March 4, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. - With four of the six individual awards, three all-conference spots, two entries on the all-defensive team and one all-freshman selection, regular-season champion South Carolina dominated the coaches' vote for SEC awards, the league office announced today. Head coach Dawn Staley was named Coach of the Year by her peers, the second Gamecock leader to earn the award. Sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell became just the second sophomore in league history to earn the Player of the Year honors from the league's coaches, in addition to earning a spot on the All-SEC First Team and All-Defensive team. Alaina Coates captured Freshman of the Year and co-6th Woman of the Year awards, becoming the first freshman in league history to earn multiple individual awards in a season and the first Gamecock to win either award from the league's coaches. Junior forward Aleighsa Welch earned a spot on the All-SEC First Team, and junior center Elem Ibiam was named to the All-Defensive Team. The Gamecocks are the only team with a representative on all four teams, and their three All-SEC selections are more than any other team.
"I'm so happy for all of our players," Staley said. "It really shows that when you play as a unit, you can accomplish both team and individual goals. It truly is great to be a Gamecock."
One of the most versatile players in the league, Mitchell leads the Gamecocks in scoring (15.5 ppg), assists (3.5 apg) and steals (2.1 spg). In conference action, she is the only player in the SEC to earn a spot among the league's rankings in scoring (ninth), rebounding (16th), assists (11th) and steals (seventh). Improving her efficiency, Mitchell is shooting 52.0 percent from the field, including 52.4 percent from 3-point range. She has scored in double figures in all but three games this season and was the team's top scorer 12 times, including eight SEC games.
"As a player, I set my goals high, on the biggest accomplishment possible, and this was one of them this season," Mitchell said. "I'm excited that my teammates and coaches helped me along the path to this award, and to the season we are having. I couldn't have earned this without any of them, especially Aleighsa [Welch]. The only way this could be better is if there was a way for her to have shared this award with me."
Five-time SEC Freshman of the Week selection Coates stamped her authority on the league right out of the gates, posting double-doubles in each of her first three SEC contests. She is the only freshman and only non-starter in the league to rank among the top 25 in scoring (12.2 ppg) and top 20 in rebounding (7.9 rpg). Her eight double-doubles are one shy of the South Carolina freshman record and include five in SEC play. Her 58 blocked shots this season are a new Gamecock freshman record and are tied for third on the program's all-time single-season list.
Welch added this season's first-team recognition to her second-team and all-freshman honors the previous two seasons. She is second in the SEC and among the nation's top 15 in field goal percentage (.570). She has shot at least 50.0 percent in 23 of 29 games this season, including nine games of at least 70.0 percent. Welch ranks 15th in the league in scoring (13.9 ppg) and ninth in rebounds (7.5 rpg). In the Gamecocks' seven games against ranked opponents, she led the team with 17.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. In addition to expanding the range on her jump shot, Welch has blocked 41 shots this season, nearly double either of her previous seasons. Her 1.9 blocks per SEC game are fifth-best in the league.
Ibiam headlines the Gamecocks' shot-blocking corps with her school-record 75, which rank her second in the SEC and top-25 in the nation. She became just the ninth Gamecock all-time to record 100 career blocks, currently holding 122 to stand sixth in school history. Ibiam also ranks 19th in the SEC in rebounding, including 4.6 per game on the defensive end to rank 14th in the league.
Staley led the Gamecocks to the program's first SEC championship with a record 14 conference wins. South Carolina's 26 regular-season victories are the most in school history and include four wins against nationally ranked teams with three of those coming on the road. The Gamecocks were ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation, the highest mark since January 1982, and turned in their first undefeated home season in Colonial Life Arena history.
As the top seed at the event, No. 5 South Carolina opens play in the SEC Tournament on Fri., Mar. 7, at noon against the winner of Thursday's Georgia/Vanderbilt game.
2014 SEC Awards (Coaches' Vote)Coach of the Year: Dawn Staley, South Carolina
Player of the Year: Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina
Freshman of the Year: Alaina Coates, South Carolina
Co-6th Women of the Year: Alaina Coates, South Carolina / Jennifer O'Neill, Kentucky
Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Martha Alwal, Mississippi State / Jordan Jones, Texas A&M
Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Lianna Doty, Missouri
2014 All-SEC First Team
2014 All-SEC Second Team
2014 SEC All-Defensive Team
2014 SEC All-Freshman Team
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