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  • McCOUGHTRY NAMED 2011 GBALLMAG.COM MVP
    By Dave Wohlhueter

    Picking a most valuable player amongst so many worthy candidates is a tough chore because each one has their own attributes and reasons why they should be THE ONE.

    Certainly, Indiana's annual success is keyed by the presence of All-WNBA forward Tamika Catchings, who led the Fever to the Eastern Conference regular-season title. Guard Sue Bird kept Seattle in the running when last year's MVP, Lauren Jackson, was recovering from an injury. How about Tina Charles, Connecticut's outstanding second-year center? Charles had another outstanding season. Although Chicago didn't enjoy a great deal of success, center Sylvia Fowles certainly was the Sky's MVP.

    League champion Minnesota had many outstanding contributors so it's hard to single out any one player.

    The 2011 Gballmag.com most valuable player is Atlanta forward Angel McCoughtry. Without the third-year All-American from Louisville, the Dream definitely wouldn't have made its second consecutive appearance in the WNBA Finals.

    McCoughtry was second to Diana Taurasi of Phoenix for the league scoring title with 21.56 ppg. in the tightest race in League history; Taurasi had 21.63 ppg. McCoughtry was third in field goals made (235), and first in free throws converted (223). Second in the WNBA in steals (72), the 6-1 forward was named to the League's All-Defensive first team. McCoughtry grabbed 5.2 rpg., and ranked ninth in efficiency (17.8). In the WNBA Finals, she broke her own Finals game record by scoring 38 points in Game 2.

    In the playoffs, McCoughtry topped everyone in scoring with 23.1 ppg. She made the most free throws (59), and had the most steals (24).

    Eight difference League franchises are represented on the Gballmag.com all-star first and second units, with Minnesota and Phoenix having two players apiece. Atlanta, Chicago, Connecticut, Indiana, New York, and Seattle each had one player selected.

    Joining McCoughtry on the first team are Catchings, Fowles, Taurasi and Minnesota guard Lindsay Whalen. McCoughtry was named to the Gballmag.com second unit last season after winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2009.

    This is Catchings' fourth time on the Gballmag.com first quintet after one second-team placement. The former Tennessee All-American averaged 15.5 ppg. and 7.1 rpg. She ranked fourth in the WNBA in free throws made (143) and in steals (2.03 spg.), while being named to the WNBA All-Defensive first team. She was fifth in efficiency (19.6).

    Fowles, like Catchings, gets the job done at both ends of the court. She was third in the League with 20.0 ppg., and ranked second in rebounds (10.2 rpg.). The former LSU All-American was first in field goals made (263) and second in field goal percentage (.591). Fowles ranked third in free throws made (154). At the other end of the court, she is the Gballmag.com Defensive Player of the Year, ranking No. 1 in blocked shots (68, 2.00 bpg.), and having 1.21 spg. Fowles was second in the WNBA in double-doubles with 22. The Sky center played the most minutes per game in the League (34.6 mpg.). She was the best in the League in efficiency (24.5). She was named to the Gballmag.com second team in 2010.

    Taurasi has been an annual member of the Gballmag.com all-star first team, with her sixth appearance in seven seasons in the WNBA. She was named Rookie of the Year in her initial campaign. Taurasi topped the league in scoring (21.63 ppg.) for the fourth consecutive season to grab the WNBA Peak Performer spot in that category, and led the League in 3-pt. shots made (81). The former UConn All-American was second in the WNBA in free throws made (195). She was seventh in efficiency (18.1).

    Whalen was the engineer of the Minnesota attack. She was No. 1 in the WNBA in assists (5.85 apg.) to win the WNBA Peak Performer honor in that category, while scoring 13.6 ppg. The former University of Minnesota All-American made 51.1 percent of her shots, and grabbed 3.5 rpg. Whalen ranked No. 10 in efficiency (16.0). She was named to the Gballmag.com second team in 2008.

    Named to the Gballmag.com second team are forward Seimone Augustus of Minnesota, forward Penny Taylor of Phoenix, Charles, guard Cappie Pondexter of New York, and Bird.

    Augustus, another LSU All-American, was instrumental in the success at Minnesota. She averaged 16.2 ppg. and 3.5 rpg. She was fourth in the League in field goals made (231), and made 50.4 percent of her shots from the field. Augustus also averaged 2.21 apg. The 2006 SEC Player of the Year was the Gballmag.com Rookie of the Year that same summer, and named to the Gballmag.com second team in 2006 and 2007.

    Taylor, a native Australian, is one of those players that every team needs. She makes her teammates better through her own outstanding attributes. She averaged 16.7 ppg. in the Phoenix high-octane offense, and got things started with 4.9 rpg. In her ninth year in the WNBA, Taylor made 51.1 percent of her shots from the field, and was sixth in free throws made (111). She ranked No. 7 in the WNBA with 1.69 spg. Taylor was named to the Gballmag.com first team in 2007 and was the website's Most Improved Player that same year.

