Indiana Fever guard Shavonte Zellous was named the 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year, the WNBA announced today in an Indianapolis press conference preceding the second game of the Fever's best-of-three Eastern Conference Semifinals playoff series against the Chicago Sky. Zellous dominated the balloting, receiving 30 of 39 votes from a panel of national and local sportswriters and broadcasters.
There was a nine-way tie for second place, with Jane Appel (San Antonio Silver Stars), Elizabeth Cambage (Tulsa Shock), Erika de Souza (Atlanta Dream), Kelsey Griffin (Connecticut Sun), Allison Hightower (Connecticut Sun), Glory Johnson (Tulsa Shock), Danielle Robinson (San Antonio Silver Stars), Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky), and Monica Wright (Minnesota Lynx) all receiving one vote apiece.
Zellous nearly doubled her scoring average in 2013 (14.7 ppg) from 2012 (7.5 ppg), and also improved her rebounding numbers in 2013 (3.4 rpg) from 2012 (2.7 rpg). She also elevated her field-goal percentage up from .369 in 2012 to .415 in 2013.
Drafted No. 11 overall by Detroit in the 2009 WNBA Draft, Zellous spent most of her career in the pros coming off the bench. After moving to a starting role last year, a late-season foot injury sidelined the former Pitt standout for five games this year, but she started all 29 games in which she appeared, making the WNBA All-Star team for the first time. Zellous opened the season with 15 consecutive double-figure scoring efforts, and tallied 10-or-more points in 24-of-30 contests overall. She poured in a season-high 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-7 from distance on June 8 against Phoenix. The five-year veteran also posted career highs in scoring, rebounds, steals (0.9 spg), blocks (0.7 bpg) and three-point field-goal percentage (.348) this season.
Zellous is in her third full season with the Fever, and spent part of the 2010 season with Indiana as well, also splitting time with Tulsa. This year, her stepped-up performance was critical to the Fever, which were addled by injuries all season, finishing the 2013 campaign in the red with a 16-18 mark, but nonetheless earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Fever lost nine players to injuries at various points in the season, with four of them gone for 16 games or more.
Though the award is based on regular-season performance alone, Zellous again proved her worth in Game One of the Fever's playoff series against the Eastern Conference's top seed, the Chicago Sky. On Friday, a night when the Chicago Sky defense locked down on Fever superstar and 2011 MVP Tamika Catchings, holding her to just 11 points, and the Fever were still without the services of another of its key players, Katie Douglas, who did not play due to a lower back injury, Zellous rose to the challenge, leading her team to an 85-72 upset victory on the road with a game-high (tied with Chicago's Elena Delle Donne) 20 points, on 7-11 (63.6 percent) field-goal shooting and returning the series to Indianapolis for today's Game Two.
In honor of being named the 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year, Zellous will receive $5,000 and a trophy specially designed by Tiffany & Co.
Below are the complete voting results for the 2013 WNBA Most Improved Player of the Year Award and a list of past recipients:
2013 WNBA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR VOTING RESULTS
30 Shavonte Zellous Indiana Fever
1 Jane Appel Phoenix Mercury
1 Elizabeth Cambage Tulsa Shock
1 Erika de Souza Atlanta Dream
1 Kelsey Griffin Connecticut Sun
1 Allison Hightower Connecticut Sun
1 Glory Johnson Tulsa Shock
1 Danielle Robinson San Antonio Silver Stars
1 Courtney Vandersloot Chicago Sky
1 Monica Wright Minnesota Lynx
PREVIOUS WINNERS – WNBA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR
2013 Shavonte Zellous Indiana Fever
2012 Kristi Toliver Los Angeles Sparks
2011 Kia Vaughn New York Liberty
2010 Leilani Mitchell New York Liberty
2009 Crystal Langhorne Washington Mystics
2008 Ebony Hoffman Indiana Fever
2007 Janel McCarville New York Liberty
2006 Erin Buescher Sacramento Monarchs
2005 Nicole Powell Sacramento Monarchs
2004 Wendy Palmer/Kelly Miller Connecticut Sun/Indiana Fever
2003 Michelle Snow Houston Comets
2002 Coco Miller Washington Mystics
2001 Janeth Arcain Houston Comets
2000 Tari Phillips New York Liberty
Source: Portions of this story were provided by a WNBA press release.
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