Blue Demons Celebrate an Unforgettable Season
April 12, 2017
CHICAGO - Looking back on an unforgettable DePaul women's basketball season Tuesday night rekindled a rush of fond memories along with a video montage of highlight plays and good times.
The annual postseason awards banquet at the River North's Erie Café saw the Blue Demons handing out 13 team awards followed by heartfelt and sometimes humorous acceptance speeches.
Master of Ceremonies Meri Bennett-Swanson orchestrated the proceedings with a deft mix of snappy one-liners and a comedic touch cultivated from the two comedy classes she took at Second City. It was a fun-loving and festive awards show with captivating video presentations from video coordinator Bradley Bruno.
What the night revealed was the chemistry and defiance of a basketball team that simply would not allow the injuries of three starters to derail its season.
Listening to the poignant acceptance speeches from Jessica January and Brooke Schulte after sharing the evening's biggest award, you began to understand how this depleted group could win 10 games in a row.
They persevered thanks to a culture of genuine sharing----whether that meant making the extra pass in between the lines or sharing their concern for one another in difficult times. Someone always had your back.
Against some pretty formidable odds, these Blue Demons gathered to celebrate DePaul's 15th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance after winning the BIG EAST Conference regular-season title for the fourth year in a row.
DePaul finished with an overall record of 27-8 and went 16-2 in the BIG EAST, advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling to NCAA runner-up Mississippi State.
Coach Doug Bruno's program was among the nation's leaders in assists, rebounds, three-pointers, three-point attempts, assists per game, three-pointers per game, scoring offense and assist-turnover ratio throughout the 2016-17 season.
Headlining the awards portion of the night was the team's Most Valuable Player Award presented to January and Schulte. The seniors turned in standout performances that resulted in both being named WBCA Honorable Mention All-Americans.
January was the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year, the Maggie Dixon Classic MVP and was named to the all-tournament team of the prestigious Gulf Coast Showcase in Ft. Myers, Fla. She was leading DePaul in scoring and among the NCAA leaders in assists when she suffered a broken finger during the Blue Demons' BIG EAST opener at Georgetown.
After being sidelined for two months, the CoSIDA Academic All-American returned with a flourish posting 16 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in her second game back---a 79-70 victory over Georgetown. It was the second triple-double of her career and third in Blue Demon history.
Her comeback continued in helping DePaul advance to the BIG EAST tournament title game while being named to the BIG EAST All-Tournament Team.
Schulte had a break-out year, helping to lead the team in January's absence. She was named BIG EAST Player of the Year and won the league's Co-Most Improved Player Award along with the BIG EAST Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete Award. She joined teammate Jacqui Grant on the All-BIG EAST First Team.
The multi-dimensional guard from Germantown, Ill. was an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American, named to the 2017 I-AAA Athletics Directors Association Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete Team and also awarded the I-AAA ADA postgraduate scholarship.
Here is a breakdown of the other award winners from Tuesday night.
Shirley Becker Academic Awards
Maggie Dixon Captains Awards
Season Achievement Awards
Defensive Player of the Year---Jacqui Grant: The 6-foot, 3-inch forward led DePaul in blocked shots with 57 and was No. 1 in the BIG EAST during conference action. The BIG EAST Co-Defensive Player of the Year also led the team in defensive rebounds with 207 and was second in the BIG EAST.
Cookie Gavin Courage Award---Jessica January: The multi-talented and hardnosed point guard battled through the adversity and overcame a broken finger which required surgery and two months of rehabilitation to return this season and help lead DePaul to the BIG EAST regular-season title and NCAA tournament. Cookie Gavin was among the pioneer women's basketball players at DePaul who waged a courageous battle against cancer before succumbing as the mother of four young children.
Patricia Ewers Unsung Hero Award---Meri Bennett-Swanson: Her leadership and the example she set as a role model for the younger players were invaluable during a season when the Blue Demons endured three starters being sidelined by injury. Behind the scenes, Bennett-Swanson's engaging spirit and enthusiasm helped turn her teammates into a band of overachievers during the most difficult of times. Patricia Ewers was a staunch advocate for women's athletics and instrumental in helping provide opportunities for collegiate female student-athletes.
Season Leader Awards
Assists---Lauren Prochaska, Kelly Campbell, Jessica January: Prochaska helped fill a void as the lead facilitator in January's absence and finished with 102. Campbell matched that total en route to being named to the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team while January led the team with 129 despite sitting out 15 games.
Three-Point Shooting---Tanita Allen: The sophomore sharpshooter was the most accurate from behind the arc, connecting on 47-of-117 for 40.2 percent. She was 5-for-6 against Northern Iowa in the NCAA tournament opener and 5-for-7 against Seton Hall.
Steals---Amarah Coleman: The junior who is among the top defensive players on the team led the way with 47 thefts.
Rebounding---Jacqui Grant: Led the Blue Demons in total rebounds with 298 for an average of 8.5 per game. She was the conference's second-leading rebounder in BIG EAST games.
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