Allen, Coleman Named Preseason All-BIG EAST
Oct. 18, 2017

NEW YORK – Amarah Coleman and Tanita Allen were named to the Preseason All-BIG EAST Women’s Basketball Team Wednesday at the conference’s Media Day event. In addition, Dee Bekelja was selected as the BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year.

DePaul, which has claimed at least a share of the BIG EAST regular-season title in each of the last four seasons, joins Marquette as the only teams with multiple preseason honorees.

Junior guard Tanita Allen, who earned 2017 BIG EAST Sixth-Woman of the Year honors, and senior guard Amarah Coleman, who started 34 games for the Blue Demons last year, earn preseason accolades. Allen averaged 9.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in 35 appearances off the bench while Coleman finished fifth on the team with an 11.2 scoring clip, upping that to 12.1 in BIG EAST play.

Bekelja becomes DePaul’s first BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year. The rookie guard was tabbed Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year in 2017 after averaging 19.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, leading Solon High School to a 23-2 record.

The Blue Demons were picked to finish second in the preseason coaches poll behind defending BIG EAST tournament champion Marquette.

Following a sophomore campaign which included winning the BIG EAST women’s basketball scoring title, a conference tournament crown and All-America accolades, Marquette junior guard Allazia Blockton was unanimously selected by the league’s head coaches as the 2017 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year.


 

 

Blockton led Marquette and the BIG EAST with 17.1 points per game and was a unanimous selection to the All-BIG EAST First Team. The sophomore became Marquette's youngest player to reach 1,000 career points and has already jumped to 21st on the program’s all-time list with 1,126 points after just two seasons. She garnered All-America Honorable Mention honors from the WBCA at season’s end.

Blockton was one of three Golden Eagles honored in the preseason as teammates Erika Davenport and Natisha Hiedeman earned spots on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team, with Davenport being a unanimous pick.

Davenport was one of four unanimous Preseason All-BIG EAST Team selections, along with Butler junior forward Tori Schickel, Georgetown junior guard Dionna White and Villanova junior guard Adrianna Hahn. Schickel finished her sophomore season as the nation’s fourth-best rebounder, averaging 11.7 boards per contest to go along with 14.6 points and earning All-BIG EAST Second Team honors.

White was also named to the second team after leading the league in steals while being the conference’s No. 4 scorer, averaging 15.2 points per game. Also an All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, Hahn led the Wildcats in scoring in league play with a 13.5 average. Nearly 65 percent of Hahn’s points came from beyond the arc as the then-sophomore averaged a BIG EAST-best .452 clip from deep. Davenport averaged just shy of a double-double in conference play with 13.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, while her .582 shooting percentage was tops by anyone with over 100 attempts.

Blockton is one of two returning All-BIG EAST First Team members in 2017-18, along with Creighton junior forward Audrey Faber. Faber led the Bluejays with a 12.8 scoring average over 32 starts as Creighton earned a share of the BIG EAST regular-season title and an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.

Junior guard Yoyo Nogic is the first Providence player since 2015 to garner preseason honors after leading the Friars to their most successful season since 2011-12. Nogic was the league’s No. 5 scorer in conference play, averaging 15.1 points per game thanks to a BIG EAST-best 3.3 triples per contest.

St. John’s junior wing Akina Wellere will look to lead the Red Storm to an 11th consecutive national postseason berth in 2017-18. Wellere earns a spot on the preseason all-conference squad as the top returning scorer for St. John’s, more than doubling her freshman scoring average with an 11.3 clip as a sophomore last season.

JaQuan Jackson represents Seton Hall on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team after finishing third overall in scoring last year with a 15.3 average over 28 games. The redshirt-senior guard is one of two returning starters for The Hall, which eyes its fourth 20-win season in five years.

The 2017-18 BIG EAST Preseason Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Poll was unveiled Wednesday with Marquette the strong favorite. The reigning BIG EAST tournament champion returns four starters and 10 letter-winners. Marquette earned all 81 available points to sit atop the poll, which was conducted by the league’s head coaches who were not permitted to vote for their own team.

BIG EAST tournament runner-up and co-regular-season champion DePaul earned the remaining first-place vote and came in second with 73 points. Coming off a trip to the WNIT Semifinals, Villanova placed third with 61 points, while 2017 regular-season co-champion Creighton followed in fourth (58 points). Georgetown rounded out the top five with 43 points, followed by Seton Hall (40 points), St. John’s (37), Butler (29), Providence (18) and Xavier (10).

Marquette is coming off one of its finest seasons in program history, winning its first BIG EAST Tournament title to clinch its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011. Marquette earned the highest seed (No. 5) in the NCAA Tournament that any BIG EAST team has had since conference realignment before finishing with a 25-8 overall record and 13-5 mark in conference play. The Golden Eagles went a remarkable 6-0 against top-25 teams last year, with a lineup that was predominantly made up of sophomores. That youthful group returns this season, as fourth-year head coach Carolyn Kieger welcomes back three All-BIG EAST honorees, including the 2017-18 unanimous BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year Allazia Blockton, who was an uncontested First Team pick in 2016-17.

