Florida International's Jerica Coley (white jersey), the nation's leading scorer this season, was named today by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman award, one of the nation's most prestigious honors for point guards. Also named as finalists were Brittany Boyd (California), Heather Butler (Tennessee-Martin), Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut) and Odyssey Sims (Baylor). Photo by Richard Lewis/Courtesy FIU Media Relations)
Florida International's Jerica Coley (white jersey), the nation's leading scorer this season, was named today by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's five finalists for the Nancy Lieberman award, one of the nation's most prestigious honors for point guards. Also named as finalists were Brittany Boyd (California), Heather Butler (Tennessee-Martin), Moriah Jefferson (Connecticut) and Odyssey Sims (Baylor). Photo by Richard Lewis/Courtesy FIU Media Relations)

Five finalists for 2014 Nancy Lieberman Award announced

March 19, 2014 - 11:53am

SPRINGFIELD, MA –The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced today the final five candidates for the 2014 Nancy Lieberman Award. The award recognizes the top point guard in women’s NCAA Division I college basketball. Candidates exhibit the floor leadership, play-making and ball-handling skills of Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame became the new host of the Nancy Lieberman Award in October 2013 after the Rotary Club of Detroit managed it for several years.

The five finalists (listed alphabetically) for this year's award include:

Brittany Boyd Brittany Boyd, University of California

Also a candidate for the Wade Trophy, Wooden Award, Dawn Staley Award and Naismith Trophy this season, Boyd is averaging 14.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game for the Golden Bears. A First Team All-Pac-12 and Pac-12 All-Defensive team selection by the coaches and media, she led the conference in steals and assists while ranking 12th in the NCAA in steals per game. In her last regular-season game, Boyd registered just the second triple-double in California history and the 18th in Pac-12 history when she put up 13 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists against Washington State. She enters the postseason as one of just three players in the country averaging at least 14 points, six rebounds and five assists. (Photo by Michael Pimentel/Courtesy Cal Media Relations)

Heather Butler Heather Butler, University of Tennessee at Martin

Butler, a 5-5 senior from Medina, Tenn., has been a model of consistency for the Skyhawks throughout her career, scoring double figures in every game of her career. That 128-game run of double-digit scoring stands as the longest active streak in the NCAA, and the fifth-most in NCAA history. Much more than UT-Martin's all-time leading scorer, Martin ranks second only to Florida International's Jerica Coley (see below) among active NCAA players in both career points (2,846, an Ohio Valley Conference record) and scoring average (22.2 ppg), and with the post-season still ahead of her, she stands at No. 18 on the NCAA's all-time career scoring list. Butler's 389 career 3-pointers (3.04 per game) place her at the top of the NCAA leaderboard in that category. (Photo by Nathan Morgan/UT Martin University Relations)

Jerica Coley Jerica Coley, Florida International University

The leading scorer in NCAA Division I Women's Basketball, Coley, a St. Petersburg, Fla., native who goes by the handle "Holy Coley," has tallied 3,107 career points (23.7 ppg), the most by any active player in the nation and fifth on the NCAA's all-time career scoring list. (Coley is one of just nine players to break the 3,000-career-point mark, putting her in the company of such legends as Cheryl Miller, Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne, Chamique Holdsclaw and Brittney Griner. And there has been no case of senioritis for Coley, who also tops the 2013-14 NCAA scoring leaderboard with 29.5 points per game. Like Butler, Coley posted double figures in all 33 of her games this season; her career double-digit scoring streak goes back 63 games, to the third game of her junior year.  Coley has put up 20 points or more in 29 outings this year, and notched a career-high and school record with 47 points not once, but twice this season. Two more of her games registered 40-plus points. (Photo by Alex J. Hernandez/Courtesy FIU Media Relations)

Moriah Jefferson Moriah Jefferson, University of Connecticut

Averaging just 10 points per game, Jefferson's personal stat line might not have all the glitter of some of the other finalists. But looking at the big picture, it has to count for something when you're the field general of the consensus No. 1 team in the nation and have guided that team to a thus far perfect season. Jefferson, a 5-7 sophomore from Glenn Heights, Tex., is your classic pass-first point guard, leading her team with five assists in just 29.1 minutes per game, she boats one of the nation's best assist-to-turnover ratios (2.9:1, 12th best in Division I ). Known as a tireless defender, Jefferson averages just 2.6 steals and in a head-to-head matchup with fellow finalist Odyssey Sims, Jefferson held Baylor's leading scorer to just four-of-25 shooting on the day. If selected Jefferson would become the fourth Husky player to win the award, joining the company of Sue Bird (2000-2002), Diana Taurasi (2003, 2004) and Rene Montgomery (2009). (Photo by Stephen Slade/Courtesy UConn Athletics)

Odyssey Sims Odyssey Sims, Baylor University

Already the winner of this year's Frances Pomeroy Naismith award (also known as the "Point Guard's Naismith") and frequently mentioned as one of this year's top contenders for the Wade, Wooden and Naismith National Player of the Year honors, Sims has guided a program that lost a good 80 percent of its offensive weaponry to graduation in 2013 back to the top of the Big 12, and the nation, this season. When it comes to scoring, Sims is right up there, having led the nation at some points this season and currently trailing only Jerica Coley (see above) with 28.4 points per game. The 5-8 native of Irving, Tex., is Baylor's all-time career assist leader (619). Sims also owns the program's career-3-point record with 249 makes to date, and her 89 made treys this season make her Baylor's single-season 3-point leader. She is  the fifth Lady Bear player to reach the 2,000-point milestone and stands fourth on BU's all-time list with 2,417 points.  She recently became the third player in Big 12 history with 2,000 points and 600 assists in a career, joining OSU's Andrea Riley and OU's Danielle Robinson. (Photo Courtesy Baylor University)

“We are thrilled about this list of five deserving women and cannot wait to announce the winner at the Final Four,” said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame. “It was not an easy process narrowing down this list, but we are confident each of these players has earned her way to being recognized for their skills and dedication.”

That's not just fluff. The Hall of Fame's Selection Committee had the unenviable task of winnowing down a February watch list of 22 players, in a year that seemed to be particularly rich at the point, with other contenders including, among others, UConn's Bria Hartley, Duke's Chelsea Gray, Iowa's Samantha Logic, OSU's Tiffany Bias, Maryland's Lexie Brown, Natasha Cloud of Saint Joe's and Valencia McFarland of Ole Miss, to name just a few.

The Hall of Fame appointed a premier Selection Committee made up of top college basketball personnel including media members, head coaches, Hall of Famers and sports information directors to review the candidates. The original watch list of 29 candidates was narrowed down to 22 in February. The Lieberman Award winner will be announced during Final Four weekend activities.

“It is an honor to be partnering with the Hall of Fame for this prestigious award,” Lieberman said. “Being a part of recognizing the top point guard in women’s college basketball is an absolute honor. These women have truly remarkable abilities and I can’t wait to announce a winner.”

Previous winners of the Nancy Lieberman Award include last year’s recipient Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame), Sue Bird (Connecticut), Renee Montgomery (Connecticut), Diana Taurasi (Connecticut), Lindsey Harding (Duke), Courtney Vandersloot (Gonzaga), Temeka Johnson (LSU), Kristi Toliver (Maryland), Ivory Latta (North Carolina) and Andrea Riley (Oklahoma State).

Source: Portions of this story were obtained from a press release issued by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and from releases issued by the media relations offices of each player's team.