UConn sweeps major awards in American Athletic Conference
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) UConn, which has dominated the American Athletic Conference on the court, swept the conference's major women's basketball awards on Friday.
Junior Breanna Stewart was named player of the year for the second consecutive season, while coach Geno Auriemma again earned coach of the year honors. The Huskies' Kia Nurse was selected freshman of the year.
Stewart, last year's national player of the year, has averaged 17. 4 points and 6.9 rebounds this season. Nurse has tallied 10.9 points and 3.3 assists per game.
The two-time defending national champions had four players on the league's first team this week and also took home awards for defensive player of the year (Kiah Stokes), most improved player (Moriah Jefferson) and sixth player of the year (Gabby Williams). Williams shared the award with Tulsa's Ashley Clark.
''We recruit players who are more motivated to win championships than they are about themselves,'' Auriemma said. ''Then, in the meantime, because they are hopefully on a championship team, all those individual accolades that they want will come their way.''
The awards, voted on by the league's 11 head coaches, were handed out Friday as the conference tournament got underway.
UConn is the heavy favorite to win its second straight AAC championship. Auriemma's team has won its 18 conference games this season by an average of 48.7 points and is 36-0 in regular-season conference play since the inception of the AAC last season.
''It's what's expected of us by our coaches and ourselves,'' Stewart said. ''We have expectations of ourselves. We want to play as close to perfect basketball as we can.''
Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco acknowledged that he would like to see a bit more parity in the league, but said it will take time. UConn as the flagship for the conference should raise the level of competition, helping teams attract better players who want to face that type of competition, he said.
''In sports, as in life, you take your lumps sometimes if you want to get better and compete'' he said. ''And I think that's what all these teams want to do.''
There was one award Friday that went to a player on another team. Tulane guard Jamie Kaplan was named the league's scholar-athlete of the year by the conference's Academic Affairs Committee, and won a $2,000 scholarship for graduate or professional studies.
The senior, who averages slightly less than seven points and five assists, is a neuroscience major with a 3.8 grade-point average.