Pittsburgh, PA — Tuesday starts a third season of sorts with Atlantic 10 Championships being played at campuses across the conference, as seeds 3-8 host the bottom six teams based upon the A-10 play.
At the end of the regular season, coaches across the conference have the opportunity to vote for regular season awards based on several different criterion. Media members do not get to vote for these honors, though they will factor into the all-tournament team voting this weekend in Richmond, VA.
Seeing that media does not get the opportunity to vote, why not buck that trend here? Having seen countless games this season, obsessed over several box scores, listened to hours of sound, had discussions across the league and had several hours of sleep lost over some of these categories of which these do not count in any way towards an official total, this should be considered educated choices, though certainly will spark some debate across the Atlantic 10, as well there should be.
In reality, there is no real true right answers if a case can be made for an individual, though some of these awards may be pretty clear cut.
With that introduction, it is time to select some honors.
Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Natalie Butler George Mason– Time certainly did not change this choice as Butler has remained the class of this conference. At this point, you just know she will get a double-double but it is almost a game within the game to see if she will score more points or grab more rebounds by game’s end. The double-double streak is at 29 games, which is tied for the third-longest streak ever in NCAA D-I history. That is how engaged Butler is on the floor, she does not take plays off. The fact that coaches put her on the preseason all-conference third team before she even put a uniform on showed a level of respect but this kind of production exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations. George Mason is hosting its first conference tournament game since 2006 and Butler is a big reason why.
Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year Nicole Cardaño-Hillary George Mason– This was really too close to call between Cardaño-Hillary and Bre Cavanaugh from Fordham and even closer than at the mid-season portion of conference play. It really comes down to which kind of stats you prefer because it was truly dead even. It did not really help that each did not have the Ultimately it came down to what would happen if the two were taken off their respective teams which sounds a bit cruel, but should not be taken that way. It should not discount Cavanaugh’s contributions which have been many for a Fordham team in which she has set some records and could very well eclipse others. This is why the award goes this way, not to mention Cardaño-Hillary also was the more consistent player and in the regular season could be depended on to put up shots, score at least 10 points and get George Mason a steal or two.
Sixth man of the Year Kelli Prange George Washington– There were some questions about this selections after the midseason point article came out since Prange was predominantly a starter but she has been used off the bench since coming back from her concussion. It allows her minutes to be monitored towards the range coach Jennifer Rizzotti is looking for while also making sure she is her most productive. It also makes opposing teams nervous because they have to scout Prange from a bench position where it does not know when she is coming into the game, that is not something you can prepare for. Prange is playing well on both sides of the ball, so this was an easy one.
Most Improved Player Danielle Migliore St. Bonaventure– This is another carryover from the mid-season piece and rightfully so because Migliore has put the hard work in and made the necessary sacrifices to earn the recognition she has received. Her scoring average is done a little over half a point from midseason but it in a sense further strengthens this point in that opposing teams now have shown her respect and made things tougher from an offensive perspective. There are some who will say the St. Bonaventure offense is exclusively led by Mariah Ruff but Migliore is one of several Bona players that debunk that theory.
Coach of the Year Gayle Coats Fulks Davidson– In another extremely close contest, Coats Fulks wins the award in her first year. Too often coach of the year is assigned to the coach at the top of the conference. Frankly it is disrespectful and rather lazy. Here is a confession, Dayton coach Shauna Green is not in the top three here and Duquesne’s Dan Burt is not even in the top four. It is not necessarily anything either of them did but that others had to do more of a coaching job. Davidson finds itself ninth in the conference with a 7-9 record and entering the final week was flirting with the chance of hosting a home game. To further put this into perspective, Davidson won six games all of last season, not to mention it was 7-9 on the road this season compared to one win away from Belk Arena. It is more than the “share, shoot and stifle” mantra Coats Fulks has lived by, in short Davidson has overcome on-court and more importantly off-court adversity which still affects the team to this day. It built a family which truly loves each other. No longer is Davidson an easy out and this change happened in less than a season. That is impressive. Coats Fulks narrowly beat George Mason’s Nyla Milleson and Fordham’s Stephanie Gaitley. Milleson has had her team do historic things all season long and has done it the right way, from the ground up though the addition of Natalie Butler was a surprise of sorts that certainly has helped things this season. George Mason is hosting a first round Atlantic 10 Championship game and that is because of the hard work Milleson has put in. Gaitley’s job this season also should be very much commended. She did not have much returning and had to face her most brutal nonconference schedule to date, which was made before losing two important pieces to the team. Fordham had to learn and grow very fast and was one possession away from earning the final bye instead of Duquesne. That is good coaching. People can say the Atlantic 10 is down this season, but they cannot say anything about the coaching in this conference. The five listed in this long writeup and everyone else in the conference all do exceptional jobs.
Atlantic 10 All-Conference First Team (no particular order)
Natalie Butler George Mason– As the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, this is pretty self explanatory.
G’mrice Davis Fordham– The original double-double machine, Davis has been overshadowed a bit but by no means has she dropped off, in fact she has raised her game. Davis has matured these past two seasons and was in a good deal of pain at Duquesne even limping in between plays, but finished the game, making plenty of contributions. She is WNBA ready right now, waiting for a team to snatch her up.
