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  • Scholarships,
    Part I

  • Scholarships,
    Part II

  • Improving Agility

    By Dave Wohlhueter

    Precedent has been changed in 2008 in the world of women's college basketball. After having a different champion the past four years, the Lady Vols of Tennessee (36-2) are the repeat winner of the final weekly poll.

    Tennessee won it all last season, replacing 2006 champ Maryland. Baylor was No. 1 in 2005, and UConn took top honors in 2004 at the end of a three-year run.

    For the first time since the 2003-04 season, the preseason No. 1 selection was crowned the champion. UConn was the preseason favorite in '03-'04, and remained on top to the bitter end. We began the 2007-08 campaign with the Lady Vols rated No. 1.

    The 2004-05 preseason poll listed LSU in the top spot, but Baylor reigned No. 1 on the final day. Duke was the 2005-06 preseason favorite, but Maryland came on quickly to win it all. In 2006-07, the preseason pick was the Terps to repeat, but they stumbled near the end of the season, and it all came to a close in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the hands of Ole Miss.

    Tennessee rolled over its first 10 opponents of the season before dropping a 73-69 overtime decision at Stanford. The Lady Vols had to wait until the 38th game of the year for payback time, beating the Cardinal 64-48 in the Final Four championship contest.

    The only other loss came in the regular season, as SEC regular-season champ LSU rolled over the Lady Vols 78-62 in Knoxville of all places. Coach Pat Summitt's charges took care of that loss by beating the Lady Tigers 61-55 in the conference tournament championship contest, and then again in the Final Four semis, 47-46.

    Once again, Tennessee had the toughest schedule in the country according to the NCAA RPI rating system.

    Here is the final ranking in the poll for the 2007-08 season:

    No. 1 Tennessee (36-2, 13-1 SEC), accorded a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, defeated six foes to grab its eighth national championship. Senior forward Candace Parker, with her injured left shoulder bruised and braced, scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the final win over Stanford to gain tournament MVP honors for the second straight season. Senior guard Shannon Bobbitt scored all 13 of her points in the first half, as the defending champs jumped out to a 37-29 margin at the intermission. Senior center Nicky Anosike recorded six steals (second best ever in an NCAA tourney game) and eight rebounds, and provided additional offensive help with 12 points. The national champions opened tournament play in West Lafayette, Ind., with a 94-55 win over No. 16 seed Oral Roberts, and then beat home-standing Purdue, a No. 9 seed, 78-52. In Oklahoma City, Tennessee defeated No. 5 seed Notre Dame 74-64, and No. 2 seed Texas A&M 53-45 to reach the Final Four. Coach Summitt will never let the caliber of play go down at Tennessee, but all five starters were drafted by the WNBA, giving her a challenge for 2008-09, with Parker chosen No. 1 by Los Angeles. Summit's incoming freshman class is considered to be the best or at least one of the best-recruited groups in the country. Under Summitt's excellent guidance, the Lady Vols could start slowly, but gain momentum as the new season progresses against the usual tough slate of opponents.

    No. 2 LSU (31-6, 14-0 SEC) earned its lofty rating by challenging the champion better than anyone in the country. In three meetings, the Lady Tigers won at Tennessee, lost in the SEC tournament finale, and dropped a one-point decision in the Final Four semis. For the second time in four years, LSU swept all SEC foes in the regular season and won its second regular-season title in the last three campaigns. In the NCAA tournament, the Tigers, playing at home, were seeded No. 2, and opened with a 61-32 victory over No. 15 seed Jackson State. A 68-49 triumph over No. 7 seed Marist followed, enabling LSU to now journey to New Orleans. The Tigers defeated No. 3 seed Oklahoma State 67-52, and then ˇ°upsetˇ± No. 1 seed North Carolina 78-74 behind 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots from All-America center Sylvia Fowles, chosen No. 2 in the WNBA draft by Chicago. If you think Tennessee has to bring in new talent, the task is minor compared to what Tiger head coach Van Chancellor is facing. In the NCAA championship game, only one underclassman, sophomore guard Allison Hightower, saw action. Hightower returns after scoring 7.1 ppg. this past year. If Chancellor gets LSU back to its sixth consecutive Final Four, he is a shoe-in for coach of the year honors.

