Wade winner Augustus earns third straight Kodak nod
BOSTON -- The games haven't even begun, but LSU senior Seimone Augustus already has one-upped her fellow Final Four participants.
Augustus was awarded the Wade Trophy -- given annually to the best women's college basketball player in the nation -- and was one of 10 players, including Duke's Monique Currie and North Carolina's Ivory Latta, named to the 2006 Kodak All-America team Saturday morning.
Augustus joins Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Nancy Lieberman (1979, 1980) as the only two-time Wade Trophy winners. Augustus, who led the nation in scoring this season and has guided the Lady Tigers to their third straight Final Four, also won the honor in 2005.
"This says a lot about our program," Augustus said. "We've been through a lot, losing coach [Sue] Gunter and dealing with Hurricane Katrina.
"It says a lot about about our immense focus, how my teammates have helped me out, to be the best that I can each and every day."
Augustus was the nation's top scorer this season and enters the Final Four averaging 23 points while shooting 57 percent from the field, which ranks 16th in the nation. She has scored 20 points or more 72 times, including 26 this season, scored in double figures in a school-record 96 straight games and scored in double digits in 131 of 139 career games, the most in NCAA history. She is also the NCAA's active scoring leader with 2,688 points.
Augustus is a three-time Kodak honoree. Currie -- whose Blue Devils clash with Augustus' Lady Tigers on Sunday in the national semifinals (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) -- and Rutgers' Cappie Pondexter, Baylor's Sophia Young, Ohio State's Jessica Davenport and Stanford's Candice Wiggins earned the accolade for the second straight season.
Latta, who earlier this week was named a unanimous Associated Press First-Team All-American, the USBWA player of the year, the Nancy Lieberman Award winner as the nation's top point guard, and the ESPN.com player of the year joined Georgia's Tasha Humphrey, Oklahoma's Courtney Paris and Tennessee's Candace Parker as first-time honorees.
Last year, Wiggins became just the ninth freshman to be included on the prestigious team since its inception in 1975. Now, Paris and Parker, the 10th and 11th freshmen included in the team's 32-year history, join legends such as Cheryl Miller, Lynette Woodard, Janet Harris, Katie Smith, Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and LaToya Thomas to earn Kodak honors in their freshman season.
While seniors led the way with four selections, the team also included two juniors, two sophomores and the two freshmen. Tennessee coach Pat Summitt says we should expect to see more and more underclassmen included in the future.
"Players are just getting better and better," Summitt said. "You look at the poise of those [Parker and Paris] and the contributions that they made to their respective teams and we're in a different era now.
"Players come out of high school a lot more mature, been playing basketball since they were 6 or 7 years old. They come into this game much more prepared. Not only are their skills better, but they're mentally tougher and understand what they have to do."
Parker, who became the first woman to dunk in the NCAA Tournament, doing it twice in Tennessee's opening-round victory over Army, also is in town training with USA Basketball. The redshirt freshman joined the 2006 USA Women's Senior National Team's final spring training session, which runs through April 12. The squad will train in Boston for four days before heading to Australia for the Opals World Challenge, which will feature Australia, China and Taiwan.
Parker called her Kodak moment a "tremendous honor," while Paris -- the only woman in NCAA history to tally 700 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks in a single season -- said "it's a great honor to sit up here with all these girls and get my first big experience of big-time basketball. It's definitely something I'm going to remember forever."
But who is the OU rookie picking this weekend in Boston?
"UNC," she said, "but don't tell anyone that!"
Melanie Jackson coordinates women's basketball coverage for ESPN.com.