My all-conference picks start with Kent State’s Larissa Lurken and Todd Starkey

The various MAC end-of-year awards come out this week — the men earlier today, the women sometime after 5 today or tomorrow.

I’ll post it as soon as I see it.

As a member of the media who covers the KSU women’s basketball team, I’m invited to vote on MAC coach, player and freshman of the year.

Coaches decide the all-conference, all-freshman and all-defensive teams, defensive player of the year, sixth player (man? woman?) of the year.

But I own this blog, so I get to give you my opinion on all of it.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Todd Starkey, Kent State

KSU finished finished last in the conference last season and was picked last this season. The team had exactly the same starting lineup and not a single player he recruited. And it won the MAC East. Won 13 more games than it did last season (19-11 from 6-23). Won 10 more league games (13-5 from 3-15). Went up 226 spots in RPI rankings (92 from 318).

Lisa Carlsen of Northern Illinois did very similar work. Her team was last in the West last season and was picked to finish fifth this year. Her team went from 11-19 to 19-10 and fourth in the MAC (third in the West). She had the third highest scoring team in the country. A great job of coaching. But Starkey’s was better.

Central Michigan’s Sue Guevara coached the best team in the conference. But it was supposed to be the best team. She won the award last season when she had an almost entirely new starting lineup and still won the West. That’s what defines a coach of the year to me — to do something way beyond what was expected.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Larissa Lurken, Kent State

MAC leading scorer at 23.6 points per game. Nation’s leader in free throws made and attempted (both MAC records). Among MAC leaders in nine of 13 statistical categories. But most important: Without her, Kent State is deep in the second division. She scored 10 points more a game than last season and made huge jumps in rebounding and defense. The Flashes’ offense was built around her. Teams tried to stop her; no one ever really did. She meant more to her team than any other player did to their team.

Northern Illinois’ Ally Lehman did similar work for her team. She was in the top three in the league in points, assists and rebounding. She had two triple doubles. Her team improved almost as much as Lurken’s. But she was a star last season (third-team all-MAC). Her team had other players who carried the load some nights. Like her coach, she had a great season. It just wasn’t quite as good as Lurken’s.

Are those home team votes? I don’t think so. In two previous years, I’ve never voted for a Kent State player for any award. You have my reasoning. I think they’re legitimate choices. I’ll be surprised if they don’t win.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Lauren Dickerson, Miami

She’s 5-3. I think that’s the smallest player I saw all season. Yet she was the highest scoring freshman in the conference (15.7 points per game, 10th in the MAC). She was also among league leaders in three-point shooting (1.9 per game, 12th in MAC, 36.4 percent, sixth), assists (3.7, ninth), free-throw percentage (76.6, 13th) and steals (1.9, ninth) .

I don’t think anyone else will be close in the voting.

MY ALL CONFERENCE TEAM

  • Senior guard Larissa Lurken, Kent State.
  • Senior guard Ally Lehman, Northern Illinois.
  • Senior guard Quiera Lampkins, Ohio.
  • Senior center Renee Bennett, Ball State.
  • Sophomore guard Presley Hudson, Central Michigan.

Hudson is the one I’m least sure of. Central had so many good players that it’s hard it pick its best. It could just as easily have been CMU junior forward Tinara Moore.

SECOND TEAM: Moore of CMU, senior guard JoAnna Smith of Buffalo, sophomore forward Breanna Mobley of Western Michigan, sophomore forward Mikaela Boyd of Toledo, junior forward Moriah Monaco of Ball State.

Close behind: Sophomore guard Courtney Woods of NIU.

The league names three teams and honorable mention. I’d hope Kent State junior forward Jordan Korinek will make second or third team and senior forward McKenna Stephens makes at least honorable mention. Both were major contributors to Kent’s season and are among league leaders, especially in conference-only statistics).

MY ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM

  • Guard Lauren Dickerson of Miami.
  • Forward Summer Hemphill of Buffalo.
  • Guard Destiny Washington of Ball State.
  • Guard Mariella Santucci of Toledo.
  • Guard Shaunay Edmonds of Akron or guard Janae Poisson of Northern Illinois.

MY ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM

  • Junior guard Stephanie Reid, Buffalo.
  • Senior forward Jasmine Weatherspoon, Ohio.
  • Junior forward Tinara Moore, Central Michigan.
  • Senior guard Quiera Lampkins, Ohio.
  • Sophomore guard Deja Wimby, Western Michigan.

The only player who was among league leaders in the two defensive statistical categories  (steals and blocked shots):

Senior guard Larissa Lurken, Kent State

Probably too much home town to vote for her.

MY DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Junior forward Tinara Moore, Central Michigan, though I don’t feel strongly about it. KSU saw her only once. She was first in the conference in blocked shots (2.1 per game) and a very good post defender. She was on the all-defensive team last year. Ohio’s Quiera Lampkins won the award last year; I wouldn’t be surprised if she got it again.

MY SIXTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Freshman guard Destiny Washington, Ball State.

Before I researched it today, I couldn’t have told you who the first player off the bench was for most teams.

Washington and freshman forward Summer Hemphill  of Buffalo are very close. I gave it to Washington because she started fewer games.

Washington’s line: 20.1 minutes a game (three starts), 10.3 points, 54.4 percent shooting, 6.0 rebounds, blocks, 1.1 steals.

Hemphill’s line: 21.9 minutes (10 starts), 6.3 points, 53.1 percent shooting, 7.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 1.1 steals.

My third choice was a freshman, too: Guard  Janae Poisson of Northern Illinois. 18.5 minutes (one start), 8.6 points, 34.8 percent three-point shooting, 83.3 foul shooting.

KSU’s candidate would be a redshirt freshman: Guard Megan Carter. 15.9 minutes (no starts), 5.5 points, 1.7 assists. She stepped up her game substantially in conference play: 20.1 minutes, 7 points, 72.2 percent foul shooting, 2.2 assists. Her improvement made Kent State a better team down the stretch.

MAC statistics, including links to both all games and conference-only.

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