    No. 3 Stanford (35-4, 16-2 Pac-10), like Tennessee, got revenge for an early-season loss. The Cardinal, winner of both the Pac-10 regular-season and tournament crowns, lost to UConn 66-54 on Nov. 22 in the Virgin Islands, but turned the tables on the Huskies, 82-73, in the Final Four semifinals. behind 25 points and 13 rebounds from All-America 5-11 guard Candice Wiggins. Freshman center Kayla Pedersen and sophomore forward Jayne Appel added 17 and 15 points, respectively. Appel topped the Cardinal with 16 points in the championship game vs. Tennessee. No. 2 seed Stanford opened the NCAA tournament at home with an 85-47 decision over No. 15 seed Cleveland State, and followed with an 88-54 triumph over No. 7 seed UTEP. Moving up to Spokane, the Cardinal beat No. 6 seeded Pitt 67-59, and then won a wild scoring show, 98-87, over No. 1 seed Maryland to reach the Final Four, where it faced the overall No. 1 seed, UConn, in the semis. The blip on the Stanford schedule came on Jan. 4 and 6, when the Cardinal lost consecutive conference outings at UCLA and USC, but rebounded to roll past all Pac-10 opponents the rest of the year. Wiggins, with a fantastic NCAA tournament run of 151 points in six outings (the fourth-best total ever), was harassed all night long in the championship game by Tennessee, and finished with 14 points on 6-for-16 shooting. While Wiggins has certainly been the key to Stanford's success over the past four years and was chosen No. 3 by Minnesota in the WNBA draft, the cupboard is far from bare in Palo Alto, CA. Appel (15.0 ppg., 8.8 rpg.) and Pedersen (12.6 ppg., 8.4 rpg. , along with sophomore guards JJ Hones (6.6 ppg., 3.1 apg.) and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (5.0 ppg.), give head coach Tara VanDerveer, the Coach of the Year, a great nucleus for next season.

    No. 4 UConn (36-2, 15-1 Big East) rolled through its first four NCAA tourney foes by an averaged of 25 points or more before its 82-73 loss to Stanford in the Final Four semifinals. To open the tournament, the Huskies defeated No. 16 seed Cornell 89-47 and No. 6 seed Texas 89-55 in Bridgeport, Conn. Moving on to Greensboro, UConn beat No. 5 seed Old Dominion 78-63, and in the third meeting of the year with No. 2 seed Rutgers, won 66-56 to advance to the Final Four. In the loss to Stanford, freshman sensation Maya Moore was held to just six points in the first 20 minutes, but finished with 20, while junior guard Renee Montgomery added 15 points. During the regular campaign, despite the early loss of veteran guards Mel Thomas and Kalana Greene to season-ending injuries, the Huskies won 20 in a row before dropping a regular-season contest at Rutgers 73-71. Six games later, UConn won a big battle at LSU, 74-69, and closed out the regular season with victories at DePaul 77-76 and vs. Rutgers 66-46. The Huskies continued their run with three Big East tournament wins, including a 65-59 decision over Louisville in the finale. The four Huskie seniors graduate, but Moore, the Big East Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, will only improve on her 17.8 ppg. and 7.6 rpg. marks. Add in sophomore center Tina Charles (14.2 ppg., 9.2 rpg.) and Montgomery (14.1 ppg., 3.9 apg.), plus head coach Geno Auriemma, and it's look out world, here come the Huskies--Mush!!

    No. 5 North Carolina (33-3, 14-0 ACC) received a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament after rolling through the Atlantic Coast Conference, but for the fourth time in the last six years, the Tar Heels were forced to play a lower-seeded team, LSU, competing close to home (New Orleans), and they dropped a 78-74 decision despite 21 points and 11 rebounds from senior forward LaToya Pringle, who was the only Carolina player in double figures. UNC had entered the game with five players averaging double-digit scoring. North Carolina defeated No. 16 seed Bucknell 85-50 and No. 8 seed Georgia 80-66 in Norfolk, VA, and then moved on to New Orleans for a 78-74 win over No. 4 seed Louisville. Facing LSU, with its many fans, was too much for the top team in the New Orleans Region. In the ACC tournament, UNC defeated Duke 86-73 in the championship round. Losses during the regular season were at Tennessee (83-79) and at Connecticut (82-71). The Tar Heels No. 1 scorer, junior guard/forward Rashanda McCants (15.8 ppg., 6.6 rpg.), is one of three returning starters, but "big" losses come up front with the departure of forwards Pringle (14.6 ppg., 7.2 rpg.) and Erlana Larkins (13.5 ppg., 9.5 rpg.). Both were taken in the WNBA draft. Freshman Cetera DeGraffenreid did a nice job at point guard with 11.6 ppg. and 3.1 apg. statistics.

