March 1, 2011 in Sports

GU’s Vandersloot, Graves win WCC awards

By The Spokesman-Review
 
J. Bart Rayniak photo

Gonzaga senior Courtney Vandersloot is the first three-time winner of the WCC Player of the Year award.
(Full-size photo)

It may be the least surprising news ever but it was no less monumental when the West Coast Conference announced Tuesday Gonzaga senior Courtney Vandersloot was the Player of the Year.

She is the first-ever three-time winner of the award. She was also all-WCC as a freshman, when teammate Heather Bowman was MVP.

“I think it solidifies her position as perhaps the greatest player ever in the conference,” Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves said after being named Coach of the Year for an unprecedented sixth time. “You know what, I’m going to put it in both genders. Has it ever happened on the men’s side? … It helps justify her in whatever terms you want to think of her legacy.”

Vandersloot, who leads the WCC in scoring (18.7), assists (9.9) and steals (3.0) is joined on the all-conference by a pair of juniors, Kayla Standish and Katelan Redmon. Senior Janelle Bekkering earned honorable mention.

Vandersloot, a 5-foot-8 guard from Kent, averaged 20.7 points and 10 assists in conference games as Gonzaga went 14-0 for the second-straight season. She recently became the fourth women in NCAA history to pass 1,000 career assists.

“There are a lot of deserving players and it’s an honor,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and coaches.”

Redmon, a Lewis and Clark graduate who played her freshman year at Washington and was the WCC Newcomer of the Year last season, averaged 17.4 points, second in the league, and 6.2 rebounds, which is ninth, and is second on the team in assists (73). She leads the league in shooting at 55.5 percent.

Standish, from Ellensburg, had a breakout season, averaging 17.7 points and 8.7 rebounds. In league games it’s 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds. She is second in shooting at 55.4 percent and is fourth in scoring and fifth in rebounds, as well as eighth in free throw percent (78.1).

Bekkering, who redshirted as a freshman, averages 11.3 points and 4.2 rebounds. The Taber, Alberta, native who played for Team Canada at the World Championships last summer, is seventh in shooting (49.6) and fifth in 3-point shooting (37.0).

“Well deserved,” Graves said. “Courtney would be the first to say the reason she averages so many assists is because she has great finishers. She’s not far from the truth.”

Graves was recognized for the fourth time in five years and second in a row. The Zags are 227-118 in Graves’ 11 seasons and 112-42 in the WCC with seven straight regular-season championships.

“I’m honored my peers think of me that way,” Graves said. “It’s really a tribute to my coaching staff. It really is a shared award, that’s who won.”

Gonzaga (26-4), now ranked 20th in the ESPN Coach’s poll and 22nd in the Associated Press poll, has won 30 straight conference games. It’s 34 straight against league opponents heading into the conference tournament, which begins Friday in Las Vegas. The Zags have a bye through to Sunday’s semifinals and will face the lowest remaining seed.

With Vandersloot running the offense, Gonzaga leads the nation in scoring at 86.2 points a game. In addition to leading the nation in assists, she is first in assist-to-turnover ration (3.19) and is 18th in steals (3.0) Her scoring average is in the top 30.

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