FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Florida Gulf Coast University women’s basketball team celebrated another successful season Wednesday night (April 5) with an awards banquet held at the Bell Tower Crowne Plaza.
The banquet was a celebration of the Green and Blue’s 29-3 (18-0 A-Sun) season that saw FGCU win the A-Sun tournament in its first season of eligibility, earn votes in the national Top 25 polls and, as a No. 12 seed, battled fifth-seeded St. Bonaventure before falling in overtime in the school’s first-ever NCAA tournament game.
Senior Courtney Chihil (Tipp City, Ohio/Alter HS) picked up a pair of awards as she was named the team’s Co-Player of the Year and the Eagle Award winner. The Eagle Award is given to the player that most personifies FGCU Women’s Basketball motto of ‘Play Like an Eagle’ (setting screens, taking charges, etc). Chihil was also honored for scoring 1,000 points and for becoming FGCU’s all-time leader in steals.
Redshirt-sophomore Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane HS) added to her long list of awards she has accumulated during the season when she picked up Co-MVP honors.
Senior Kelsey Jacobson (Barnesville, Minn./ Moorhead HS) picked up the Leadership Award, while classmate Eglah Griffin (Fort Myers, Fla./Dunbar HS/Seminole CC) was selected as winner of the Sharp Shooter Award.
Senior Nicoya Jackson (Houston, TexasCypress Springs HS/Southwestern Christian) and redshirt-freshman Amber Rechis (Martin, Tenn./Westview HS) were co-winners of the Most Improved Player Award.
Junior Brittany Kennedy (Spokane, Wash./Lewis and Clark HS/Oregon State) was named Defensive Player of the Year, while standout freshman Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds HS) walked away with the Newcomer of the Year honors.
Chihil, one of the Green and Blue’s captains, started in 31 of 32 games for the Eagles this season, helping FGCU to the fifth-best winning percentage in the nation. Her 3.86 GPA in nursing earned her a spot on the inaugural A-Sun Academic All-Conference team. A Capital 1 Academic All-District 4 first team and Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association (DI-AAA ADA) Women's Scholar-Athlete Team selection, Chihil finished the season as FGCU’s leader in minutes and ranked among A-Sun leaders (in conference games only) in seven categories (assist/turnover ratio, free-throw percentage, field goal percentage, assists, steals, three-point percentage and scoring). She ended her career ranking at or near the top five in five major categories in FGCU history. Chihil, whose performance at the A-Sun Tournament earned her All-Tournament team honors, wrapped up her 4-year career in the Green and Blue with 1,016 points (5th), 122 made three-pointers (6th), 603 rebounds (3rd), 199 steals (1st) and 333 assists (4th).
Hansen, a Full Court Mid-Major All-American Honorable Mention honoree, the A-Sun and DI-AAA ADA Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, the A-Sun Tournament MVP, a Capital 1 Academic All-District 4 first team selection and FGCU’s fifth (first unanimous) All-Conference first team selection in program history, finished the season averaging a team-best 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds and ranked second on the Eagles in steals (2.0) and blocks (23). Hansen, who holds a 3.95 GPA in chemistry and sits seventh all-time in scoring in program history with 884 points, wrapped up the year ranked in the top-15 in the A-Sun in six categories (points, rebounds, FG Pct., FT Pct., steals, blocks). The redshirt-sophomore scored in double figures 25 times this season, leading the Eagles in scoring in 15 contests, including eight of the last 10 games.
Jacobson earned all-conference honors for the first time in her career, being named to the All-Atlantic Sun second team. She also was named to the A-Sun’s All-Tournament team as FGCU captured the tourney title in Macon. Jacobson was third on the team in scoring, with 9.7 points per game in 2011-12, and she led the team in three-point field goals made (81). She ended her FGCU career with 1,263 career points, ranking 2nd in school history, and she finishes first on the FGCU and A-Sun career lists in three-point field goals made with 330. Her 330 career triples rank her 13th in NCAA Division I history.
