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The latest news and analysis on college and pro women's basketball.

March 1, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Gonzaga hoards conference honors

Vandy.jpgNo. 17 Gonzaga obviously doesn’t like to share. The Zags went undefeated in West Coast Conference play to win their sixth consecutive regular-season title and nearly took all of the conference honors with them.
Coach Kelly Graves was named tops in his class for the fifth time while Washington transfer F Katelan Redmon was named Newcomer of the Year. PG Courtney Vandersloot (pictured right) was named Player of the Year.
Vandersloot’s honor is her second consecutive and couples with her being one of eight finalist for the Nancy Lieberman award, which was announced last week.
“I have real talented, driven kids,” Graves said. “I love it because I can actually coach. I don’t have to coach effort, which I’ve had to do before.”
The impulse is to discredit Gonzaga for playing in the weaker WCC. Sure, the Zags (25-4, 14-0 WCC) have reached their highest ranking in program history, but they don’t play anybody, right?
Well, that’s debatable.
When it comes to individual talent, Vandersloot (Kentwood High) shouldn’t be muddied by the same thinking. True, she’s not slicing through the defenses of No. 8 Florida State or No. 3 Nebraska every night. But she is getting her teammates in the right position that the team is shooting 47.8 percent from the field.
“Courtney could definitely play in the Big 12 if she wanted to,” former high school teammate Lindsey Moore said. Moore helped the Huskers (27-0, 14-0) win their first conference title last week. “I almost feel she could dominate in this league. She’s a phenomenal player and I’m so happy Gonzaga worked out so well for her.”
Vandersloot said she worked on her shooting and ball-handling since she knew she’d be surrounded by more shooters this season. She also put on more muscle mass, attended USA Basketball trainings and worked out twice a week with NBA legend John Stockton.
And it wasn’t a trick pass that Vandersloot learned from Stockton that has helped with her season, either.
“John is one of those people that’s just so good to be around,” said Vandersloot, who also trained with Stockton’s son. “The one thing I really learned from him is not necessarily a special move — it’s the confidence that he has. Everything that he taught me and instructed me, it was more — ‘You’ve got to have the confidence. You’ll be more successful if you have the confidence in your style of play.'”
Vandersloot leads the nation in assists (9.4) and the nation’s second-best steals leader at 3.6. She became the WCC single-season assist leader with her 273 dishes, surpassing the University of San Diego’s Amanda Rego’s mark of 272 handed out in 2008.
Vandersloot’s accuracy and leadership will be key as the top-seeded Bulldogs face either No. 4 Portland, No. 5 San Diego or No. 8 Santa Clara in the semifinal of the WCC tournament March 5-8 in Las Vegas. The Zags received a double-bye in a new format for the tournament this season.
“She is maybe one of the best maybe two players in the history of our conference,” said Portland coach Jim Sollars, who scoffed at another WCC player even being considered for the award above Vandersloot.
Here’s the full list of WCC winners:

Player of the Year
Courtney Vandersloot, GON
Defensive Player of the Year
Louella Tomlinson, SMC
Coach of the Year
Kelly Graves, GON
Newcomer of the Year
Katelan Redmon, GON
ALL-WCC First Team
Miranda Ayim, PEP
Heather Bowman, GON
Dominique Conners, USD
Alex Cowling, LMU
Laiken Dollente, POR
Vivian Frieson, GON
Lena Gipson, SCU
Jontelle Smith, SMC
Louella Tomlinson, SMC
Courtney Vandersloot, GON
Shay Cooney-Williams, PEP
Meagan Fulps, SCU
Kate Gaze, SMC
Tifa Puletasi, SMC
Felicia Weinberg, USD
Honorable Mention
Rheina Ale, USF
Sam Child, USD
Alexis Gannis, POR
Jazmine Jackson, PEP
Tiffanie Shives, GON
Alyssa Shoji, SCU
Renahy Young, LMU



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