delaware's first-ever Sweet 16 this season. In five NCAA tournament games over the last two seasons, Delle Donne scored over 30 points in each contest. She is able to use her 6-5 size combined with some of the best ball-handling skills ever seen in a woman player of her height to create almost any kind of shot she desires. This season she averaged 26 points per game and finished her career as the fifth all-time leading scorer in women’s college basketball history.
Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame): Diggins has led the Irish to three consecutive Final-Four appearances during her college career. She has also established a legacy by helping Notre Dame break Connecticut’s stranglehold on the Big East Conference title over the last two seasons. Averaging a team-high 17.3 points and better than six assists per game in this, her senior season, the two-time Big East Player of the Year and two-time winner of the Nancy Lieberman Award has helped transform Notre Dame from a very good women’s basketball program into an elite one.
Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford): Chiney Ogwumike deserves much of the credit for keeping the Cardinal, who tied Cal for the regular-season crown and won the post-season tournament,
at the top of the Pac-12 standings even in the absence of her sister Nneka. Averaging a double-double of 22.4 points (nearly twice the tally of the next-highest Stanford scorer Joslyn Tinkle) and 12.9 rebounds per game while leading Stanford to the NCAA Sweet 16, Chiney was rewarded for her efforts by being named conference player of the year. She moves up from Full Court All-American Third Team honors last year to this year's All-American first team.
Alyssa Thomas (Maryland): Thomas, who was voted Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year by the media and Co-Player of the Year by ACC coaches, repeats as a Full Court All-American first-team selection. But this year, the 6-2 post has had to do even more for her team, as the injury-addled Terps were reduced to essentially a six-player rotation for much of the year. In repeating as a first team selection this year, she had to do more for her team as the player rotation was essentially six players deep for much of the year. Taking a more active role in initiating the offense, Thomas took the Terrapins to the Sweet 16, while leading the team in scoring (18.8 ppg), rebounding (10.3 rbg), assists (5.3 apg) and steals (1.6 apg).
2013 Full Court All-American Second Team
UConn's Stefanie Dolson drives to the basket against Notre Dame's Natalie Achonwa. (Photo by Steve Slade)
Stefanie Dolson (Connecticut): Dolson anchored the Connecticut post, starting in all 36 of the Huskies' games this season. With improved conditioning, the 6-5 center upgraded her mobility in the key, which combined with her improved range, made her very difficult for opponents to stop from scoring. The result: Dolson averaged nearly 14 points and more than seven rebounds per game, while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and even netting 44.4 percent (eight) of her 18 attempts from beyond the arc this year.
Maggie Lucas (Penn State): Named Big Ten Player of the Year after helping the Nittany Lions to the regular-season conference crown, Lucas averaged 20.2 points per game. More than 40 percent of Lucas' shots came from beyond the arc, and she knocked down 46.2 percent of those attempts from downtown.
A’dia Mathies (Kentucky): The Southeastern Conference Player of the Year last season and this year's conference Co-Player of the Year, Mathies continues to improve her game. Averaging 16.1 points per game to lead her Wildcats to another deep post-season run, Mathies' three-point shooting percentage was up by about four percent to 41.8 percent this season, while she iced the cake with 4.5 rebounds, more than two assists and nearly two steals per game.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Connecticut): Only a sophomore, UConn's leading scorer (17.7 ppg) graduated from Full Court's All-Freshman first team last season to our All-American second team this year. Mosqueda-Lewis, who had a big hand in returning the Huskies to the Final Four, ranks as one of the best long-distance shooters in the country: More than half of her shots come from from behind the arc and she nets nearly 49 percent of those three-point attempts. Mosqueda-Lewis also pulled down 6.3 rebounds, dished out a total of 85 assists and grabbed 54 steals this season.
Odyssey Sims (Baylor): Returning as a member of the Full Court All-American second team this year, Sims saw her scoring drop off a few points from last year to 12.9 points per game this season, but her assists have risen to 5.8 per game, as Sims has become more of a pass-first than a shoot-first floor general. At the same time, Sims has also proved that she can come up big on the scoreboard when necessary -- for example, in this year's Sweet 16 when she almost singlehandedly dug Baylor out of a 19-point deficit to come within one point of crushing Louisville's epic upset. And one has to ask whether National Player of the Year Brittney Griner would have been nearly as effective were it not for a point guard who was able to deliver the ball to her on the dime.
