Women's Basketball Trio Honored by the BIG EAST
March 2, 2016
NEW YORK - Led by Allazia Blockton, three Marquette University women's basketball players were honored by the BIG EAST Conference on Wednesday morning with the unveiling of its postseason awards.
Blockton was named the BIG EAST Freshman of the Year, while also garnering recognition on the all-conference second team and the all-freshman squad. Classmate Natisha Hiedeman was named to the league's all-rookie team along with Blockton and junior McKayla Yentz was honored as the BIG EAST Most Improved Player.
Blockton compiled one of the top freshman campaigns ever for a league newcomer, breaking the 21-year old BIG EAST freshman scoring record on her way to seven BIG EAST Freshman of the Week honors. The native Milwaukeean totaled 337 points in 18 conference games to pass the previous standard of 335 set in 1994-95 by Providence's Kerri Chatten.
"Allazia is a very special competitor who has carried a huge load for us this year as a freshman," second-year Marquette head coach Carolyn Kieger said. "She is very consistent and determined and has set very high goals for herself as well as this program. `Zaya' has had one of the most successful freshman seasons not only here at Marquette but in the history of the BIG EAST, which speaks not only to her talent but also her desire for greatness. Her knack for scoring and grabbing rebounds is very special, however I am most pleased with her assist-to-turnover ratio."
The 6-foot guard led the team with 18.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game during the regular season and is second on the squad with 3.3 assists per contest. She sits third in the league in scoring and fourth in rebounding.
"We talk a lot about becoming a complete player and being the best version of ourselves every day," Kieger said. "Allazia wants to be the best and she is learning to push herself out of her comfort zone. Her desire to impact this team and bring us to new heights is contagious. Our entire freshman class has made a huge impact on our program and I know the future is very bright for each of them. I look forward to watching them grow and develop together."
Hiedeman also put together an impressive rookie season for a squad which was one of the youngest in NCAA Division I. She averaged a team-high 33.0 minutes per game while starting all 29 contests and stood second to Blockton with 13.6 points per game and a squad-best 63 steals. The Green Bay native scored a season-high 30 points against Milwaukee on Dec. 22 and ranked third in the league in steals (2.2 per game) and made 3-pointers (65).
"Natisha is a player who brings her best effort every day," Kieger said. "Her energy is infectious and her passion makes everyone around her better. It is hard to find a freshman who comes in willing to play on both ends of the floor, however Natisha has made a huge impact on offense and defense for us this season. Her willingness to do whatever it takes for the team to win is inspiring. Whether it's guarding the point guard 90 feet or hitting a big 3-pointer, Natisha does it with enthusiasm. Her numbers have been consistent all season but I know her best basketball is still ahead of her."
Yentz earned the conference's most improved player award after more than tripling her scoring output from last season while starting all 29 games. She ended the regular season fourth on the squad in scoring (10.4 points per game), third in rebounding (5.2 per game) and minutes played (30.0 per game). The Sun Prairie, Wisconsin native also led the squad and was second in the BIG EAST with 70 made 3-pointers, a mark which is the third-highest total all-time in MU history.
"I could not be more proud of a player," Kieger said of Yentz. "McKayla is one of the hardest workers I have ever coached and has earned this award with her dedication and tireless work habits. I have never seen a player grow and improve as quickly as she has. She is a coaches' dream, who exemplifies character, hard work, leadership, and heart, day in and day out. We are extremely lucky to have her as our captain and I am personally grateful that I am able to coach her every day.
"Her success story needs to be shared as an example for other young players. She never once complained about playing time or made excuses. Instead, she got in the gym and worked on her craft, earning every minute she played this season. Whether it's leading by example or setting the standards for the team culture, McKayla always puts the program first. For her to receive this individual award makes me so happy because she deserves to be celebrated. Women's basketball needs more stories like Mckayla and I'm proud to be able to share her story."
Prior to Blockton and Yentz, no Marquette women's basketball player had previously earned the BIG EAST's freshman or most improved award.
The Golden Eagles have earned the No. 6 seed in the upcoming BIG EAST Tournament and will face third-seeded Seton Hall at 2:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, March 6 in DePaul's McGrath-Phillips Arena on FS2.
2015-16 BIG EAST Conference Women's Basketball Awards
BIG EAST Player of the Year
BIG EAST Freshman of the Year
BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year
BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year
BIG EAST Most Improved Player
BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award
BIG EAST Sixth Woman Award
BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete Award
All-BIG EAST First Team
All-BIG EAST Second Team
All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
BIG EAST All-Freshman Team
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