Gonzaga’s Vandersloot, coach Graves take top WCC honors
It may be the least surprising news, but it was no less monumental when the West Coast Conference announced Tuesday that Gonzaga senior Courtney Vandersloot was its player of the year.
She is the first 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’s 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 squad by junior teammates Kayla Standish and Katelan Redmon. Senior Janelle Bekkering earned honorable mention.
Vandersloot, a 5-foot-8 guard from Kent, Wash., averaged 20.7 points and 10 assists in conference play as Gonzaga went 14-0 for the second straight season. She recently became the fourth woman in NCAA history to pass 1,000 career assists.
“There are a lot of deserving players and it’s an honor,” Vandersloot 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 conference, and 6.2 rebounds (ninth). She is second on the team in assists (73) and tops the WCC in shooting at 55.5 percent.
Standish, from Ellensburg, had a breakout season, averaging 16.7 points and 8.7 rebounds. In WCC games it’s 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds. She is second in shooting at 55.4 percent, fourth in scoring, fifth in rebounds and eighth in free-throw percentage (78.1).
Bekkering averages 11.3 points and 4.2 rebounds. The Taber, Alberta, native 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.”
Graves was recognized for the fourth time in five years and second in a row. The Zags are 227-118 in his 11 seasons and 112-42 in the WCC with seven straight regular-season titles.
“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.”
GU (26-4), ranked 20th in the ESPN Coaches’ poll and 22nd in the AP poll, has won 30 straight conference games. It’s 34 straight against WCC opponents heading into the conference tourney, which begins Friday in Las Vegas. GU has a bye through to Sunday’s semifinals and will face the lowest remaining seed.
With Vandersloot running the offense, GU leads the nation in scoring at 86.2 points a game. In addition to leading the nation in assists, she’s tops in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.19), 18th in steals (3.0) and her scoring average is in the top 30.