Big 12

Baylor’s Kalani Brown averaged a team-best 15.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots for the Big 12 champion Lady Bears, and her 67.3 field goal percentage was the second-best mark in the league. Brown earned the title of Tribune-Herald’s Big 12 Player of the Year.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte

Unstoppable (adjective) – impossible to stop or prevent.

See also Kalani Brown.

At the most important parts of the season, Baylor’s sophomore center could not be prevented from getting to where she wanted on the floor, and defenses were unable to stop her from scoring once she got there. In Baylor’s 70-67 come-from-behind win over Texas that put the Lady Bears in the Big 12 lead to stay, the 6-foot-7 Brown turned in the biggest game of her young career.

Consistently working to carve out position deep in the post, Brown took pass after pass, then turned and scored over whoever was in her path, putting up a career-high 35 points and 15 rebounds.

“I was just demanding the ball, period,” Brown said. “Coach (Kim Mulkey) said it was important for me to be a presence in there, offensively and defensively. That’s just what I was doing. I just had to do what Coach told me.”

In her second season, Brown has developed into the type of dominant post presence Baylor hasn’t had since Brittney Griner departed following the 2012-13 season. She averaged a team-best 15.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots for the Big 12 champion Lady Bears, and her 67.3 field goal percentage was the second-best mark in the league.

Got a spike strip handy? Maybe a straitjacket? Teams are beginning to have to get creative to try to stop Brown, the Tribune-Herald’s choice for Big 12 Player of the Year.

“Working hard, just working hard on both ends of the floor,” said Brown, the daughter of former NBA power forward P.J. Brown. “Trying to go get offensive boards, run the floor. Do things I didn’t really do last year. I’m just trying to extend my game, and it’s working.”

Running the floor, getting out ahead of oppositing posts – that notion was born out of hours that Brown spent on the treadmill over the offseason. Brown turned in a strong freshman year in 2015-16, averaging 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds and winning the Trib’s Big 12 Freshman of the Year honor.

But to extend her game, she knew she needed enhanced conditioning. So she devoted herself to revamping her body with BU strength coach Jeremy Heffner.

The results are plainly evident.

“She’s a sophomore, she’s 6-7, she’s lost weight, she’s our go-to girl, she’s a presence in there,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “Everything we do revolves around her.”

COACH OF THE YEAR:

KAREN ASTON, TEXAS

The gap between Baylor – winner of seven straight Big 12 championships – and Texas is narrowing.

Fifth-year coach Karen Aston has instilled the Lady Longhorns with a belief that they can not only play with anyone in the country, but that they can beat them, too. Texas went 22-7 in the regular season with a 19-game winning streak, including the program’s first win over Baylor since 2010.

In all, Texas defeated six Top 25 foes, and the Longhorns’ 14-0 start to Big 12 play was its best in program history. In recognition of her leadership in restoring Texas to an elite level in the landscape of women’s basketball, Aston is the Trib’s pick as Big 12 Coach of the Year.

“When you get any awards, whether it’s a player’s award or a coach’s award, it reflects on your whole program,” Aston said. “It reflects on how hard everyone has to work to be successful.”

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

LANAY MONTGOMERY, WEST VIRGINIA

Nobody in the Big 12 erases shots any better than Lanay Montgomery.

The 6-foot-5 West Virginia center, the Big 12’s top defender, excels as the Mountaineers’ last line of defense. She reigned atop the conference with 2.8 blocked shots per game and finished second in rebounding at 9.1 per contest.

She currently stands fourth in conference history and second in school history in shotblocking.

“Lanay Montgomery has made great strides in her five years with the program,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “She will leave WVU as one of the best defenders we’ve ever had.”

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR:

JESSICA WASHINGTON, KANSAS

Swapping Carolina blue for Jayhawk blue worked out pretty well for Jessica Washington.

In her first season for Kansas, the 5-foot-8 guard averaged 17.0 points per game – good enough for third in the conference – and was even better in Big 12 play, increasing her average to 19.3. That was a significant improvement from the transfer’s final season at North Carolina as a sophomore in 2014-15, when she averaged 7.3 points.

“Obviously, I am really proud of her,” said Kansas coach Brandon Schneider. “Any time that you have an individual accomplish something there’s also a team component. Jess is one of those rare players who can score the ball in so many ways and it’s impressive to see her numbers go up throughout Big 12 play, which rarely happens.”

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR:

JOYNER HOLMES, TEXAS

Texas freshman Joyner Holmes got her name from former U.S. Olympic track star JackieJoyner-Kersee.

Fittingly, Holmes made a speedy transition to college basketball. The 6-foot-3 forward out of Cedar Hill led all Big 12 freshmen in scoring (12.3), rebounding (8.3) and double-doubles (8), and was an easy choice as the Trib’s Freshman of the Year for the league.

In a show of her consistency, Holmes won the Big 12’s freshman of the week honor seven times this seaosn.

SIXTH WOMAN OF THE YEAR:

VIONISE PIERRE-LOUIS, OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma’s Vionise Pierre-Louis doesn’t need to start in order to finish.

Despite coming off the bench in all 18 of Oklahoma’s Big 12 games, the junior center led the Sooners in scoring (14.1) and rebounding (7.7) in league play. Her nine double-doubles were the most by an OU player in four years, and she also swatted away 58 shots on the season.

She claimed the Trib’s honor as the top reserve in the league for the second straight season.


TRIBUNE-HERALD ALL-BIG 12 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM

First Team

PosPlayerHtClPtsSchool
PKalani Brown6-7So15.0Baylor
PKaylee Jensen6-4Jr18.3Oklahoma St.
GJessica Washington5-8Jr17.0Kansas
GTynice Martin5-10So17.8West Virginia
GBrooke McCarty5-4Jr14.1Texas

Second Team

PosPlayerHtClPtsSchool
PVionise Pierre-Louis6-4Jr12.0Oklahoma
FJoyner Holmes6-3Fr12.3Texas
GA.J. Alix5-6Jr13.3TCU
GBridget Carleton6-1So15.5Iowa State
GAlexis Jones5-9Sr13.9Baylor
Player of the Year: Kalani Brown, P, Baylor
Coach of the Year: Karen Aston, Texas
Defensive Player of the Year: Lanay Montgomery, C, West Virginia
Newcomer of the Year: Jessica Washington, G, Kansas
Freshman of the Year: Joyner Holmes, F, Texas
Sixth Woman Award: Vionise Pierre-Louis, P, Oklahoma

ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM

PosPlayerHtPtsSchool
FJoyner Holmes6-312.3Texas
FLauren Cox6-48.4Baylor
FEternati Willock6-47.0Kansas State
FBrittany Brewer6-46.0Texas Tech
GArella Guirantes5-1110.0Texas Tech

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