Stewart, Nurse nab pre-season AAC awards.
NEW YORK – For the second consecutive season, University of Connecticut forward Breanna Stewart (Syracuse, N.Y.) was honored as the American Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year, as announced by the conference on Thursday morning. In addition, freshman guard Kia Nurse (Hamilton, Ontario) was selected as the league’s Preseason Freshman of the Year, while Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) and Moriah Jefferson (Glenn Heights, Texas) were placed on the Preseason All-Conference First Team. Senior center Kiah Stokes (Marion, Iowa) earned a spot on the Preseason All-Conference Second Team.
The Huskies were also picked to win The American, garnering 100 points in a vote of the league’s coaches.
Stewart, who was joined by USF’s Courtney Williams as the only unanimous All-Conference picks, becomes the seventh Husky player, and first since Maya Moore, to be selected as the conference Preseason Player of the Year on multiple occasions. Overall, Connecticut boasts 18 Preseason conference Player of the Year accolades.
The junior forward turned in an incredible sophomore campaign, leading the team with 19.4 points and 2.8 blocks her game. She recorded double-digit points in 38 of UConn’s 40 games on her way to being selected as the 2013-14 National Player of the Year by the Associated Press, the Atlanta Tip-Off Club (Naismith Trophy), the United States Basketball Writers Association and the Honda Sports Award
Nurse, who recently competed for the Canadian National Team in the 2014 FIBA World Championships, enters her first season in Storrs after leading St. Thomas Moore to gold at the AAAA OFSAA Championship in 2012 and 2013. She won two Hazel Minor Awards and two Player of the year honors for Basketball Ontario and starred on Team Candad’s FIBA Americas U16 Championships in 2011 and U17 Championships in 2012.
Mosqueda-Lewis will finish off her stellar UConn career after helping the Huskies capture their second consecutive national title in 2013-14. Limited by injury, the forward earned 26 starts and notched 19 double-figure scoring games. She posted the programs third-ever triple-double in the Huskies’ NCAA Second Round victory over Saint Joseph’s on March 25. The three-point sharpshooter saved her best for the postseason, earning a spot on the American Athletic Conference All-Tournament Team after posting 14.7 points and shooting 47.4 from beyond the arc. In addition, Mosqueda-Lewis was tabbed as the Lincoln Regional Most Outstanding Player after averaging 17.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 51.0 percent in the Huskies first four NCAA Tournament victories
Jefferson enjoyed a breakout sophomore season, starting all 40 games and averaging 10.0 points per contest. The Texas native led The American in assists per game (4.9) and shooting percentage (57.5) en route to an all-conference First Team selection. She dished out 25 assists compared to only seven turnovers during the Huskies’ six-game run through the NCAA Tournament. Her 195 total assists marked the fifth-highest single-season total for a Husky player.
Stokes earns recognition after serving as one of the nation’s biggest threats off the bench a year ago. The forward/center averaged 7.1 rebounds per game in 18.5 minutes per game and recorded four double-doubles throughout the season. She was a force at the rim, tallying 89 rejections, and also grabbed at least seven rebounds in four of UConn’s six NCAA Tournament contests.
Preseason Player of the Year
*Breanna Stewart, UConn, Jr., F
Preseason Freshman of the Year
Kia Nurse, UConn, Fr., G
Preseason All-Conference First Team
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn, Jr., F
*Breanna Stewart, UConn, So., F., G
*Courtney Williams, USF, Jr., G
Moriah Jefferson, UConn JR. G Ariel Hearn, Memphis, Jr., G
Preseason All-Conference Second Team
Kiah Stokes, UConn, Sr., C
Jada Payne, East Carolina, R-Jr., G
Alisia Jenkins, USF, Jr., F
Alyesha Lovett, Cincinnati, Sr., G
Feyonda Fitzgerald, Temple, So., G
* Denotes unanimous pick