LSU guard earns 44 of 45 votes for team
Give Seimone Augustus the basketball and watch her go to work. Nothing is more comforting to the LSU Lady Tigers -- or more unsettling for their opponents.
"When she touches the ball," LSU coach Pokey Chatman said, "something special is going to happen."
Augustus has tormented defenders for two years and the accolades have poured in. She received another Tuesday as the No. 1 choice on The Associated Press' preseason All-America team.
The 6-foot-1 junior received 44 of 45 votes from a national media panel. She was joined on the team by Minnesota's Janel McCarville (35 votes), Kansas State's Kendra Wecker (33), Tennessee's Shyra Ely (20) and Notre Dame's Jacqueline Batteast (19).
Augustus, Ely and Wecker were third-team All-Americas last season, while McCarville and Batteast were honorable mentions.
Augustus, a starter from the day she arrived at LSU, averaged 19.4 points and 6.0 rebounds last season and was at her best in the NCAA tournament. She strung together games of 21, 26, 29 and 29 points in leading LSU to its first Final Four appearance.
"In my opinion, she is the best player in the country," said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson, whose team plays LSU on Sunday. "I go back to the Cheryl Miller days, the Cynthia Cooper days. She is that kind of player."
Also a stronger player, said Chatman, who would like to see her star make better use of her free throw shooting. Augustus shot 90 percent from the line last season but averaged only three attempts a game.
"She's taking more contact," Chatman said. "Sometimes I tell her she lets the defense off the hook. When you shoot 90 percent from the line, you should try to get there more often."
While Augustus plays with a fluid athleticism, McCarville's game is built on strength and power in the low block. But like Augustus, the 6-2 senior was sensational in regional play while leading the Gophers to their first Final Four.
McCarville averaged 19.4 points and 15.0 rebounds in five NCAA games, setting a tournament record with 75 rebounds. For the season, she averaged a double-double (16.1 points, 10.8 rebounds) and shot 61.6 percent.
"She has already proven she is a dominating player in the paint and the premier post player in the country," Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. "This season she has the chance to become the best player in the nation overall."
McCarville has to overcome a minor setback. A broken bone in her left hand will keep her out of at least two games.
Wecker, a 5-11 senior, assumes more responsibility at Kansas State now that All-America center Nicole Ohlde is gone. Even with Ohlde around, Wecker got plenty of opportunities last season, averaging 16.8 points and 8.1 rebounds.
She needs 518 points to pass Ohlde as the Big 12's career scoring leader. Wecker scored 521 last season.
"Playing out here in the Midwest, we don't receive a lot of recognition like some of the big powerhouse schools such as Tennessee, Duke and UConn," Wecker said. "To be named a preseason All-American is a great honor not only for myself, but for Kansas State women's basketball."
Ely is the third preseason All-America with Final Four experience. She averaged 14.5 points and 8.0 rebounds last season to lead a balanced Tennessee team that lost to Connecticut in the national championship game.
This season, the 6-2 senior is being counted on to do even more.
"We need for her to be a defensive stopper and an offensive go-to," coach Pat Summitt said. "There's no question she's ready for it. I think that starts in practice and she's demonstrated she wants that role."
Reliability has been the mark of Batteast's career at Notre Dame. The 6-2 senior has started 64 straight games and scored in double figures in 72 of her 90 games with the Irish.
Batteast averaged 16.0 points and 8.6 rebounds last season in helping Notre Dame reach the East Regional semifinals. She wants more this season, namely a trip down the highway to Indianapolis and the Final Four.
"We all have one goal in mind and we're going to do everything possible to make that happen," Batteast said. "Individual awards are great, but the success of this team is what this season will be all about."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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