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@FGCU_WBB Named Preseason Favorite, Hansen, Knight & Dunson Earn Atlantic Sun Honors
MACON, Ga. – On the heels of two perfect Atlantic Sun seasons, the FGCU women’s basketball team has been predicted to continue its success as the preseason favorite in both the Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Coaches Poll and the A-Sun Media poll, as announced by the league office Thursday. Individually, senior Sarah Hansen was chosen to repeat as Conference Player of the Year and was a unanimous choice for the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team, while redshirt sophomore Whitney Knight was also named to the Preseason All-Conference Team.
In addition to the coach-voted awards, Hansen earned the Facebook fan-voted Player of the Year award, while DyTiesha Dunson was named the fan’s Defensive Player of the Year. Stetson’s Sasha Sims was named the coaches’ Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
With 97 points, the Eagles finished nine points ahead of defending A-Sun Tournament Champion Stetson in the coaches poll, while FGCU earned 327 points in the media poll. The Green and Blue picked up seven of the league’s 10 first-place votes in the coaches poll and was voted as the top-ranked team 30 times by the media. Stetson, Mercer and Northern Kentucky picked up the second, third and fourth rankings in both polls.
“We have high expectations for this season,” said head coach Karl Smesko. “However, we understand preseason rankings don’t mean anything. Whoever the best team in the conference is will have to prove it on the floor.”
The Eagles were picked to finish atop the league’s standings for the fifth-consecutive year after winning the A-Sun regular season in four of the last five seasons. In six seasons of A-Sun action, the Eagles hold a record of 100-12. The impressive mark includes a 36-game win streak in regular-season play that dates back to 2011.
Last season, the Green and Blue went 18-0 in conference action before falling to Stetson, 70-64, in the conference championship game. The Eagles will open the A-Sun schedule with Stetson at Alico Arena this season.
Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane High School) enters her senior campaign as one of FGCU’s most decorated athletes. She currently stands as the all-time program leader with 1,439 career points and ranks among the top three in 15 statistical categories.
“Sarah has been a top player in this conference for a long time,” boasted Smesko. “She continues to improve her game. Her three-point shot has improved tremendously this off-season. She is such a great competitor.”
Hansen earned Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year and College Sports Madness Player of the Year awards after a phenomenal junior year. Last season, the guard was a first-team all conference honoree after ranking among the top statistical performers in the league. Hansen averaged 16.3 points per game with 7.5 rebounds per contest and shot over 48 percent from the field, while grabbing 74 steals and recording 28 blocks in 34 games.
In addition to the Player of the Year awards, Hansen’s junior year ended with an abundance of accolades. The awards include an Atlantic Sun Player of the Week nod, three College Sports Madness Player of the Week awards, a Full Court Mid-Major All-American Honorable Mention, a position on the 2013 Capital one All-District-4 First-Team and her second-consecutive FGCU Most Outstanding Student-Athlete Award.
This season, Hansen has already earned the College Sports Madness Preseason Player of the Year award.
Hansen returns for her final season with the Green and Blue with an improved shot and a continued sense of leadership for the Eagles.
Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School) returns to the lineup as a redshirt sophomore after sitting out the 2012-13 season with an injury. As a rookie, Knight was named to the A-Sun All-Freshman Team and earned the nod of Newcomer of the Year at the team’s end of year banquet.
“Whitney is a much better player right now than she was her freshman season,” explained Smesko. “She is much stronger, and she looks fully recovered from her knee injury.”
During the 2011-12 season, Knight saw action in all 32 games for FGCU with an average appearance of 17.1 minutes. She recorded 8.0 points per contest and put up a career-high 20 points on two occasions. She pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds in her collegiate debut and also dished out eight assists that same night. She totaled 25 points through three A-Sun Tournament games and was in turn named to the 2012 Atlantic Sun Conference All-Tournament Team.
Dunson (Albany, Ga./Westover High School) earned the conference’s fan-voted Defensive Player of the Year award after picking up 149 ‘likes’ in a Facebook vote. Dunson began her collegiate career with the Preseason Freshman of the Year award from College Sports Madness. She went on to appear in 25 games for the Eagles, while averaging 19.2 minutes, 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. The sophomore recorded a career-high 12 points against USC Upstate and grabbed a career-high four steals at Jacksonville last season.
Knight and Dunson return to the court with another year of experience and will look to make a mark on an already successful program.
Fans in SWFL will be introduced to this year’s squad as part of Dunk City After Dark Presented by Coconut Point Ford, FGCU’s Midnight Madness event which will be shown on ESPNU on Friday, Oct. 18, beginning at 9 p.m. Admission is free, but a large crowd is expected. Fans can ensure a seat by purchasing a discounted $3 volleyball ticket as the Eagles will face Lipscomb at 7 p.m.
Hansen, Knight, Dunson and the rest of the Eagles will open the 2013-14 slate on Friday, Nov. 8, with a 6 p.m. contest at FIU. The Eagles’ first home contest against Bethune-Cookman is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. Atlantic Sun action will begin on Saturday, Jan. 4, when the Eagles host 2012-13 regular season runner-up Stetson.
2013-14 women’s basketball season tickets are selling quickly. Fans can reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets.
Preseason Player of the Year: Sarah Hansen, FGCU
Fan-Voted Preseason Player of the Year: Sarah Hansen, FGCU
Defensive Player of the Year: Sasha Sims, Stetson
Fan-Voted Defensive Player of the Year: DyTiesha Dunson, FGCU
Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team
*G, Sarah Hansen, FGCU
*G, Queen Alford, Jacksonville
*G, Kendra Grant, Mercer
*F, Sasha Sims, Stetson
G/F, Destiny Mitchell, ETSU
G, Whitney Knight, FGCU
G, Briana Williams, Mercer
G, Precious Bridges, Mercer
G, Kayla Thacker, Northern Kentucky
C, Brittany Starling, USC Upstate
Preseason Women’s Basketball Coaches Poll
(1st Place Votes) Points
1. FGCU (7) 97
2. Stetson (2) 86
3. Mercer (1) 83
4. Northern Kentucky 66
5T. ETSU 49
5T. North Florida 49
7. Jacksonville 43
8. USC Upstate 41
9. Lipscomb 22
Preseason Women’s Basketball Media Poll
(1st Place Votes) Points
1. FGCU (30) 327
2. Stetson (2) 285
3. Mercer (1) 244
4. Northern Kentucky 183
5. USC Upstate 163
6. North Florida 158
7. ETSU 151
8. Jacksonville 132
9. Kennesaw State 89
10. Lipscomb 83