DALLAS (AP) — Kelsey Plum had a historic season for Washington while Geno Auriemma did one of his best coaching jobs at UConn.
Both were overwhelming choices as The Associated Press women’s basketball Player and Coach of the Year in awards announced Thursday.
Plum broke the career NCAA scoring mark, topping Jackie Stiles’ 16-year-old record in style with a 57-point effort on her senior night.
“If you had told me that all this stuff would have happened to me personally, I would have laughed at you,” Plum said. “Not the sense that I didn’t believe in myself or anything like that. But it’s not something that you think about. I’m the all-time leading scorer in college basketball and it’s something I never dreamed about.”
Auriemma did laugh before the season at the notion his Huskies, who lost three All-Americans to graduation, would be undefeated this year. He thought there was no way that the team’s 75-game winning streak would continue that much longer. Not with a schedule filled with top teams.
Yet UConn met every challenge and enter the Final Four without a loss, winners of 111 straight games.
“This year, our coaching staff, it was hard. It was really, really hard because the of the people that we had to replace, the schedule that we had early on, the lack of depth, what we thought we had going in and what we ended up with ultimately,” Auriemma said. “There were just a lot of challenges going into this season. I’m probably prouder of what our coaching staff did this season than I am since anytime going back to Diana (Taurasi)’s junior year. That was probably the last time that I thought we really, really, really did about as good a job as you can possibly do, maybe more so. That was the last time I remember it being this hard.”
Plum received 30 of the 33 votes from the national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. A’ja Wilson of South Carolina, Gabby Williams and Katie Lou Samuelson of UConn each received a vote. The voting was done before the start of the NCAA Tournament.
Auriemma garnered 26 of the votes for coach of the year. Oregon State’s Scott Rueck was second with three while Drake’s Jennie Baranczyk received two. Duke’s Joanne P. McCallie and Mississippi State’s Vic Schaefer each received one vote.
It’s the ninth time that Auriemma has been honored as the AP’s coach of the year, including the last two years. His team was sitting in the audience of the press conference, ecstatically cheering as their coach received the award.
Plum became the first Washington player and first Pac-12 player ever to receive the award.
“She’s meant so much to the university and to the Seattle area,” said Washington coach Mike Neighbors. “When I got the job a few years back she could have left to goto Ohio State or transfered somewhere else, but she believed in me and what we could do here.”
Neighbors also was in awe how everywhere his team went, young girls would watch and try to emulate the 5-foot-7 Plum.
“One of the greatest parts of her legacy is that there are a lot of kids running around the country who think they can be the next Kelsey Plum,” he said. “You don’t have to have a physical attribute that screams you’re a basketball player, you just need a great work ethic and a hard drive to succeed.”
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