Jefferson gets her due. Stewart and KML honored as well. By Rich Elliott.
Breanna Stewart wrapped up a day of awards by being named the AP Player of the Year on Media Day at the Final Four in Tampa. UConn is in the final after beating Maryland 81-58.
By Rich Elliott
TAMPA – Winning has always trumped individual awards when it comes to playing for Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma. Selfishness has never had a place at UConn. Never will.
The Huskies understand that through teamwork and the overall success of the team individual accolades will follow. Junior point guard Moriah Jefferson, who is enjoying the best season of her career, has guided top-ranked UConn to 36 wins and to within two wins of a third straight national championship. She was rewarded Saturday.
Along with senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and junior Breanna Stewart, Jefferson was named to the 10-player WBCA Coaches’ All-America Team during a ceremony at Amalie Arena. It is the eighth straight season that UConn has had at least one player on the WBCA team.
``To see Moriah become an All-American is awesome,’’ said Stewart, who was named the National Player of the Year by The Associated Press for the second straight season and won the Wade Trophy, which is considered the Heisman Trophy of women’s basketball. ``I think that she deserves it and I’m happy that her year really went the way it did. She’s put herself on the map.’’
In being named a WBCA All-America, Jefferson has earned the right to be inducted into the Huskies of Honor next season. Stewart will join her, becoming the 17th and 18th players to have their number hanging on the wall inside Gampel Pavilion.
For Jefferson, greatness has been achieved.
``I think that’s what really got me is when I heard that I can be up on that wall now,’’ Jefferson said. ``That makes sure that I can stay around even a little longer after I leave. I think that’s one of the first things that I saw when I came in as a freshman. I was in the gym shooting around with Stewie and you look up and see Huskies of Honor. When you see that you’re like, `Hopefully I can get up on that wall.’ That’s one of the things you want to do. You come into a program like this to win, but at the same time you want to leave a mark on your sport individually.’’
Jefferson, who was named a second-team All-American by The Associated Press Tuesday, is averaging a career-high 12.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 28.2 minutes this season. She leads UConn in assists (4.9), steals (2.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.1) and is shooting 50.5 percent from 3-point range.
Jefferson is ranked fifth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio.
``This year when you watch them play and when see them practice it’s her team and she runs it and she directs,’’ ESPN analyst Kara Lawson said. ``To me, she’s the one that gets everybody where they’re supposed to be and this is her team. Stewart is obviously their best player, but when I watch them play it’s very clearly her team.’’
Stewart leads the Huskies team in scoring (17.6) and rebounding (7.6) and is averaging a career-high 3.2 assists, 2.6 blocks, 1.5 steals and 27.7 minutes.
Mosqueda-Lewis is averaging 15.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, a career-high 2.7 assists and 28.3 minutes. She is shooting 50.0 percent from 3-point range, a career-high, and is the NCAA career leader with 395 made 3-pointers.
``When you’re successful like we’ve been this year and you win as many games as we won, obviously we’re more than just Breanna Stewart,’’ Auriemma said. ``And I think our players understand that if you win good things come your way. And our kids that come to Connecticut, they come and I talk to them in the recruiting process, `If you want to win national championships and then whatever individual stuff that’s out there will follow. If you try to do it the other way around I’m not sure of that works. And our kids buy into that and Moriah certainly has done that as have certainly K and Stewie. I think everybody will tell you that the three of them are pretty special when to comes to all that. I thought (Morgan) Tuck very easily could’ve been on that team. You can only nominate three players so what are you going to do.’’
The Huskies have now had three players named to the WBCA All-America team in back-to-back seasons and four times overall. Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley and Stewart were honored last season; Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery and Maya Moore were honored in 2009; and Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi was honored in 2002.
UConn has also had multiple players honored eight times. Stewart was also honored by the WBCA last season. Mosqueda-Lewis was a member of the team in 2013. They are the 11th and 12th players in team history that have been named a WBCA All-America on multiple occasions. Svetlana Abrosimova (three), Charles (twice), Dolson (twice), Hartley (twice), Rebecca Lobo (twice), Montgomery (twice), Moore (four times), Jennifer Rizzotti (twice), Nykesha Sales (twice) and Taurasi (three times) are the others.
Stewart, who was named a first team All-American by The Associated Press for the second straight season Tuesday, joined Seimone Augustus (2005, 2006), Brittney Griner (2012, 2013), Chamique Holdsclaw (1998, 1999) and Moore (2009, 2011) as the only players to twice be honored by The Associated Press.
Stewart is the eighth player in team history to win the award. Lobo (1995), Rizzotti (1996), Kara Wolters (1997), Sue Bird (2002), Taurasi (2003) and Charles (2010) won the award once.
``It means a lot just because to maintain the consistency,’’ Stewart said. ``And the fact that this team is more balanced than it was maybe last year, and we have a lot of great players on this team. So to be able to really given that honor even while we have all these other great players on our team it means a lot.’’
Stewart is also the sixth UConn player to win the Wade Trophy, joining Lobo (1995), Rizzotti (1996), Bird (2002), Taurasi (2003) and Moore (2009, 2010, 2011).
``You don’t judge Players of the Year by numbers,’’ Auriemma said. ``You judge by the impact that they have on a game and the things that they do to impact a game. So on another team Stewie’s numbers could be astronomical. On our team they are what they need to be. And I think if you polled every coach in the college basketball and every WNBA general manager and you said, `Look, you could only have one player playing college basketball today on your team. Who would it be?’ And those kids that were out on the floor (during the ceremony) they’re all great kids and they’re all great players. I recruited a bunch of them. They all deserve to be there. And there’s some kids that also deserve to be out there. (But) Stewie is Stewie.’’