    No. 6 Rutgers (27-8, 14-2 Big East) lost to eight ranked teams, including the season opener at home vs. Stanford 60-58. The Scarlet Knights were dropped by Louisville 57-56 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, after splitting with UConn during the regular season. No. 2 seed Rutgers defeated No. 15 seed Robert Morris 85-42 and No. 7 seed Iowa State 69-58 in Des Moines, IA, before going on to the Greensboro Regional. The Scarlet Knights won over No. 6 seed George Washington 53-42, but lost to UConn 66-56 in the Elite Eight. Rutgers returns its top scorer, sophomore guard Epiphanny Prince (13.8 ppg.), and the top rebounder, junior center Kia Vaughn (9.3 rpg.), but looses a couple of WNBA draftees in Essence Carson and Matee Ajavon. A great freshman class is expected to enroll at Rutgers in the fall.

    No. 7 Maryland (33-4, 13-1 ACC) began the season with 10 straight wins before losing at Rutgers 68-60. The Terps only regular-season loss in the ACC was at North Carolina 97-86. Seeded No. 1 and at home for the first two NCAA tournament games, the Terrapins opened with an 80-66 defeat of No. 16 Coppin State, and followed up with a 76-64 victory over No. 6 seed Nebraska. Going out to Spokane, Maryland defeated No. 4 seed Vanderbilt 80-66 before losing to Stanford 72-53. Seniors Crystal Langhorne, a second-team selection, and Laura Harper will be two key losses who combined for 31 ppg. and 17.9 rpg. Both will play in the WNBA next year. Junior guard Kristi Toliver (17.1 ppg., 7.4 rpg.) was named to the 2008 first team. Another key returnee is junior guard/forward Marisa Coleman who pumped in 16.1 ppg. and grabbed 7.4 rpg. Freshman guard Marah Strickland helped the cause with 14.1 ppg., and 3.3 rpg.

    No. 8 Texas A&M (29-8, 11-5 Big 12) was not a preseason top 10 pick, but the Aggies came on strong to win the Big 12 championship with a 64-59 win over Oklahoma State. Seeded No. 2 in the Oklahoma City Region, Texas A&M opened the NCAA tournament by beating No. 15 seed Texas-San Antonio 91-52 in Baton Rouge, and followed up with a 63-39 whipping of No. 10 seed Hartford. A 77-63 triumph over No. 3 seed Duke was put down by the loss to Tennessee 53-45 in the Elite Eight. Sophomore guard Takia Starks topped the Aggies with 12 points to wrap up their finest season ever. Although three starters will be moving on, the top two scorers are back in Starks (16.3 ppg.) and junior forward Danielle Gant (16.9 ppg.) and (7.1 rpg.). Coach Gary Blair needs to have a good recruiting year to fill in the cracks.

    No. 9 Duke (25-10, 10-4 ACC) finishes in the top 10 after being labeled No. 8 in the preseason poll. The Blue Devils spent most of the season getting used to new coach Joanne P. McCallie. They were 7-3 in the first 10 games, after just losing two of 34 outings the year before. The Blue Devils biggest win was an early-season victory over visiting Rutgers, 49-44. Duke did defeat Maryland 74-63 in the ACC tournament semifinals before losing to UNC 86-73 for the title. In the NCAA tournament, Duke, seeded No. 3, opened by beating No. 14 seed Murray State 78-57, and then No. 6 seed Arizona State 61-54. In Oklahoma City, the Blue Devils lost to Texas A&M, 77-63. Only one starter will be gone next year. Junior center Chante Black took a liking to McCallie's offense, leading the team with 14.1 ppg., 7.1 rpg. and 2.3 bpg. Junior guard Abby Waner struggled in the new system, and compiled 10.3 ppg. and 3.8 apg. Sophomore forward Joy Cheek and freshman guard Krystal Thomas averaged 9.5 and 7.9 ppg., respectively, as starters.

    No. 10 Louisville (26-10, 10-6) came on strong at the end, going 14-2 in its last 16 contests. The Cardinals defeated Rutgers 57-56 in the Big East tournament quarterfinals, beat West Virginia 67-60 in the semis before dropping a 65-59 decision to UConn in the championship game. Seeded No. 4 in the New Orleans Regional, Louisville opened with an 81-57 win over No. 13 seed Miami (O.), and then knocked off No. 5 seed Kansas State 80-63. The Cardinals nearly upset the region's No. 1 seed North Carolina, but lost to the Tar Heels 78-74, after being up 37-19 in the first half. Junior forward Angel McCoughtry had 21 points and seven rebounds in the first half and finished with 35 points and 11 caroms for the game, while junior center Chauntise Wright added 13 points. Coach Jeff Walz, who received national rookie coach of the year honors, welcomes back four starters in 2008-09, including McCoughtry who won All-America second-team honors. She averaged 23.8 ppg., 8.9 rpg. and 4.1 spg. Her points per contest ranked fourth in Division I, and her 4.1 steals per outing was second. Junior forward Candyce Bingham averaged 13.8 ppg. and 7.7 rpg., Wright chipped in with 11.4 ppg. and 5.0 rpg., and sophomore guard Brandie Radde scored 8.0 ppg.

