ATLANTA (AP) - With Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles out of the
way, DeWanna Bonner finally got her chance to shine.
Auburn's versatile star was a unanimous choice as player of the
year on The Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference team
released Tuesday, her reward for leading the Tigers to their first
league championship in 20 years and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA
That wasn't the only award claimed by Auburn. Nell Fortner was
an overwhelming pick for coach of the year after adding an SEC
title to a list of accomplishments that already included a Big Ten
championship at Purdue and an Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Sydney
Arkansas freshman Ceira Ricketts was named newcomer of the year.
The 6-foot-4 Bonner was easily the SEC's top scorer at 21 points
a game - no one else averaged more than 16.6 - and ranked third in
rebounding (8.5) behind Georgia's Angel Robinson (9.3) and
Kentucky's Victoria Dunlap (9.0). The senior became only the second
player in Auburn history to lead her team in scoring and rebounding
four years in a row.
"She's a special player," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said.
"You don't see many people with her size that have the skill set
that she has, playing from the outside or the inside. She's a great
competitor. She's just gotten better and better."
The last two years, Bonner played in the shadow of Tennessee's
Parker and LSU's Fowles. Parker was SEC player of the year in 2007,
while Fowles claimed the award last season. Both moved on to
instant stardom in the WNBA, with Parker becoming the first player
to win MVP and rookie of the year awards in her debut season.
Back in the SEC, Bonner picked up where Parker and Fowles left
off. She was the only unanimous choice to the All-SEC first team,
which also included teammate Whitney Boddie, Vanderbilt's Christian
Wirth, LSU's Allison Hightower and Florida's Sha Brooks.
Fortner had a versatile resume when she took over at Auburn in
2004, succeeding the winningest coach in school history, Joe
She guided Purdue to a Big Ten title in 1997 before moving on to
lead the powerful U.S. women's team to a world championship in 1998
and an Olympic gold medal two years later. The Americans went
101-14 during her reign, the most wins for a national team coach.
Fortner then tried her hand at the pro ranks, coaching the
WNBA's expansion Indiana Fever for three seasons. She led the team
to its first postseason appearance before resigning in 2003 with a
record of 42-56. The following spring, she took over at Auburn, a
one-time powerhouse that played in three straight national
championship games from 1988-90.
The Tigers slipped at the end of Ciampi's reign, missing the
NCAA tournament in three of his final four seasons. Fortner's first
three seasons also were a struggle, as the Tigers went 16-26 in
conference play and managed only one postseason bid, a consolation
prize to the Women's NIT.
Auburn finally made it back to the NCAA tournament last season,
but lost in the first round. The Tigers are counting on a much
longer appearance this season.
Fortner's started with 20 straight victories, including its
first win over perennial power Tennessee since 1997, before an
upset loss at Georgia. Vanderbilt is the only other team to beat
the Tigers, winning in Nashville and then pulling off a 61-54 upset
in the championship game of the SEC tournament.
Eager to move on from that defeat, the No. 8 Tigers (29-3) were
seeded behind Oklahoma in the Oklahoma City Regional. They open the
tournament Saturday against Lehigh at Piscataway, N.J., and could
face Rutgers on its home court in the second round.
"It's a tough road, there's no question," said Fortner, who
was named coach of the year on seven of eight ballots. "But there
are no easy roads, so that's OK, that's how the tournament works.
We're just looking forward to getting it going."
Boddie, a 5-9 guard, made sure Bonner got plenty of scoring
chances, pacing the SEC in assists at 8.1 a game. Brooks was the
SEC's second-leading scorer at Florida. Wirth, a second-teamer last
season, was promoted after ranking third in the SEC on scoring
(15.8) for the Commodores. Hightower, a junior guard, was the only
non-senior to make the first team; she averaged nearly 35 minutes a
game at LSU and placed sixth in scoring (14.3).
The second team included Florida's Marshae Dotson, Mississippi
State's Alexis Rack, Mississippi's Bianca Thomas, Georgia's Ashley
Houts, and Kentucky's Dunlap.
Ricketts received an honorable mention nod in addition to her
newcomer of the year award. The 5-9 Arkansas guard led the SEC in
steals (2.5) and ranked among the top 10 in scoring (12.8) and
The 13th annual AP All-SEC team was selected by a regional media
u-DeWanna Bonner, Auburn, G, 6-4, Sr.
Christina Wirth, Vanderbilt, G-F, 6-1, Sr.
Allison Hightower, LSU, G, 5-10, Jr.
Whitney Boddie, Auburn, G, 5-9, Sr.
Sha Brooks, Florida, G, 5-7, Sr.
Marshae Dotson, Florida, F, 5-11, Sr.
Alexis Rack, Mississippi State, G, 5-7, Jr.
Victoria Dunlap, Kentucky, F, 6-1, So.
Bianca Thomas, Mississippi, G, 5-10, Jr.
Ashley Houts, Georgia, G, 5-6, Jr.
Angie Bjorklund, Tennessee, F-G, 6-0, So.; Shawn Goff,
Mississippi, C, 6-3, Sr.; Sherell Hobbs, Auburn, G, 5-11, Sr.;
Ceira Ricketts, Arkansas, G, 5-9, Fr.; Jennifer Risper, Vanderbilt,
G, 5-9, Sr.; Angel Robinson, Georgia, F, 6-5, Jr.; Eleia Roddy,
Kentucky, F-C, 6-3, Sr.; Shekinna Stricklen, Tennessee, G-F, 6-2,
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - DeWanna Bonner, Auburn
COACH OF THE YEAR - Nell Fortner, Auburn
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR - Ceira Ricketts, Arkansas
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)