Faris’ defense, improvement rewarded by Big East

By Carl Adamec

Kelly Faris has spent most of her career with the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team being overlooked for individual honors.

That wasn’t the case Thursday when the Big East announced its regular season awards.

The senior guard was chosen the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, shared the Big East’s Most Improved Award with DePaul’s Brittany Hrynko, and was named to the all-league second team.

UConn’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was a unanimous pick to the first team and was joined by teammate Stefanie Dolson. Bria Hartley and Breanna Stewart were honorable mention choices. Stewart and Moriah Jefferson were named to the all-freshman team.

Faris is the third UConn player to be named the league’s top defender, joining two-time winner Nykesha Sales (1997-98) and Ashley Battle (2003). She is also the third UConn player to be chosen most improved, joining Mel Thomas (2006) and Ketia Swanier (2008). The Plainfield, Ind., native is averaging 10.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.7 steals with an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2-to-1.

Regular season champion Notre Dame had three players picked to the first team in Skylar Diggins, Natalie Achonwa, and Kayla McBride. UConn landed two players on the list in Mosqueda-Lewis and Dolson as did St. John’s with Nadirah McKenith and Shenneika Smith. Rounding out the first team were DePaul’s Hrynko, Louisville’s Shoni Schimmel, Syracuse’s Kayla Alexander, South Florida’s Andrea Smith, and Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers.

The second team consisted of Faris, Dayeesha Hollins of Cincinnati, Katherine Harry and Anna Martin of DePaul, Antonita Slaughter of Louisville, Katherine Plouffe of Marquette, Symone Roberts of Providence, Brittany Morris of Seton Hall, Andrell Smith of USF, and Laura Sweeney of Villanova. Honorable mention were Hartley and Stewart, Jewell Loyd of Notre Dame, Brianna Kiesel of Pittsburgh, and Erica Wheeler of Rutgers.

The all-freshman team was made up of Stewart, Jefferson, Loyd, Chanise Jenkins of DePaul, Brooklyn Pumroy of Marquette, Aliyyah Handford of St. John’s, Kahleah Copper of Rutgers, Brianna Butler and Brittney Sykes of Syracuse, and Alisia Jenkins of USF.

Syracuse senior guard Carmen Tyson-Thomas earned the Sixth Man Award and DePaul’s Martin was given the Sportsmanship Award.

The awards for the Big East Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and Coach of the Year will be revealed at a press conference Friday at the XL Center at 2 p.m.