Monday, November 14, 2016

What, no top rookie honors for UVa.'s fab freshmen?

What does a player have to do to earn ACC Rookie of the Week honors?

We ask because it's hard to do much more than Virginia's Joceyln Willoughby and Felicia Aiyeotan, two Cavaliers freshmen who have been simply sensational two games into their college debuts.

In victories over Middle Tennessee State and Coppin State, Willoughby averaged a team-best 17.0 points on 52.4 percent shooting and 6.5 rebounds. Meanwhile, the 6-9 Aiyeotan;s two-game numbers are 13.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 5.0 blocks - in just 15.5 minutes per.

Yet neither earned their league's initial top rookie award. Pitt freshman guard Jasmine Whitney, who registered a 17-point, 11-assist double-double in the Panthers' rout of Mount St. Mary's, got the nod from the ACC's Blue Ribbon Panel.

Now, we're not here to argue with the selection committee. Besides, this is far from the most surprising voting result we've had to digest over the last several days.

Let's just say that, if Willoughby and Aiyeotan - or Dominique Toussaint (10.5 ppg) for that matter - keep this up, that award figures to find its way to Charlottesville eventually.

We doubt anyone's quibbling with the choice for ACC Player of the Week honors, not after Notre Dame sophomore guard Arike Ogunbowale lit Central Michigan up for 30 points on 12-of-13 shooting, 5-for-5 from 3-point range.

Conference Player of the Week? She should be in the conversation for National Player of the Week.

As for weekly honors in selected other conferences:

Colonial Athletic Association

JMU made it a clean sweep by snagging both player and rookie of the week awards. Senior guard Precious Hall was the no-brainer choice for top player after she dropped 39 points on Tennessee Friday and followed it up with 24 more Sunday against St. Francis (N.Y.). The 31.5 ppg average is fifth in Division I on the young season and tops among players that have appeared in more than one game.

Meanwhile, Dukes fearless freshman Kamiah Smalls has been nothing short of a revelation. The 5-10 rookie debuted with 15 points and 12 rebounds against the Lady Vols, then backed that up with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting (4-4 FTs, too) in Sunday's romp over St. Francis. Through two games, Smalls leads the team in rebounding (9.5 rpg) and field goal percentage (63.2).

We saw the JMU-Tennessee game, and numbers aside, we marveled at how confidently Smalls attacked the vaunted Lady Vols. It's a cliche, but in this case it fits - Smalls played big.

Maybe we should call her Biggie Smalls.

Wait, that name's taken.

Never mind.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

Top performers

Monnazjea Finney-Smith, Hampton - The ex-VCU standout made her Hampton debut with 16 points and three steals in Friday's loss at Northwestern, then followed up with a 10-point, two-steal effort Sunday at Iowa. Finney-Smith is 7-15 from 3-point range so far.

Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton - The high-scoring senior delivered what for her is standard output - 22 points -  Sunday in a loss at Iowa. The surprise came Friday, when Tate-DeFreitas was held to just five points at Northwestern, one point north of her career low (4 points in the NCAA Tournament first round against Michigan State as a freshman). Tate-DeFreitas has scored at least 10 points in 89 of her 98 career games and has 1,966 for her career, one shy of LaShondra Gordon-Dixon (1,967) for second on Hampton's all-time scoring list.

Gabrielle Swinson, Norfolk State - Junior college transfer guard from Bryant and Stratton racked up six steals in her NSU debut Friday at UNC Wilmington.

NOTE: The MEAC Player of the Week was Savannah State graduate student guard Lauren Moss (39 points in two games, 19 against Seton Hall. The Rookie of the Week was Coppin State freshman center Chance Graham, who averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds in losses at VCU and Virginia. MEAC Defensive Player of the Week honors went to Savannah State senior center Tiyonda Davis, who had 20 rebounds and six blocks against the NAIA Columbia College Koalas and averaged 17.0 boards in two games.

Atlantic 10

Honor roll

Kara Wright, George Mason - The Patriots senior guard torched Radford for a career-high 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting and averaged 19.5 points, six rebounds and 2.5 steals in two games.

Jaide Hinds-Clarke - Freshman forward came off the bench to contribute seven points and eight rebounds in just 14 minutes in Sunday's home loss to Columbia. She also did a nice job of explaining the meaning behind being Richmond's No. 1.

NOTE: The Atlantic 10 Player of the Week was Saint Louis star guard Jackie Kemph, who followed up a 20-point, eight-assist performance in a victory over UC-Irvine with a 25-point, 10-assist effort in a win over Loyola-Marymount. A-10 Rookie of the Week honors went to UMass freshman Hailey Leidel, who debuted with 16 points and seven rebounds in 40 minutes against Buffalo.

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