2013 Full Court All-American Third Team
Kelsey Bone (Texas A&M): Averaging a near-double-double of 16.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, Bone, the fulcrum of the Aggie offense, appeared to be in better shape and had added more low-post moves to her arsenal as she helped lead Texas A&M to a surprise finish as the SEC Tournament champions in this, their first season in the league, picking up tournament MVP honors in the process. Bone, who sat out her sophomore year after transferring to A&M from South Carolina and thus has a year of college eligibility remaining, has announced her intention to forgo what would have been her redshirt senior season and stand for the WNBA draft later this month.
Chelsea Gray (Duke): The Blue Devil floor leader was lost for the season to a knee injury in mid-February. But her numbers (12.6 ppg, 42.1% FG, 40.7% 3FG, 5.3 rpg, 5.4 apg, 3.6 spg) were so impressive that Gray was still named ACC Co-Player of the Year by conference coaches despite the premature end to her season. seasoned.
Kayla McBride (Notre Dame): The 5-11 swingwoman had a breakout year for the Irish, improving her scoring by roughly four points to just shy of 16 points per game, while shooting 46 percent from the field, to become Notre Dame's second-leading scorer behind Diggins. A danger off the dribble, McBride, while by no means a sharpshooter, netted 23 of her 78 attempts (29.5 percent) from beyond the arc this season, making her enough of a three-point threat to spread the defense. K-Mac, as she is known to her teammates, also hauled down 4.6 boards and handed out nearly two assists per game.
Meighan Simmons (Tennessee): Simmons, always a superior athlete, got her game under control this season, showing much improved shot selection at least most of the time. The Lady Vols's scoring leader at nearly 17 points per game, Simmons helped lead Tennessee, which had been picked to finish no better than fourth in the first year of the post-Pat Summitt era, to the SEC regular-season crown and a return to the NCAA Elite Eight.
Elizabeth Williams (Duke): Williams, another of last season's Full Court Freshman All-Americans, was the centerpiece of the Blue Devils' post offense this year, averaging 15.2 points on 50.1-percent field-goal shooting. Williams was also a force on the glass, with 7.3 rebounds per game, and led her team in swats, with a hair short of three blocks per game.
Full Court 2013 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball National Freshman of the Year: Bashaara Graves, University of Tennessee
Tennessee's Bashaara Graves (#12) boxes out Kelsey Bone of Texas A&M. (Photo by Kelly Kline)
Bashaara Graves arrived in Knoxville as a McDonald’s High School All-American last spring and was honored as the SEC Freshman of the Year this spring. But this Clarksville, Tenn., product has never let the accolades go to her head. Indeed, she might best be described as "blue collar," thanks to her strong work ethic.
"Bashaara showed up ready to work from day one, and she has continued to display that important characteristic all season long," commented Tennessee Coach Holly Warlick after Graves won the SEC award. "She has battled inside for us all year and put in a lot of minutes against some very talented players in this league and around the country. You certainly don't find that kind of consistent production from a freshman very often, and it became obvious fairly quickly that she was going to be one of those players for us."
Playing in one of the most competitive leagues in the country, Graves is among freshmen leaders nationally in shooting efficiency (51.8 percent from the field) while scoring 13.5 points per game. Her 8.1 rebounds per game average also ranks in the top 10 among NCAA Division I freshmen women. Starting 32 of 33 the Lady Vols' contests while playing about 30 minutes per game, one could certainly describe Graves as a workhorse in the Tennessee front line.
2013 Full Court Freshman All-American First Team
All five of this year's Full Court Freshman All-American first-team honorees, including Graves, were 2012 McDonald’s High School All-Americans as high school seniors.
Jewell Loyd (Notre Dame): Loyd's impact on the Irish program was felt immediately, as this freshman wing became the fourth double-digit scorer in the Notre Dame lineup. Starting in 34 of of Notre Dame's 36 games to date, Loyd averaged 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and was good for nearly two assists and a steal per outing. The Big East Freshman of the Year is extremely versatile in her ability to score, able to drive to the basket, hit the pull-up jumper and shoot from behind the arc where she netted 41.7 percent of her 72 attempts for the year.
Xylina McDaniel (North Carolina): McDaniel finished the season averaging 11.3 points (third in scoring for the Tar Heels) and 7.1 rebounds per game (making her the team’s second-leading rebounder). The ACC Freshman of the Year showed a versatile skill set for a rookie power forward, able to score facing up at the foul line, drive to the basket or post up her defender.
Imani McGee-Stafford (Texas): McGee-Stafford was one of the few bright lights in a season that started out well but soon turned dismal for the Longhorns. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year was a force in the middle, averaging 11.1 points per game to go along with 9.4 rebounds per game and 2.5 blocks per game, not to mention the shots she altered.
