Washington star Kelsey Plum becomes the first Pac-12 player to win the AP women's basketball Player of the Year award.
Kelsey Plum concluded her historic career at Washington nearly a week ago, but she continues to score big and set records.
On Thursday, Plum was named the Associated Press Player of the Year in women’s college basketball and became the first Pac-12 player to capture the award since it was established in 1995.
Former Connecticut star Breanna Stewart, the Seattle Storm forward, won the award the previous three years and despite Plum’s record-setting accomplishments, this year’s winner wasn’t a foregone conclusion.
Still, Plum was the overwhelming choice. She received 30 votes from a 33-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25 poll. A’ja Wilson of South Carolina, Gabby Williams and Katie Lou Samuelson of UConn each received a vote.
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Meanwhile, UConn’s Geno Auriemma won the AP’s Coach of the Year award for the ninth time. He garnered 26 of the votes while Oregon State’s Scott Rueck was second with three and Drake’s Jennie Baranczyk received two. Duke’s Joanne P. McCallie and Mississippi State’s Vic Schaefer each received one vote.
Voting took place before the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s just an honor,” Plum said at an award ceremony in Dallas. “I’m so grateful to the University of Washington, to my coach, to my teammates. This year has been absolutely amazing. There’s not much that I can say besides that. I’m just thankful for the opportunities that I’ve been given and I’m grateful to play this game.”
Plum, a 5-foot-8 guard from Poway, Calif., finished a brilliant UW career as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer with 3,527 career points. This season she tallied 1,109 points, which broke the NCAA single-season scoring record. Both records had stood for 16 years and were held by former Missouri State star Jackie Stiles.
In her final game – a 75-64 loss to Mississippi State in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 last Friday in Oklahoma City – Plum also broke the 33-year-old NCAA career free throw record. She has 912 in her career.
This season Plum shot 52.9 percent from the field, 42.8 percent on three-pointers and 88.7 at the free throw line. She also averaged 5.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals while leading Washington to a 29-6 record – the most wins in school history.
“If you had told me that all this stuff would have happened to me personally, I would have laughed at you,” said Plum, who set a Pac-12 record with 57 points in UW’s regular-season finale to break the NCAA career scoring record. “Not the sense that I didn’t believe in myself or anything like that. But it’s not something that you think about. I’m the all-time leading scorer in college basketball and it’s something I never dreamed about.”
Winning the AP award could forecast a big weekend for Plum, the espnW and Pac-12 Player of the Year who was an unanimous pick to the AP All-America First Team and named to the USBWA All-America team.
She is a finalist for the 2017 Lieberman Award, Naismith Trophy, Staley Award and Wade Trophy, which will announce winners this weekend. Plum is also a Wooden Award finalist.
“One of the greatest parts of her legacy is that there are a lot of kids running around the country who think they can be the next Kelsey Plum,” UW coach Mike Neighbors said. “You don’t have to have a physical attribute that screams you’re a basketball player, you just need a great work ethic and a hard drive to succeed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.