PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Notre Dame junior guard Skylar Diggins has been selected as the 2011-12 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year. Connecticut forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was chosen as the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year. The votes are tallied from the league’s 16 head coaches, who are not permitted to vote for their own players.
Diggins averaged 15.0 ppg in 2010-11, while leading Notre Dame to the NCAA Championship title game. As a sophomore last season, Diggins ranked among the top 15 in the BIG EAST in scoring, assists (team-high 4.8 apg) and steals (1.9 spg). A State Farm Coaches’ All-America and third-team Associated Press All-America selection last year, she had 10 20-point games, including the last three NCAA Championship games. She was a unanimous All-BIG EAST First Team selection, the NCAA Dayton Regional Most Outstanding Player and a member of the NCAA Women’s Final Four All-Tournament team. Diggins, a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-BIG EAST team, was selected to the 30-member preseason candidate list for the John R. Wooden Award for the second consecutive season. She was also among a group of 25 players named to the preseason “Wade Watch’ list for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association/State Farm Wade Trophy.
Mosqueda-Lewis will play at Connecticut after averaging 21.7 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists and 2.6 steals in her senior season at Mater Dei High School in Anaheim, Calif. She was the 2010-11 Naismith, WBCA, Parade, USA Today and Gatorade National Player of the Year. At Mater Dei, Mosqueda-Lewis led the team to a 34-1 record, two-straight state championships and a No. 1 national ranking.
From regular-season and BIG EAST Tournament champion Connecticut, senior guard Tiffany Hayes and sophomore guard Bria Hartley were selected as Preseason All-BIG EAST Team members. Hartley earned a spot on the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 30 and Preseason Wade Watch list. Hartley was third on the team with 12.4 points per game. She led the team from 3-point range, shooting 39 percent from behind the arc.
Hayes was named to the Wooden Award Preseason Top 30. The WBCA All-District I selection and All-BIG EAST First Team member also earned a spot on the Preseason Wade Watch list for the third-straight year. Hayes was second on the Huskies in scoring, averaging 13.7 points per game. She was third on the team with 139 assists and second with 52 steals.
Senior forward Keisha Hampton from DePaul was a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Hampton, named on the Preseason Wooden Award watch list as well as the Wade Watch List, was fourth in the league in scoring last season, averaging 16.0 points per game. She led her team to the NCAA Sweet 16 last year and will embark on her final season with 1,375 career points, 513 rebounds and 201 assists.
Georgetown junior guard Sugar Rodgers was an unanimous Preseason Team selection. Rodgers was named to the Wooden Preseason Top 30 as well as the Wade Watch List. The league’s top returning scorer averaged 18.7 ppg last season, a mark that ranked second in the BIG EAST. She scored in double figures in all but two games in 2010-11, leading Georgetown in scoring 25 times and rebounds 10 times. As a sophomore, she scored her 1,000th career point and is the school’s all-time leader for points (653) and 3-pointers in a season (96). Rodgers was also second in the league in steals per game (2.6) and 3-point field goals made (2.7). She led GU with 90 steals and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Louisville had two selections to the Preseason All-BIG EAST team. Senior forward Monique Reid was fifth in the league in scoring in 2010-11, averaging a team-leading 15.5 points per game. She ranks 10th on the Cardinals’ all-time scoring list with 1,345 points. Reid, who was named to the Wade Watch List, ranked fourth in the league in field goal percentage (.552) last season and led the team with 6.1 rebounds per game. She earned All-BIG EAST First Team honors for the second straight year.
Reid is joined by teammate Shoni Schimmel, who made an immediate impact as a freshman for the Cardinals, averaging 15.1 points per game - second on the team and seventh in the conference. She was the only freshman among the top 15 scorers in the league. The sophomore guard, who was third in the league in assists per game (4.9) last season, was named to the Preseason Wooden Award Watch List. She scored a career-high 33 points in the Cards' upset over No. 2 seed Xavier in the NCAA Tournament, helping Louisville advance to the Sweet 16.
Diggins is joined by teammates Natalie Novosel and Devereaux Peters. Novosel was a State Farm Coaches' Honorable Mention All-America and first-team All-BIG EAST; she also earned the BIG EAST Most Improved Player award, more than tripling her scoring average from 5.0 ppg in 2009-10 to a team-high 15.1 ppg in 2010-11. She posted a team-best .413 3-point percentage, in addition to finishing second on the squad in steals (tied-1.9 spg.) and third in assists (1.9 apg.).
Peters ranked third on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and first in double-doubles (10), rebounding (7.5 rpg.), field goal percentage (.593), and blocked shots (1.7 bpg). She was fifth in the country in field goal percentage, and ranked among the BIG EAST leaders in rebounding (6th), field goal percentage (2nd), blocked shots (4th) and double-doubles (2nd). She was one of just two players in the nation to record at least 60 blocks and 60 steals last season (she had 68 blocks and 66 steals). Peters was named a State Farm Coaches' Honorable Mention All-America and First Team All-BIG EAST selection in 2010-11, while also taking home BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors.
St. John’s had two Preseason All-BIG EAST selections. Junior guard Shenneika Smith led the Red Storm last season, averaging 12.2 points per game. The All-BIG EAST Second Team selection led the team with 25 blocks and ranked second on the squad with 6.1 rebounds per game, 56 steals and 56 assists. Smith recorded three 20-plus scoring efforts, including a career-best 28 against Liberty at the Maryland Terrapin Classic on Dec. 28.
Smith’s teammate, senior forward Da’Shena Stevens, an All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, led the Red Storm in rebounding with 6.4 rpg, a mark that ranked 15th in the conference. Stevens was second on the squad in scoring with 11.8 points per game. Stevens had 10 rebounds and three steals in an NCAA Championship win against Texas Tech to help advance the Red Storm to the Second Round. She finished the year with 2,243 career points, which ranks No. 11 on St. John’s all-time scoring list. She is currently No. 6 on the Red Storm’s all-time rebounding list with 673 boards.
Syracuse center Kayla Alexander was 10th in the league in scoring in her sophomore season, averaging 14.8 points per game and was the Orange’s representative on the Preseason Team. Alexander, who led the BIG EAST in blocks last year with 2.6 bpg, was 10th in the league in rebounding average with 6.9 rpg. She ranked fifth in the league in field goal percentage (.549).
There were four Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selections: Connecticut’s Stefanie Dolson, Rutgers’ Khadijah Rushdan and April Sykes and USF’s Andrea Smith. Dolson, a sophomore center, earned spots on the Wooden Preseason Top 30 list as well as the Wade Watch list. Rushdan, an All-BIG EAST Second Team selection last year, averaged 11.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 5.2 apg. Sykes earned All-BIG EAST Second Team honors last year, averaging 14.1 ppg and 4.2 rpg. Smith ranked third in the league last year, averaging 16.5 points per game.
2011-12 Preseason Awards
Preseason Player of the Year
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame
Preseason Freshman of the Year
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connecticut
Preseason All-BIG EAST Team^
Bria Hartley, Connecticut
Tiffany Hayes, Connecticut
*Keisha Hampton, DePaul
*Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown
Monique Reid, Louisville
Shoni Schimmel, Louisville
Natalie Novosel, Notre Dame
Devereaux Peters, Notre Dame
Shenneika Smith, St. John’s
Da’Shena Stevens, St. John’s
Kayla Alexander, Syracuse
Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Stefanie Dolson, Connecticut
Khadijah Rushdan, Rutgers
April Sykes, Rutgers
Andrea Smith, USF
* - unanimous selections
^Additional member added due to voting tie