Breanna Stewart (Connecticut): Stewart was last season's consensus national high school player of the year and this Husky quickly took her place among the cream of the college freshman crop this year. Despite coming off the bench in all but 12 of UConn's contests this season, Stewart established herself as the team's third-leading scorer, averaging 13.1 points in just 23.2 minutes per game on just shy of 50-percent field-goal shooting, while down 6.3 rebounds per game. And though it has taken some time for the lithe 6-4 post to adapt to the physicality of defenders at the college level, Stewart has proved to be a strong and committed defender herself.
2013 Full Court Freshman All-American Second Team
Jillian Alleyne (Oregon): In spite of a last-place conference finish by the Ducks this season, Alleyn was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year by writers who cover the league. The freshman spent more time on the floor than any other player on her team, which she led in both scoring (13 ppg on 45.1 percent from the field) and rebounding. Her 11.9 rebounds per game place her among the top ten players in NCAA Division I women's basketball overall and ranks best in the country among freshmen.
Amber Deane (Dayton): Starting in every game, this freshman Flyer averaged just shy of double-digit scoring (9.9 ppg), but her shooting efficiency was what was so eye-catching. Deane, the Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year shot 55.6 percent from the field -- tops among Division I freshmen and among the top 10 in the country for all D-I collegians. Though Deane can also knock down a three -- she shot a respectable, if less impressive 32.7 percent from beyond the arc -- Deane is most effective when attacking the basket.
Alexis Jones (Duke): Jones barely skipped a beat when moved to point guard from the shooting guard slot after Duke's All-American floor general Chelsea Gray was lost for the season. The only 2012 McDonald’s High School All-American to make our list beyond the five freshmen named to the first team, Jones averaged 9.5 points per game on 43.4 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from behind the arc. She also pulled down 4.4 rebounds per game and, despite that difficult midseason transition, managed to maintain a right-side-up assist-to-turnover ratio, doling out 4.0 assists against 3.9 turnovers per game.
Maggie Lyon (Northwestern): Lyon was named Big 10 Freshman of the Year in spite of a so-so season for the Wildcats. She averaged 12.6 points per game (making her the team's second-leading scorer) on 39.5-percent shooting from the field. Roughly half her attempts came from behind the arc, where she netted 35.1 percent of her 151 attempts this year, and Lyon iced the cake with 4.0 rebounds per game.
Courtney Walker (Texas A&M): Walker might not have been the most heralded of the Aggie freshmen coming into the season but she proved to be the best in first-year performance. Primarily a middle-distance shooter, Walker became A&M's second-leading scorer, averaging 10.4 points per game on 45.2 percent from the field to go along with 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
2013 Full Court Freshman All-American Third Team
Danielle Ballard (LSU): Though all players are encouraged to learn to shoot with either hand, Ballard (who, for the record, takes her foul shots left-handed) perhaps should best be known as one of the few truly ambidextrous shooters in women's basketball. A major factor in the Lady Tigers' run to the NCAA Sweet 16, the 5-9 guard averaged 12.1 points per game on 41.6 percent from the field, scoring primarily on drives and mid-range jumpers. She also tallied 6.4 rebounds per game (not bad for a perimeter player) and dished out 2.7 assists per game.
Briahanna Jackson (UCF): Though the Knights finished in the middle of their conference, Jackson was chosen Conference USA Freshman of the Year after leading all freshmen in the nation in scoring with 15 points per game. Jackson, who stands just 5-4, put the exclamation point on her strong rookie season by pulling down 5.2 rebounds per game and led the Knights in steals with a little over three swipes per game.
Marissa Janning (Creighton): Though Janning got the starting nod in just 11 of 33 games for the Blue Jays, she led them in scoring with 12.6 points per game. Roughly half of the Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year's shots were three-balls, and she hit on 38.9 percent from deep -- 25th in the nation overall and best among Division I freshmen.
Brittney Martin (Oklahoma State): Martin was a major factor in the Cowgirls’ march to the second round of the NCAA Tournament this season. Averaging 10.1 points per game on 41.4 percent from the field, Martin became OSU's fourth double-digit scoring option, striking primarily via drives and mid-range jumpers. She also tied as the team's second-best rebounder, contributing 6.2 boards per game.
Arielle Roberson (Colorado): A redshirt freshman, Roberson was the coaches' pick for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. She averaged 12.1 points per game, making her the Buffs' second-leading scorer behind Chuckie Jeffery, connecting on just over 41 percent of her attempts, whether shooting from inside or behind the arc. The 6-1 forward also contributed 6.2 rebounds per game.
Editor's Note: All team selections represent the player’s body of work for the season through the second round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament Round of 32. Players for each five-member team were selected based on merit, without regard to playing position (center, forward, guard) on all teams. Within each team, players have been listed alphabetically.