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  • TAURASI NAMED GBALLMAG.COM MVP
    By Dave Wohlhueter

    Phoenix forward Diana Taurasi broke a Seattle two-year hold on the Gballmag.com WNBA Most Valuable Player Award with an outstanding performance during the regular season, and then turning it back on in the final two games of the championship series.

    Last year's recipient was Sue Bird of the Storm, and teammate Lauren Jackson was the MVP in 2007. After two years of having the MVP come from a non-championship team, Taurasi meets this writer's criteria that the MVP should be on the winning squad.

    Taurasi was not a convincing winner, as Indiana forward Tamika Catchings was right there on the basis of her outstanding play at both ends of the court. Catchings is our Defensive Player of the Year.

    Taurasi played on a talent-laden Mercury squad, but she still was the catalyst to winning it all. She scored 26 points, grabbed six rebounds, dished out four assists and had three blocked shots in 37 minutes of playing time in Game 5 of the Finals. It was a five-game battle between Catchings and Taurasi, and the Phoenix star came out in front.

    "She's the MVP of this league for a reason," said Phoenix forward Penny Taylor. "When you have her on your team you know you have every chance of winning every game."

    Taurasi led the WNBA in scoring with a 20.4 ppg. average, and she captured her third Peak Performer Award. She shot a career-best 46.1 percent from the field. She led the league in 3-pt. shots made (79), and ranked seventh in the league in 3-pt. shooting percentage (.407). The former UConn great grabbed 5.7 rpg., and handed out 3.52 apg. She ranked eighth in the WNBA in blocks per game (1.39). She worked hard every night, playing 31.5 mpg., and was selected for her fourth all-star game.

    On Sept. 5, Taurasi became the fastest player in WNBA history to score 4,000 points in a career. achieving the mark in 197 games.

    Five different franchises are represented on the Gballmag.com first and second all-star teams, with Phoenix, Indiana, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Antonio with two players each.

    Taurasi is on the first team for the fifth straight year after being named to the second five as a rookie. Joining her on the first team is teammate Cappie Pondexter, a guard, who was third in the league in scoring with 19.1 ppg. The former Rutgers great was fourth in the WNBA in assists (5.03), and she shot 46 percent from the field, while grabbing 4.2 rpg. She averaged 31.6 mpg.

    Catchings was the other first-team forward. She averaged 15.1 ppg. and 7.2 rpg. She compiled seven double-doubles. An All-American at Tennessee, Catchings was No. 1 in the league in foul shots made (158x181, .873). Our Defensive Player of the Year made 2.91 steals per outing. She averaged 31.9 mpg.

    The center is Seattle's Lauren Jackson, who is on the first team for the sixth time, after being second team in 2008. Jackson averaged 19.2 ppg. and 7.0 rpg. She was second in the WNBA in blocked shots (1.73), and made 1.46 spg. The Aussie made 46.3 percent of her shots while playing 32.4 mpg.

    San Antonio guard Becky Hammon is the final member of the first team. Hammon posted a career-high 19.5 ppg. (second best in the WNBA), and tied her career best for assists (5.0 apg.), that ranked third in the league. She made 90.1 percent of her foul shots and shot 44.7 percent from the field. Hammon averaged 1.58 spg. while playing 33.8 mpg. She made the Gball second team in 2008 after being a first-team selection in 2007.

    Named to the second team are Los Angeles forward Candace Parker and center Lisa Leslie, San Antonio forward Sophia Young, Indiana guard Katie Douglas and Seattle guard Sue Bird.

    Parker came on strong in the season's final 25 games after missing the first nine on maternity leave. She averaged 13.1 ppg. and was No. 1 in the league in rebounding (9.8 rpg.). She was also No. 1 in double-doubles (15), and blocked shots (2.12). She dished out 2.56 apg. while playing 32.6 mpg. Parker was the Gball Rookie of the Year in 2008, and named to the first team.

    Leslie finished up an illustrious WNBA career. She was named to the WNBA team every year, and earned first-team honors nine times with three second-team selections. In her final season, she averaged 15.4 ppg. and 6.6 rpg., making 51.8 percent of her shots. She made 1.44 bpg. in 27.7 mpg.