DePaul earned at least a share of the BIG EAST regular-season title for a fourth consecutive season, advanced to the BIG EAST Championship final for the third time in four years and earned an NCAA Championship berth for the 15th consecutive season. The Blue Demons went 27-8 overall and 16-2 in league play despite being without a trio of pivotal players for the majority of the year, two of which were able to redshirt and return for 2017-18. Ashton Millender, who was limited to nine games last season, all during non-conference play, is the top returning scorer after averaging 12.8 points per game.

After winning four consecutive road games to advance to the WNIT Semifinals, Villanova finished 20-15 overall, including an 11-7 BIG EAST record. The Wildcats return over 90 percent of their scoring from a year ago, including their top six scorers and four starters. Adrianna Hahn highlights that list as the junior sharpshooter made over 45 percent of her attempts from deep in conference play, draining nearly three triples per game.

Claiming a share of the BIG EAST regular-season title for the first time and earning its first NCAA Championship berth since 2013, Creighton landed fourth in the preseason poll. The Bluejays went 24-8 overall and matched DePaul at 16-2 in conference play. Just two starters return from that Bluejay squad, including All-BIG EAST First Team pick Audrey Faber who led Creighton in scoring with a 12.8 clip in 2016-17.

Georgetown is coming off back-to-back national postseason berths (WNIT) and will look to continue the trend under first-year head coach James Howard. Previously Georgetown’s associate head coach, Howard inherits a talented bunch, including All-BIG EAST honoree Dionna White. The junior guard led the league in steals last year and was the No. 4 scorer, averaging 15.2 points per game. The Hoyas went 17-13 overall and 9-9 in BIG EAST play last year.

After three consecutive 20-win seasons accompanied by national postseason berths, Seton Hall suffered its first sub-.500 season in four years. The Pirates are poised for a return to their winning ways in 2017-18, however, with All-BIG EAST honorees JaQuan Jackson (preseason) and Kaela Hilaire (All-Freshman) joined by impact transfers Donnaizha Fountain (Temple) and Taylor Brown (Western Kentucky).

St. John’s will have some bulletin board material with its seventh-place preseason prediction. St. John’s clinched its fourth consecutive 20-win season in 2016-17, going 22-12 overall and 11-7 in BIG EAST play, while earning a national postseason berth (WNIT) for a 10th consecutive year. Three starters return from that squad, with Akina Wellere being the top returning scorer at 11.3 points per game.

In 2016-17, Butler suffered from some in-season turmoil due to injuries and transfers, but a more cohesive and experienced bunch makes for a positive outlook in 2017-18. The Bulldogs return their top six scorers from a year ago, headlined by juniors Tori Schickel and Michelle Weaver, and senior Sydney Buck. Butler went 6-25 overall and 2-16 in league play, but won a BIG EAST Tournament game for a second straight year.

Providence saw immediate dividends with the hiring of head coach Jim Crowley. In the Friars’ first season under Crowley’s direction, Providence (12-18, 4-14 BIG EAST) had its most wins, both overall and in BIG EAST play, since 2011-12, and earned its highest league finish since 1997-98. The Friars return a trio of starters from 2016-17, including team-leading scorer Jovana Nogic who drained a program-record 91 triples a season ago.

Xavier will be a young team in 2017-18, returning just one starter in Kindell Fincher. Redshirt junior Imani Partlow and senior Anniina Aijanen also played valuable minutes a season ago.  The Musketeers (12-18, 4-14 BIG EAST) welcome six newcomers, highlighted by 2016 West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year Jordyn Dawson.

BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
Allazia Blockton, Marquette, Jr., G*

BIG EAST Preseason Freshman of the Year
Dee Bekelja, DePaul, Fr., G

Preseason All-BIG EAST Team^
Tanita Allen, DePaul, Jr., G
Amarah Coleman, DePaul, Sr., G
Erika Davenport, Marquette, Jr., F*
Audrey Faber, Creighton, Jr., F
Adrianna Hahn, Villanova, Jr., G*
Natisha Hiedeman, Marquette, Jr., G
JaQuan Jackson, Seton Hall, R-Sr., G
Jovana Nogic, Providence, Jr., G
Tori Schickel, Butler, Jr., F*
Akina Wellere, St. John’s, Jr., G/F
Dionna White, Georgetown, Jr., G*
*unanimous selection
^extra player added due to a tie in voting

BIG EAST Women’s Basketball
Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Marquette (9) 81
2. DePaul (1) 73
3. Villanova 61
4. Creighton 58
5. Georgetown 43
6. Seton Hall 40
7. St. John’s 37
8. Butler 29
9. Providence 18
10. Xavier 10

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