Taurasi Named BIG EAST Player of the Year

New Brunswick, NJ (March 7) - University of Connecticut junior All-American Diana Taurasi has been unanimously selected as the 2002-03 BIG EAST Player of the Year by a vote of the league’s head coaches. UConn sophomore Ashley Battle has been chosen as the Defensive Player of the Year. Taurasi’s coach, 18-year veteran Geno Auriemma, has been honored by his peers as the Coach of the Year for the second straight season. Rutgers sophomore Cappie Pondexter was unanimously voted as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, while sophomore Jessalyn Deveny of Boston College was honored as the Most Improved Player. The BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award is won by Seton Hall senior Leslie Ardon. The awards were announced at the BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Championship Presented by State Farm awards banquet.

Taurasi, a native of Chino, Calif., ranks among the top 15 league leaders in eight statistical categories. She is sixth in scoring (16.5), 15th in rebounding (6.1), eighth in assists (4.64), eighth in field goal percentage (.458), fourth in free throw percentage (.840), seventh in 3-point field goals made (1.68), sixth in blocks (1.25) and 11th in assist to turnover ratio (1.44). Taurasi scored her 1,000th point in December and has been the Huskies’ top scorer in 17 games this year. She is a finalist for the Naismith National Player of the Year Award and the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award. She earned All-BIG EAST First Team honors a year ago and in 2001 she became the first rookie to earn the Most Outstanding Performer award at the BIG EAST Championship.

Battle is the third Connecticut player to win the defensive award since its inception in 1996-97. The guard leads the Huskies in steals (41), is fourth in rebounding (5.6) and averages 8.4 points off the bench. Battle has helped the UConn defense hold opponents to 52.2 points per game, a mark that ranks second in Division I. In 16 conference games, Battle shot 52.1 percent from the field and averaged 8.3 points and 5.1 rebounds while collecting 24 steals.

Auriemma wins the coaching award for the sixth time in his 18-year tenure. He has guided No. 1 UConn to its fourth undefeated regular season (29-0) and fifth unbeaten BIG EAST record (16-0) after losing four starters from last year’s undefeated national championship team. Auriemma’s Huskies own the longest Division I women’s basketball win streak in NCAA history at 68 games. Under his guidance, Connecticut has won or shared the league’s regular season title in each of the last 10 years and 13 times overall. The Huskies have won 11 BIG EAST Championship titles and are poised to make their 15th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

BIG EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR - *Diana Taurasi, Connecticut
Cappie Pondexter, Rutgers
BIG EAST COACH OF THE YEAR - Geno Auriemma, Connecticut (18th season) BIG EAST DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Ashley Battle, Connecticut
Jessalyn Deveny, Boston College
SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD - Leslie Ardon, Seton Hall

School Cl. Pos. Hometown High School
Rebekkah Brunson Georgetown Jr. F Oxon Hill, Md. Oxon Hill
Becky Gottstein Boston College Sr. F Albany, N.Y. Albany
Trish Juhline Villanova Sr. G Havertown, Pa. Cardinal O’Hara
Ieva Kublina Virginia Tech Jr. F/C Riga, Latvia Trinity Episcopal
Cappie Pondexter Rutgers So. G Chicago, Ill. John Marshall
*Diana Taurasi Connecticut Jr. G Chino, Calif. Don Lugo

Jacqueline Batteast Notre Dame So. F South Bend, Ind. Washington
Katie Davis Villanova Sr. G/F North East, Md. North East
Jessalyn Deveny Boston College So. G Westford, Mass. Westford Academy
Tamara James Miami Fr. G/F Dania, Fla. South Broward
Julie McBride Syracuse Jr. G Mechanicville, N.Y. Catholic Central

Kate Bulger West Virginia Jr. G Pittsburgh, Pa. Oakland Catholic
Mauri Horton Rutgers Sr. G Minneapolis, Minn. North
Shannon Perry Syracuse Jr. G Providence, R.I. La Salle
Laine Selwyn Pittsburgh Sr. G Coral Springs, Fla. Coral Springs
Ann Strother Connecticut Fr. G Castle Rock, Colo. Highlands Ranch

Amber Jacobs Boston College Sr. G Clarks Summit, Pa. Abington Heights
Courtney Mix Villanova Jr. F Perrysburg, Ohio Toledo Central Catholic
Alicia Ratay Notre Dame Sr. G Lake Zurich, Ill. Lake Zurich
Brianne Stepherson Boston College Sr. G Middleton, Mass. Masconomet

*Tamara James Miami Fr. G/F Dania, Fla. South Broward
Courtney LaVere Notre Dame Fr. F Ventura, Calif. Buena
Carrie Mason Virginia Tech Fr. G Seneca, Pa. Cranberry
*Cappie Pondexter Rutgers So. G Chicago, Ill. John Marshall
Ann Strother Connecticut Fr. G Castle Rock, Colo. Highlands Ranch
Barbara Turner Connecticut Fr. F/G Cleveland, Ohio East Tech

* - unanimous selection
Note: due to a tie in the voting there are six members of the All-Rookie Team