    Young was a Gball first-team selection last year. She averaged 18.2 ppg. and 6.5 rpg. in 2009. She was fourth in foul shots made (145x189), and played an average of 33.7 minutes per outing. She was to the San Antonio front court that Hammon was to the players in the back.

    Douglas averaged 17.6 ppg. and 2.74 apg. She made 34.9 percent of her shots from behind the arc, and had 1.81 spg. The former Purdue great played 32.4 mpg.

    The final member of the second team is Bird, who was the Gball MVP and first-team performer in 2008. In 2009, she was No. 1 in the WNBA in assists (5.7) and minutes played per contest (35.5). The former UConn all-star averaged 12.8 ppg., shooting 40.8 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the arc.

    The Gball Most Improved Player is Atlanta center Erika DeSouza, in a close race over Washington second-year forward Crystal Langhorne.

    DeSouza played in just 12 games in 2008, but excelled this past summer to become an all-star participant. She averaged 11.9 ppg., and was No. 2 in the WNBA to Parker in rebounding (9.1 rpg.). She blocked 1.29 shots per game and shot 52.8 percent from the field while playing 27.7 minutes per night.

    A close battle for Rookie of the Year also took place between Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry and Phoenix forward DeWanna Bonner. We picked Bonner for her contributions to a championship season. Named the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, the former Auburn All-American averaged 11.5 ppg. and 5.8 rpg. off the bench. She shot 47 percent from the field and recorded five double-doubles. Bonner played 21.6 mpg.

    The fight for Coach of the Year was too tight to call, and thus, we have a pair of winners in Corey Gaines of Phoenix and Marynell Meadors of Atlanta.

    Gaines, in just his second year as a head pro coach, took Phoenix all the way to the championship. With the best record in the regular season, the Mercury had to come from behind in all of its playoff games. Almost on the brink of elimination in the Finals, Gaines made some crucial changes that led to a pair of wins in the final two contests.

    Meadors' accomplishments were just as remarkable. She took an Atlanta team that was 4-30 in its first year, and led it to an 18-16 season The 14-win turnaround is the second-best in WNBA history, behind the 2003 Detroit Shock that went from 9-23 to 25-9. Only four players remained on the 2009 Atlanta team from the expansion squad.

    The 2009 season is history. How's that for an all-star campaign?

    2009 AWARDS

    Gballmag.com Awards
    MVP Diana Taurasi, Phoenix
    Defensive Player Tamika Catchings, Indiana
    Most Improved Player Erika DeSouza, Atlanta
    Rookie of the Year DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix
    Coach of the Year Corey Gaines, Phoenix

    WNBA Media Awards
    MVP Diana Taurasi, Phoenix
    Defensive Player Tamika Catchings, Indiana
    Most Improved Player Crystal Langhorne, Wash.
    Rookie of the Year Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta
    Coach of the Year Marynell Meadors, Atlanta

    GBALLMAG.COM TEAMS
    First Team
    Diana Taurasi, Mercury
    Tamika Catchings, Fever
    Lauren Jackson, Storm
    Becky Hammon, Silver Stars
    Cappie Pondexter, Mercury

    Second Team
    Candace Parker, Sparks
    Sophia Young, Silver Stars
    Lisa Leslie, Sparks
    Katie Douglas, Fever
    Sue Bird, Storm

    WNBA TEAMS
    First Team
    Diana Taurasi, Mercury
    Tamika Catchings, Fever
    Stars Lauren Jackson, Storm
    Becky Hammon, Silver Stars
    Cappie Pondexter, Mercury

    Second Team
    Candace Parker, Sparks
    Sophia Young, Silver Stars
    Lisa Leslie, Sparks
    Becky Hammon, Silver Stars
    Cappie Pondexter, Mercury

    Dave Wohlhueter is Gball's WNBA and women's college game expert. He is a former Sports Information Director at Cornell University, as well as a member of the school's Hall of Fame. He worked in media relations at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He recently was named the winner of College Sports Information Directors of America's 2007 Bob Kenworthy Good Person Award, which annually is awarded to a CoSIDA member for civic involvement and accomplishments outside the sports information office.




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