    The 2007-08 Final Poll
    1. Tennessee (36-2)
    2. LSU (31-6)
    3. Stanford (35-4)
    4. UConn (36-2)
    5. North Carolina (33-3)
    6. Rutgers (27-7)
    7. Maryland (33-4)
    8. Texas A&M (29-8)
    9. Duke (25-10)
    10. Louisville (26-10)

    Also receiving recognition (in alphabetical order): Baylor (25-7), California (27-7), George Washington (27-7), Georgia (23-10), Kansas State (22-10), Marist (32-3), Notre Dame (25-9), Oklahoma (22-9), Oklahoma State (27-8), Old Dominion (31-5), Pittsburgh (24-11), UTEP (28-4), Vanderbilt (25-9), Virginia (24-10), West Virginia (25-8),

    By Dave Wohlhueter

    Tennessee forward Candace Parker is the 2008 Player of the Year, completing a collegiate career that certainly ranks with some of the best ever. Winning this prestigious award bodes well for the recipient, and certainly Parker may have her best hardwood days ahead.

    Parker is the second Southeastern Conference player to win the Gball best player award, following 2005 winner Seimone Augustus, the former LSU star who has been very successful in the WNBA. The Big East Conference dominated the award for the first three years (2001-03), and the Atlantic Coast Conference has had three recipients (2004, 2006, 2007).

    The 2001 recipient, Notre Dame center Ruth Riley, after leading the Irish to the national championship, went on to win two WNBA titles with Detroit. Last year, Riley played an important role with the success of the San Antonio Silver Stars. Former UConn guards Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi were the 2002 and 2003 winners, and they are currently enjoying all-star careers at Seattle and Phoenix, respectively, with the latter the force behind the Mercury's 2007 title. Former Duke guard Alana Beard was the 2004 recipient, and is an all-star with the Mystics at Washington. North Carolina guard Ivory Latta earned her stripes with Detroit's 2006 championship club, and is now with the new franchise at Atlanta. Last year's winner was Duke guard Lindsey Harding who was headed for Rookie of the Year honors at Minnesota before ending the 2007 season prematurely with a torn ACL.

    Parker was the No. 1 pick in the 2008 WNBA draft by Los Angeles, following in the footsteps of Harding last year and Augustus in 2006.

    After six years of the award going to a guard, the 6-4 Parker breaks the mold as a forward/center, but she has the ability to play in the backcourt when called upon. Parker helped Tennessee capture its second consecutive national championship, winning the Final Four Outstanding Player for Award for the second straight season.

    Parker averaged 21.3 ppg., 8.5 rpg., 2.4 bpg. and 2.5 apg. this season. A three-time All-American, she was chosen as the Associated Press Player of the Year, the Naismith Trophy winner, Player of the Year, and is one of the favorites to win the 2008 John R. Wooden Award, an honor she captured in 2007. This award will be announced on April 11.

    She was named to the Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Wooden, Associated Press and USBWA All-America first teams. She was named to the first five in 2007, after being a second-team recipient in 2006.

    Parker also excels in the classroom. She was an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American first team performer as selected by the College Sports Information Director of America.

    Joining Parker on the first team are: Oklahoma junior center Courtney Paris; LSU senior center Sylvia Fowles; Stanford senior guard Candice Wiggins and Maryland junior guard Kristi Toliver.

    Paris, the 2006 Rookie of the Year, is on the Gball first unit for the third straight year. Paris, who averaged 18.6 ppg., led the nation in rebounding with 15.0 caroms per outing. The 6-4 center averaged 3.5 blocks and shot 56.1 percent from the field. She is the only Division I player to rank among the top 25 in all four categories. She has a string of 92 consecutive double-doubles currently alive going into her senior year. Paris was the '07 AP Player of the Year, and she is a consensus All-American.

