Vols' Parker, UConn's Auriemma win AP player, coach of the year honors
TAMPA, Fla. -- Candace Parker has been selected The Associated Press women's college basketball player of the year while Connecticut's Geno Auriemma earned the women's coach of the year honor for the fifth time Saturday.
Parker led Tennessee to its second straight Final Four appearance this season.
"I don't know of another player -- I haven't coached one -- who was 6-foot-5 with the skill set she has," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said.
Parker received 40 votes from the 50-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Maya Moore was second with five votes. Sylvia Fowles and Candice Wiggins had two each and Crystal Langhorne one.
Parker, a 6-foot-5 junior, averaged 21.6 points and 8.3 rebounds this season. On Tuesday night, she scored eight of her 26 points in the second half after twice dislocating her left shoulder to help Tennessee rally past Texas A&M and into the Final Four. She scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the regional semifinals to send the Lady Vols over Notre Dame.
"I feel like just knowing when to take over and not waiting," Parker said. "I try to play hard on both ends of the court and provide what my team needs."
Parker was a unanimous All-American, earning first-team honors for the second straight year. She not only helped Tennessee win the national championship last season, but also sparked the U.S. team during Olympic qualifying by averaging a team-high 13.8 points in the FIBA Americas tournament in Chile. Parker will be a major part of the U.S. team at the Beijing Olympics.
Parker will graduate this May and not return for her last year of eligibility. She most likely will be the first pick by the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA draft Wednesday.
Auriemma guided UConn to a 36-1 record, the lone blemish a 73-71 defeat to Rutgers on Feb. 5. The Huskies lost two starters to season-ending knee injuries yet returned to the Final Four for the ninth time. This was UConn's first visit since 2004, its longest drought in 20 years.
"Anytime you're recognized for doing something that you're trying to do really well you always feel humbled a little bit," said Auriemma, who also won the award in 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2003.
He received 13 votes, followed by North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell with 11 and Utah's Elaine Elliott and Kansas State's Deb Patterson with six each.
"This is one year where I think we as a coaching staff probably have earned it," he said. "Some years you have the best players and go and do what you know you should be doing. There isn't that much adversity, there isn't that much to overcome.
"This particular year, the players in our program probably did do some things that I think was above and beyond what you normally do during the season."
Auriemma, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006, most likely will have a couple of his players drafted by the WNBA on Wednesday.
In addition, Ketia Swanier and Charde Houston graduate, along with Mel Thomas and Brittany Hunter. Thomas was sidelined for the second half of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Hunter. Hunter has had knee injuries for her entire career at Connecticut, playing about a dozen minutes in any game. However, she's started every game of the NCAA tournament.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.