JaVonna Layfield Dayton– Layfield has had a breakout senior season averaging 12 points and 13 rebounds a game and started 26 of Dayton’s 27 games. She has been a force and she is hard to handle. She can put up a double-double in the first half on a nightly basis. Layfield is consistent and hard to match up against.
Jackie Kemph Saint Louis– Kemph is a two-way player on offense and you rarely see her down or flustered, the competitor in her just does not accept that. She is consistent from the field, loves dishing to her teammates and makes her free throws. She is the most dependable guard in this league and it is not close. She is a gift and wherever she goes after this season, it/they will be lucky to have her.
Micaela Parson Richmond– A name which should get more recognition league-wide, she has so many skills in her toolbox that there is always something to draw from. She can score the basketball, is aggressive to where she has more free throw opportunities than anyone in the conference, steals the ball, has a smart shot selection, gets her teammates involved and rebounds the basketball. She is a complete player and wherever she next plays basketball (assuming basketball is her next step), she will excel. She is dangerous and hard to prepare for.
Atlantic 10 All-Conference Second Team (no particular order)
Mariah Ruff St. Bonaventure– Ruff has made these last three seasons count and this season has taken on a much larger role than she could have anticipated. She handled it with grace while sticking to her strengths which have served her so well.
Jenna Burdette Dayton– Burdette has seen increases in many of her numbers, some of which are career-highs. She is a steady guard that does not seemed fazed by much.
Nicole Cardaño-Hillary George Mason– Freshman of the Year makes the second team and fit makes sense given the arsenal she possesses.
Chelsea Woods Saint Joseph’s– Another post that is dangerous in so many facets. She is healthy after an injury and is just a nightmare to prepare for. She is a post player that makes her foul shots and just seems to be in the right position all of the time.
Brianna Cummings George Washington– She has been all-in this year and is a tricky matchup. She can play a post position in sets but can finish through contact. She defends each position like it is her last. If someone were to start a team, this would be someone you would want. She just does not have lows. She understands the playbook on both ends of the floor and just executes.
Atlantic 10 All-Conference Third Team (no particular order)
Bre Cavanaugh Fordham– A playmaking guard who can score plenty, excels from the line and as a freshman can be trusted with the ball in her hands late. She can get you a steal or grab a rebound and go.
Hailey Leidel Massachusetts– This was the player that received the most questions for why she was left off the team in the midseason article and here she is now. She has excelled at scoring the three but has a nice percentage of shots going in from around the field, is dependable from the line and of the starters on her team has the fewest fouls committed. A smart player who understands and accepts her role.
Chassidy Omogrosso Duquesne– The lone Duquesne player to make this list Omogrosso has continued to excel and has had more opportunity to create her shot. When her team needed a big performance, she scored 27 points on 13 shots in the regular season finale which helped the Dukes secure a first round bye in the Atlantic 10 Championships.
Maggie Mulligan Massachusetts– Another standout performer who has game-changing abilities. She can extend possessions and can dominate games. She scored 11.2 points a game, grabbed 10.3 rebounds and recorded 65 blocks.
Maddison Gits Saint Louis– Her continued improvement has her as the second leading scorer on the game. She shoots 49.2% from the field and grabbed 9.6 rebounds a game. She will be counted on against UMass Tuesday.
Also considered (no particular order) – Jayla Scaife Dayton, Lauren Holden Fordham, Kadri-Ann Lass Duquesne, Kelli Prange George Washington, Amy Griffin La Salle, Nicole Jorgensen Rhode Island, Julijana Vojinovic Duquesne, Mackenzie Latt Davidson, Justine Lyon Davidson, Lauren Cannatelli Dayton, Sarah Veilleux Saint Joseph’s
Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team
Instead of a breakdown on each, know this that is subjective since what is looked for on defense is different for each individual.
G’mrice Davis Fordham
Kadri Ann Lass Duquesne
Natalie Butler George Mason
Nicole Cardaño-Hillary George Mason
Brianna Cummings George Washington
Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team
Nicole Cardaño-Hillary George Mason– See above
Bre Cavanaugh Fordham– See above
Bre Hampton-Bey Massachusetts– Hampton-Bey was not the most flashy of the freshmen, but she was the most consistent and always wanting to get her teammates involved. It is her 45% shooting from the field, 11.3 points per game, 117 assists and 63 steals. This is all as a freshman. UMass coach Tory Verdi knew what he was getting and there is no way but up. The next three years will be a treat.
Tera Reed VCU- A freshman who saw plenty of court time and improved in conference play. Reed averaged 14.0 points per game, shot 44.2% from the field and from the free throw line is an 81.2% shooter. There is no reason why these figures cannot repeat themselves although a young VCU will have a year of experience under its collective belt, so time will tell.
Alex Parson Richmond– Alex is Micaela’s younger sister, so this honor probably does not come as much of a surprise. Alex averages 10.3 points per game and has started 10 of 29 total games. She also has 45 assists and 39 steals. Her shot selection will improve come sophomore year but she certainly has learned a lot this freshman year and is deserving of rounding out this team.