    Fowles was the SEC Player of the Year and the conference's Defensive Player of the Year in leading the Lady Tigers to a perfect 14-0 conference regular-season slate. She was named the WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year. The 6-6 center averaged 7.5 defensive rebounds per game with 54 blocked shots. She averaged 17.4 ppg. and 10.3 rpg. this season, and holds LSU records for rebounds (1,570) and blocked shots (321). Fowles has been named to every All-American first team selected this season. She was the No. 2 pick in the 2008 WNBA draft by Chicago, and was second team in 2007.

    Wiggins won the Wade Trophy, given annually to the best women's college basketball player in the nation, beating out last year's winner, Parker. Wiggins is Stanford's and the Pac-10's all-time leading scorer with 2,629 points. She averaged 20.2 ppg., and became the first player in NCAA tournament history to record two 40-point performances;, with 44 vs. UTEP and 41 against Maryland. She was named Pac-10 Player of the Year for a record-breaking third time, and was second team a year ago. Wiggins was chosen No. 3 in the WNBA draft by Minnesota.

    Toliver won the 2008 Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard. She averaged a career-high 17.1 ppg. and was fifth in the country with 7.4 assists per outing. Toliver broke the ACC's 30-year-old single-season record for total assists (275). She set school records for season 3-pt. field goals (78) and career 3-point baskets (209). She was named to the Sports Illustrated and USBWA first teams, and to the AP second five.

    Named to the second team are: freshman forward/guard Maya Moore of UConn; Maryland senior forward Crystal Langhorne; senior forward Erlana Larkins of North Carolina; Louisville junior forward Angel McCoughtry; and sophomore guard Andrea Riley of Oklahoma State.

    Moore was a unanimous choice as the Rookie of the Year. She became the first player to win Big East Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in the same season. A member of every All-America team chosen this season, the 6-0 forward averaged 17.8 ppg. and 7.6 rpg. She had 116 assists, 63 steals and 59 blocked shots. The USBWA named her Freshman of the Year. She broke the school and conference freshman scoring records.

    Langhorne was the 2008 ACC Player of the Year and Scholar Athlete of the Year. The 6-2 forward led the Terrapins with 17.3 ppg. and 9.4 rpg., both ranking third in the ACC. She is the first Terp to be named to the ACC first team four straight years, and is one of only 10 players in league history to receive first-team honors three times. She was named to the 2008 ESPN, AP and USBWA All-America teams. Washington took her No. 6 in the WNBA draft.

    Larkins was named to the WBCA All-America squad, and received second-team All-America honors from AP and ESPN, helping the Tar Heels run through the ACC unbeaten in the regular season. She averaged 13.5 ppg. and 9.5 rpg. She was taken No. 14 in the draft by the New York Liberty.

    McCoughtry was named to the WBCA 10-person All-America team for the second straight season, and was also recognized by the USBWA and AP. She led the Big East in scoring with 23.8 ppg. and steals (4.1). She is fourth in the country in the former, and second in the latter. With a year to go, she ranks second in school history in career points (1,878).

    Riley is the only sophomore on each of the first two units. She has received All-America recognition by the WBCA, AP, ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Riley was a semifinalist for the Naismith Trophy and Wooden Award, and one of four finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award. This past season, she set single-season school records for points (807), field goals (268) and minutes played (1,216).

    As easy as picking the Rookie of the Year was, the top coach selection was as hard. There were many deserving candidates.

    Tara VanDerveer of Stanford ended up being our choice for taking a young squad all the way to the championship game. Her Cardinal lineup for the finale consisted of one senior, three sophomores and one freshman. Stanford finished the season 35-4 for its most wins ever. The Cardinal won both the Pac-10 regular-season and tournament titles for the second consecutive year. The head coach at Idaho (two years) and Ohio State (five years) before arriving at Stanford, VanDerveer has led the Cardinal to a pair of National championships (1990, 1992), and is a three-time NCAA Coach of the Year. She was inducted into the Women's Basketball hall of Fame in 2002.

    All four coaches in the Final Four deserved Coach of the Year recognition. Tennessee's Pat Summitt took a veteran squad and made it do what it was suppose to do: successfully defend its national title. Geno Auriemma, at UConn, took his young Huskies to the Final Four for the ninth time. His team lost just two of 38 outings, and survived the loss of two veterans at the beginning of the year. Even though LSU had been to the Final Four the previous four years, new coach Van Chancellor quelled all the turmoil in the Lady Tigers program. LSU went unbeaten during the SEC regular season with a win over eventual national champ Tennessee. The Lady Vols did get revenge by winning the SEC tournament and of course the national title.

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