In an effort to promote the game of basketball and recognize the best players in the nation, the Basketball Hall of Fame created awards for the men’s All-America Team in 2015. These awards covered 5 different positions and were named after 5 of the best players to ever step onto the court: the Bob Cousy Point Guard Of The Year, the Jerry West Shooting Guard Of The Year, the Julius Erving Small Forward Of The Year, the Karl Malone Power Forward Of The Year, and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center Of The Year. This year the Hall of Fame announced a partnership with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) to present awards celebrating 5 of the best women to ever play the game: the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Of The Year, the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard Of The Year, the Cheryl Miller Small Forward Of The Year, the Katrina McClain Power Forward Of The Year, and the Lisa Leslie Center Of The Year. The watch list for the women’s awards were announced earlier this month (see below for some of the favorites) and the winners will be revealed in April. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Greg Procino, the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Vice President of Basketball Operations, about these awesome awards.
Why did the Hall of Fame decide to create these awards? The Hall of Fame is an institution that recognizes the entire game of basketball at all levels around the world. We are active in the college space on both the men’s and women’s side, including our own awards program. Based on the success of the men’s program that was launched a few years ago we decided to expand the women’s program this year. We know there is an overload of awards on both sides but we wanted to spread the most awareness and provide ourselves with a little separation in terms of recognition. We have partnered with ESPN and the WBCA to create a platform at the Women’s Final 4, which will give us the best shot to be very relevant.
How did you identify which 5 Hall of Fame women would be participating? We wanted a diverse/inclusive representation to cover the growth of the women’s game over time and thought it was best to not focus on just 1 single generation. The idea was floated internally more than a year ago since we represent the entire game of basketball. Part of the creation was built off of the men’s version but it was more a result of representing the entire Hall of Fame. We did not consider any current players because eligibility for the Hall of Fame was 1 of our criteria. We view this as a legacy opportunity for the 5 Hall of Famers who we did select and we wanted to highlight their accomplishments for a newer generation of basketball fans. Nancy Lieberman (at ODU) and Annie Meyers Drysdale (at UCLA) were 2 of the pioneers of women’s basketball. They were visible players on different sides of the country and we felt they were most reflective of the game over time. Nancy’s award has been in existence for almost 2 decades and we thought they were both good choices at their respective positions, even though there were a lot of viable candidates.
How has the Hall’s coverage of the women’s game changed over time? The women’s game is still growing but we have always been an all-inclusive place. The more relevant the WNBA becomes with its own star players, the more that will ultimately spread to the Hall. However, we have always had an enshrinement voting committee for the women’s game.
How do the awards evolve during the course off the season? The watch lists were released a few weeks ago and will be narrowed to 10 candidates and then again to 5 candidates in the months ahead. We expect everyone to be present to receive their awards during the Friday coverage at the Final 4 in Columbus, OH, and we will formally do the hand-off during the off-day that weekend. Players can play their way onto and off of the list so just because your favorite player is not on the 1st watch list does not mean that she will be excluded from winning the award in the spring. Year 1 for us will be foundational for us so that we can maximize the visibility of these awards well into the future.
Last season Washington’s Kelsey Plum won the Wade Trophy (as national player of the year) before becoming the 1st overall pick in the WNBA Draft by San Antonio Stars: how does the Wade Trophy fit into the equation with the 5 positional awards? It will still be managed by the WBCA but the partnership means that ESPN will announce our award winners on Final 4 weekend. Based on the history of the men’s award my guess is that the Wade Trophy winner will also win a positional award, but the voting processes are 2 separate paths.
Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award (19th year)
Watch list includes: Kelsey Mitchell from Ohio State (8th player ever to be a 3-time preseason All-American), Lexie Brown from Duke (set ACC record by making 56 consecutive FTs), Morgan William from Mississippi State (made buzzer-beater to end UConn’s record streak in Final 4)
Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard Award (inaugural year)
Watch list includes: Katie Lou Samuelson from UConn (set D-1 women’s record by making 10-10 threes in a win over South Florida), Victoria Vivians from Mississippi State (All-American)
Cheryl Miller Small Forward Award (inaugural year)
Watch list includes: Gabby Williams from UConn (2017 WBCA national DPOY), Shakayla Thomas from Florida State (ACC POY)
Katrina McClain Power Forward Award (inaugural year)
Watch list includes: Napheesa Collier from UConn (AAC preseason POY), Kristine Anigwe from California (All-American)
Lisa Leslie Center Award (inaugural year)
Watch list includes: A’ja Wilson from South Carolina (NCAA tourney MOP), Kalani Brown from Baylor (set school record with 67.9 FG%), Azura Stevens from UConn (sat out last year after transferring from Duke)