Griffin started all 32 games in her senior season, averaging 9.1 points and 3.2 rebounds as a senior. She ranked second in the conference in three-point percentage (.460). She scored a season-high 19 points vs. NC State in Hawaii. Griffin, who ended her FGCU career with a total of 813 points and 286 rebounds, also knocked down 171 career three-point field goals, including 63 as a senior.
Jackson played in 27 games in her senior season, averaging 10.0 points as a senior. She ranked second in the conference in three-point percentage (.460). She was named CollegeSportsMadness.com National Mid-Major and A-Sun Player of the Week (Dec. 25) after recording 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists vs. Virginia Tech (Dec. 21). Jackson finished her two-year career at FGCU with 497 points and 184 rebounds.
Brittany Kennedy led the Eagles in steals (2.4) and was second on the team in rebounds (4.8). The Oregon State transfer ranked 2nd in the conference in steals (in A-Sun Regular Season games) and registered a steal in 20 of 24 games she has played in, including recording eight steals at Lipscomb on Jan. 14. Kennedy showed flashes of being a lock-down defender during the season when she held A-Sun leading scorer Briana Williams (Mercer) to 3 points and 7 points in their two meetings and forced 2012 A-Sun Player of the Year Victoria McGowan (Stetson) into 12 turnovers in two games. Kennedy also helped limit A-Sun Freshman of the Year Taylor Mills to six points, on 3-of-10 shooting, and five turnovers in their A-Sun semifinal matchup.
Rechis, after redshirting in 2010-11, saw action in 30 games off the bench in 2011-12. She averaged 4.8 points and shot 56.1 percent from the behind the arc, going 37-of-66. She registered career-highs in points (26), field goals (10), three-pointers (6) and minutes (26) on Nov. 28 vs. Webber International.
Knight averaged 8.0 points and 3.8 rebounds and had 54 blocks in an average of just 17.1 minutes during her rookie season. The Winston-Salem native, who earned A-Sun All-Freshmen team and All-Tournament honors, ranked 2nd in the A-Sun with 1.7 blocks per game (54 total). Knight’s 1.7 blocks rank her 65th in the nation (as of Mar. 11), while her 54 blocks rank her 2nd in FGCU history behind Robyn Swain (121).
After the welcome by Master of Ceremonies Tom James and the invocation by Hansen on Wednesday evening, the crowd of roughly 250 banquet-goers was treated to dinner and a spectacular season highlight video, with the latter coming courtesy of Director of Basketball Operations Mel Thomas.
The team’s five seniors – Sarah Brolsma-Whitfield (Eugene, Ore./South Eugene HS/Lane CC), Jackson, Griffin, Jacobson and Chihil – all had the opportunity to speak, sharing their thoughts and memories on their time at FGCU. Additionally, all of the players and coaches were presented with their 2012 Atlantic Sun Champions t-shirts and were sized for their championship rings.
The women’s program is coming of the most historic season in its Division I history, advancing to the NCAA Tournament and earning a No. 12 seed in the Raleigh Region. Led by three-time Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year Karl Smesko, FGCU finished with a 29-3 overall record that included a league-first 18-0 mark in the A-Sun. The Eagles verified the conference’s third-ever unbeaten regular season by cruising through the Atlantic Sun Tournament, taking the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament with a convincing 67-39 win over second-seeded and 20-game winner Stetson. The Green and Blue, with their seven trifectas vs. St. Bonaventure in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, set the NCAA record for three-pointers in a season (342).
Over the last two seasons the team’s five seniors were part of 57 wins, the best two-year win total in conference history. The Eagles went 57-7 (.891) during that time, winning back-to-back A-Sun regular season crowns and earning trips to national postseason play in both (WNIT in 2011; NCAA in 2012).
FGCU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL AWARDS
* Co-Players of the Year: Courtney Chihil and Sarah Hansen
* Eagle Award: Courtney Chihil
* Leadership Award: Kelsey Jacobson
* Sharp Shooter Award: Eglah Griffin
* Co-Most Improved Players: Nicoya Jackson and Amber Rechis
* Defensive Player of the Year: Brittany Kennedy
* Newcomer of the Year: Whitney Knight