Oct. 8, 2012
IRVING, Texas -
After having a pair of stellar seasons at Rice and in Conference USA, junior JESSICA KUSTER has been named the league's Preseason Player of the Year while Tulane is picked to win the 2013 C-USA women's basketball regular season title as voted on by the head coaches.
2012-13 C-USA Women's Basketball Preseason Poll & Team
The Green Wave and UTEP collected five first-place votes to earn the top-two spot on this year's preseason poll. UAB ranks third and picked up one first place vote, followed by Rice and Memphis. The Tigers also tallied one top vote. Tulsa rounds out the top six preseason picks.
This year's preseason team is made up of eight players from eight different Universities. Three are seniors and the remaining five are juniors.
Kuster is a two-time All-C-USA first team selection and became the third player in league history to earn first team honors and be voted Freshman of the Year in 2011. She wrapped up last season ranked ninth in the nation in rebounds and was one of only 21 players in the NCAA to account for a double-double. The San Antonio, Texas, native was responsible for 17.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while shooting .431 percent from the field. Kuster also earned a spot on the All-C-USA Defensive Team in 2012 due to her rebounding and shot blocking abilities. The junior led the Owls in scoring (17.3), rebounding (11.1), blocked shots (50), free throw percentage (71.6 percent) and field goal percent (43.1 percent).
The seniors on this year's list include Memphis' NICOLE DICKSON, OLIVIA GRAYSON of Tulane and TALEYA MAYBERRY of Tulsa. The trio are the top returning scorers for their teams and are members of the 1,000-point club.
Dickson was named to the All-C-USA second team last year and ended the season with a 29-point performance against Missouri State in the second round of the WNIT. The Greeneville, Tenn., native contributed 13.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game for Memphis. She also became the 22nd Tiger to score her 1,000th career point, passing the grand mark in a road win at Rice in last year's C-USA regular season finale. Dickson also set a school record during her junior campaign with seven-straight double-doubles. Head coach MELISSA MCFERRIN guided last year's club to its 19th 20-win season (25-8). She enters this season with two returning starters and six letterwinners. However, she welcomes a five-member freshman class that was ranked No. 39 in the country by ESPNHoopGurlz.com.
Grayson is one of three guards on the preseason list. She became the first Green Wave player to take the court with at least 1,000 career points (1,115 ) since All-American Grace Daley did so in 2000 (1,567 points). Grayson claimed All-C-USA first-team honors after ranking in the top 10 in four C-USA categories including scoring (13.0ppg/8th), assists (3.19apg/8th), assist/turnover ratio (0.81/10th) and free throw percentage (.823/2nd).
The 2011-12 Tulane squad finished 23-11 overall, tied for third in the C-USA regular-season standings with a 9-7 league mark, made it to the C-USA Championship title game for the third consecutive year and advanced to the second round of the WNIT. As a team, the Green Wave averaged 62.0 points, 40.2 rebounds, 14.9 assists, 9.5 steals and 4.8 blocks per game a year ago. From that team, head coach LISA STOCKTON returns 10 players and 84.6 percent of her scoring and 77.3 percent of her rebounding production.
Mayberry has been Tulsa's floor general since the first day she stepped on the court in 2010. Like Dickerson, she surpassed the 1,000 career point barrier her junior season and is just the eighth women's basketball player in school history to do so. She enters her final campaign with the Golden Hurricane ranked among TU's Top-10 career leaders in seven categories, including points (5th - 1,126), points per game (10th - 13.9), field goals made (7th - 394), 3-point field goals made (6th - 114), free throws made (8th - 224), assists (5th - 257) and steals (4th - 190). Head coach MATILDA MOSSMAN returns seven letterwinners, including three starters, and welcomes four newcomers to the team. TU brings back three of its top five scorers and four of its top five rebounds from a year ago.
Southern Miss' JAMIERRA FAULKNER is the remaining guard on the preseason list. The junior led the league and ranked third in the NCAA in assists per game with an average of 7.21. The all-conference first team selection tops the Golden Eagles chart and ranked third in the league in scoring with 17.2 points per game. After averaging 23.5 points and 5.5 assists during the C-USA Championship, Faulkner was named to the all-tournament team, becoming the first USM player to do so since 2009. She scored 20 points against UCF and netted 27 versus UTEP in tournament play.
AKIL SIMPSON of SMU, KARISMA CHAPMAN of UAB and UTEP's KAYLA THORNTON round out the 2012-13 C-USA Women's Basketball Preseason Team.
Simpson earned All-Conference USA second-team honors as a sophomore as she led the Mustangs with 10.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. She had nine double-doubles and reached double-figures in points 17 times. She scored at least 20 points three times, with a career-high 25 points at Tulane.
Chapman, who was a C-USA All-Freshman Team selection in 2011, also became the first UAB player named to the league's all-defensive team in 2012. The Blazers are one of only two C-USA programs (Southern Miss is the other) to return two players named first- or second-team all-conference last season. Chapman is one of the top all-around players in the league. She ranked in the top 10 in scoring (13.8ppg/8th), steals (2.6spg/4th) and blocks (0.9 bpg/9th) per game a season ago.
Ninth-year head coach AUDRA SMITH has coached UAB to three top three finishes in the Conference USA standings, two postseason berths and one Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) championship. The Blazers have set school and Conference USA records for scoring defense in each of the past two seasons, allowing 55.3 points per game in 2010-11 and a remarkable 49.1 points per contest in 2011-12. Last year's scoring defense mark ranked third in the nation behind only Connecticut and Hampton.
Thornton was voted to the 2012 All-C-USA second-team and was a member of the all-tournament squad. For the season, she accounted for 9.8 points, 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting .480 percent from the field. The El Paso native standout pulled down 12 rebounds in the Miners NCAA Championship game against Penn State.
UTEP won both the 2012 Conference USA regular season and tournament titles. The tournament title was the first in program history while it was the second regular-season crown. Head coach KEITHA ADAMS is excited to return three starters and seven letterwinners from a program that set the C-USA record for most wins in a single season with 29 (29-4).
The BOK Center and the Tulsa Convention Center will serve as host to the 2013 C-USA Basketball Championships in Tulsa, Okla., from March 13-16. Semifinals and the championship game will be shown live on CBS Sports Network.
2012-13 C-USA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PRESEASON POLL
1. Tulane (5)
2. UTEP (5)
3. UAB (1)
5. Memphis (1)
7. Southern Miss
11. East Carolina
(#) denotes first-place votes
2012-13 C-USA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PRESEASON TEAM
Nicole Dickson, Memphis - 6-0 / Sr. / F / Greeneville, Tenn./Greeneville HS
Jessica Kuster, Rice - 6-2 / Jr. / F / San Antonio, Texas/Reagan HS
Akil Simpson, SMU - 6-0 / Jr. / F / Duncanville, Texas/Duncanville HS
Jamierra Faulkner, Southern Miss - 5-6 / Jr. / PG / West Palm Beach, Fla./Trinity Christian Academy
Olivia Grayson, Tulane - 5-8 / Sr. / G / Metairie, La./Archbishop Capelle HS
Taleya Mayberry, Tulsa - 5-6 / Sr. / G / Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington HS
Karisma Chapman, UAB - 5-11 / Jr. / F / Calumet City, Ill./T.F. North HS
Kayla Thornton, UTEP - 6-1 / Jr. / F / El Paso, Texas/Irvin HS
PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jessica Kuster, Rice