    Charles has had a short, fantastic professional career. The former UConn All-American, drafted No. 1 by the Sun in 2010, was last year's Gballmag.com Rookie of the Year, and selected on the second team. For the second year in a row, she led the League in rebounds (11.0 rpg.) to win the Peak Performer award in that category, and broke her own record for double-doubles in a season with 23. Charles was second in the League in field goals made (254) and blocks (1.76 bpg.), and fifth in minutes played per outing (33.4). She averaged 17.6 ppg., sixth best in the WNBA.

    Pondexter helped the Liberty to another successful season. She averaged 17.4 ppg. and pulled down 4.1 rpg. The former Rutgers All-American tossed out 4.71 assists per outing, and ranked No. 6 in 3-pt. field goals made (58). She was fourth in minutes played per game (33.9), and had 1.26 steals per contest. Pondexter was named to the Gballmag.com first teams in 2010 and 2009, the latter with the '09 champion Phoenix Mercury.

    Bird, named to the Gballmag.com first teams in 2008 and 2010, was the glue that kept Seattle together after Jackson had to leave the Storm due to injury. The former UConn great, where she won the Nancy Lieberman Award three times as the country's top collegiate point guard, averaged 14.7 ppg. in 2011 for Seattle. She was third in the League in 3-pt. shots made (71), and fifth in assists (4.85 apg.). Bird ranked seventh in minutes played per game (33.0), and had 1.41 steals per outing. She is the 2011 co-recipient, along with San Antonio center Ruth Riley, of the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award.

    This year's Gballmag.com Rookie of the Year is Minnesota forward Maya Moore. Drafted No. 1 last spring after an illustrious career at UConn in which she led the Huskies to a pair of national championships, Moore topped all rookies in points (13.2 ppg.), minutes played (28.0 mpg.) and steals (1.4 spg.). She was second overall amongst the first-year players in rebounds (4.6 rpg.), and third in assists (2.7 apg.). Moore started the all-star game, and was the first rookie to do so since Catchings and Bird in 2002.

    There were many deserving candidates for the Most Improved Player Award, but in the end, Gballmag.com chose Tulsa forward Tiffany Jackson for this year's award. Jackson was drafted by New York in 2007, and traded to Tulsa during the 2010 season. This season she averaged 12.4 ppg. for the Shock, as compared to 7.6 ppg. in 2010; and grabbed 8.4 rpg. (fourth in the WNBA) to 5.8 two seasons ago. The four-year pro from the University of Texas averaged 33.9 mpg. (3rd in the WNBA) this past summer compared to 23.7 mpg. in 2010. This past season she had 11 double-doubles that ranked third in the League, and her 1,152 minutes was second best in 2011.

    The best coaching job turned in this past season was by Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve. Granted, the Lynx had talent, but it was young team, and Reeve made the right moves at the right time. Minnesota had the best season in franchise history (27-7). The club's 14-game improvement over last season (13-21) is the second-largest turnaround in WNBA history. Offensively, the Lynx shot a franchise-best 46.1 percent, and ranked third in the League in scoring (81.5 ppg.). Defensively, Minnesota held opponents to a league-low 41.3 percent in shooting. The Lynx led the League in rebounding (36.5 rpg.). This was only Reeve's second season as a head coach in the WNBA.

    The 2011 season is in the books, and it was a record-setting campaign.

    2011 AWARDS
    Gballmag.com Winners
    MVP Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta
    Defensive Player Sylvia Fowles, Chicago
    Most Improved Player Tiffany Jackson, Tulsa
    Rookie of the Year Maya Moore, Minnesota
    Coach of the Year Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota

    WNBA Media Winners
    MVP Tamika Catchings, Indiana
    Defensive Player Sylvia Fowles, Chicago
    Most Improved Player Kia Vaughn, New York
    Rookie of the Year Maya Moore, Minnesota
    Coach of the Year Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota

    GBALLMAG.COM TEAMS
    First Team
    Angel McCoughtry, Dream
    Tamika Catchings, Fever
    Sylvia Fowles, Sky
    Diana Taurasi, Mercury
    Lindsay Whelan, Lynx

    Second Team
    Seimone Augustus, Lynx
    Penny Taylor, Mercury
    Tina Charles, Sun
    Cappie Pondexter, Liberty
    Sue Bird, Storm

    WNBA TEAMS
    First Team
    Angel McCoughtry, Dream
    Tamika Catchings, Fever
    Sylvia Fowles, Sky
    Diana Taurasi, Mercury
    Lindsay Whelan, Lynx

    Second Team
    Seimone Augustus, Lynx
    Penny Taylor, Mercury
    Tina Charles, Sun
    Cappie Pondexter, Liberty
    Sue Bird, Storm

    Dave Wohlhueter is Gball's WNBA and women's college game expert. He is a former Sports Information Director at Cornell University, as well as a member of the school's Hall of Fame. He worked in media relations at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He recently was named the winner of College Sports Information Directors of America's 2007 Bob Kenworthy Good Person Award, which annually is awarded to a CoSIDA member for civic involvement and accomplishments outside the sports information office.




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