Augustus an overwhelming choice
INDIANAPOLIS -- Winning the national championship might be the only thing that could make LSU's Seimone Augustus happier.
Augustus, who has led her team to a second straight Final Four, was an overwhelming selection Saturday as The Associated Press player of the year in women's basketball.
Earlier in the day, she received the Wade Trophy, another player of the year award, and was named to the Kodak/WBCA All-America team. Two weeks ago, Augustus was the only unanimous choice on the AP All-America team.
"If I had to predict the perfect day, this would be it," she said. "To win two very prestigious awards in women's basketball on the same day is truly an honor."
Joanne P. McCallie, who got Michigan State into the Final Four for the first time, was named the coach of the year. McCallie had more than twice as many votes as two other Final Four coaches -- Baylor's Kim Mulkey-Robertson and LSU's Pokey Chatman.
Augustus has helped lift an already-strong LSU program to an even higher level. She led the Lady Tigers to their first Final Four last season, and they rolled to the regular-season Southeastern Conference championship this year with a 14-0 record.
LSU spent 11 weeks at No. 1, longer than any other team, and was seeded No. 1 overall in the NCAA Tournament.
"I'm very glad I'm receiving these awards, but it means even more that my team is a success," Augustus said. "Coming to the Final Four means much more than just being the college player of the year. If you're not successful as a team, you still have doubts in your mind."
There can be no doubting her talent, however. With her pull-up jumper and fadeaway, the 6-foot-1 junior has what's regarded as the best mid-range game in the country. At Chatman's urging, she has gotten stronger and more aggressive going to the basket and drawing fouls, a smart move considering she makes 87.4 percent of her free throws.
Augustus is averaging 20.1 points and shooting 54.7 percent from the field. She has scored in double figures in 61 straight games and had a career-high 33 last November in a victory over Baylor, the team LSU plays Sunday night.
So how do you stop her?
"You just have to say a lot of prayers," Mulkey-Robertson said. "You have to hope that she either gets in foul trouble or misses a lot of shots, because I'm not sure anyone has stopped her yet."
Augustus has done well off the court, too. A fashion design major -- she hopes to own a clothing store one day -- Augustus will graduate this summer, just three years after enrolling.
"You just have to get after it," she said. "I do have some free time, but it's all about books and basketball."
Augustus received 39 of 45 votes from the national media panel that selects the Top 25 teams in The AP poll. Kansas State's Kendra Wecker and LSU's Temeka Johnson each received two votes, while Notre Dame's Jacqueline Batteast and Ohio State's Jessica Davenport both had one.
McCallie, in her fifth season at Michigan State (31-3), has guided the Spartans to a school record for victories, a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and the conference tournament championship. She received 18 votes, Mulkey-Robertson was next with eight and Chatman received seven.
In an impressive of show of solidarity, McCallie's players, members of her family, Michigan State administrators, the band, cheerleaders and even the Spartan mascot flooded the room for the awards ceremony and gave her a long standing ovation.
"These players motivate me and have made this year so special," a beaming McCallie said. "This award has come because of that they have done."
McCallie started her coaching career as an assistant to Joe Ciampi at Auburn, which went to the Final Four twice when she was there. She had six NCAA Tournament teams in eight seasons at Maine before moving to Michigan State in 2000.
"The thing about coaching is that players do what they believe and not what they're told, and Joanne does a great job of developing a belief in her system and the type of defensive philosophy she has," Ciampi said. "It's a defense with adjustments and her players buy into that system and trust her to make the right adjustments. She has developed into a great game coach, which is what it takes to have success in the NCAA Tournament -- that and some luck."
And in McCallie's case, some tremendous support.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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