From one end of the court to the other, Brittney Martin was the definition of all-around talent during the 2015-16 season.
On the offensive end, she was the motor of Oklahoma State’s offense, finishing the regular season as the only Big 12 player to average more than 20 points a game. When the battle moved to the paint, she proved she could rebound with the best players in the league.
But she was just as deadly on defense, constantly swiping at the ball for steals and scrapping at the post for defensive boards. She also didn’t mind getting her hands in the air to swat down a shot.
Despite her 6-foot frame, the speedy Martin was the only player in the conference to average a double-double on the year. During the regular season, she led the league in scoring (20.4 points per game), rebounds (11.3) and steals (2.9). If she keeps it up, she’ll be the first player in Big 12 history to lead the league in all three categories.
When Oklahoma State bowed out of the Big 12 tournament against archrival Oklahoma on Saturday, Sooners head coach Sherri Coale had an encouraging message for the Cowgirls’ phenom.
“She said I was going to be a great pro player and she is glad she doesn’t have to play me anymore,” said Martin, who scored 17 points in the loss.
Martin grabbed more rebounds than any other player in the Big 12 on both sides of the floor, capping off her senior campaign as the only player in the conference to notch more than 100 offensive rebounds and 200 defensive rebounds. She grabbed 64 more boards than No. 2 rebounder Imani Boyette.
And that often meant reaching a little bit further to get those rebounds. Boyette has a 7-inch height advantage over Martin.
Her league-leading steals clip gives her the league’s top honors in that category for the third straight year. It’s a statistic she dominates at the national stage, as no other active player in the country has robbed their opponent as many times as her.
At times, she made up nearly half of Oklahoma State’s entire offense. In a game against Texas Tech on Feb. 7, she scored 32 of the Cowgirls’ 70 points in an 11- of-19 effort from the field.
And, of course, she notched the double-double, pulling down 15 rebounds. That has been an occurrence in a Big 12-best 19 games this season.
Martin’s gaudy numbers also garnered Big 12 Player of the Year honors from the league office, but she hardly cruised to the Trib’s top honors, as Baylor point guard Niya Johnson was also a finalist for the award.
Johnson led the country with 9.2 assists per game and inches closer and closer to becoming the fifth player in NCAA history to obtain 1,000 career helpers.
Coach of the Year: Kim Mulkey, Baylor
The genius of Baylor’s legendary coach continues.
Mulkey once again built a team primed for a national championship this season, leading the Lady Bears to a 30-1 record and the team’s sixth straight regular-season conference title.
The team has not fallen lower than No. 6 in the Associated Press Top 25, and another No. 1 seed is expected.
The Lady Bears shrugged off a 52-45 loss to Oklahoma State in their Big 12 opener to win 17 games in a row, proving that even a tough road loss can’t derail their plans.
“We just took every game like it was the last game they would play, ever,” Mulkey said after Baylor’s victory over Texas on Monday, the most recent victory of the streak. “That’s the approach we had to take. And then when we stayed healthy. We were getting production from different players.”
With the exception of Oklahoma State, the Lady Bears swept every Big 12 opponent this season, mostly avoiding the injury bug as they rose back to the top of the conference standings.
Now, with all her key players healthy, Mulkey has her team eyeing a trip to Indianapolis in April for the Final Four. Baylor hasn’t made it that far since 2012, when it won it all and finished with a perfect 40-0 mark.
“If you can stay away from injuries and keep getting production from a lot of people, this team could get to a Final Four,” Mulkey said. “I can’t guarantee you we will. It’s who’s playing good at the right time, and as you go further along in the NCAAs, teams get better and well coached. I know I’ve got senior leadership and junior leadership, and I’ve got freshmen that aren’t afraid anymore.”
Newcomer of the Year: Alexis Jones, Baylor
Even after sitting out a year and recovering from a pair of knee injuries, Alexis Jones has met all of Kim Mulkey’s expectations since she arrived on the Ferrell Center floor for the first time.
The redshirt junior shooting guard has made an immediate impact in the Lady Bears’ lineup, averaging 14.5 points in 31 games this season. She was even the team’s leading scorer in conference games, remaining consistent to haul in 14.2 in 18 Big 12 games.
“The only fear I had was could she stay healthy, because she was coming off both of those knee injuries,” Mulkey said. “We’ve been able to kind of let her grow with some talent around her. One minute she’s at point guard, the next minute she’s playing the off guard.”
Jones was required to sit out the 2014-15 season because of NCAA transfer rules after leaving Duke following her sophomore season. She spent that time recovering from her injuries, including ACL surgery from an injury she sustained while playing for the Blue Devils.
She has returned in full force, serving as Baylor’s top 3-point threat. She has swished 40 percent of her 131 attempts from the arc this season.
Jones has helped Baylor develop a style of offense that doesn’t centralize around a single player. While Nina Davis was the team’s lone scorer in double figures last year, Jones has helped take some of the pressure away from the Lady Bears’ All-American forward.
“Being the one player that carries everything on your back gets tiring,” Davis said. “But when you have a great player like Alexis Jones to come in and help you with the scoring and help with assists, and just help us be an overall better team, I’ll take it any day.”
Freshman of the Year: Kalani Brown, Baylor
Kim Mulkey doesn’t expect a freshman to waltz into the locker room and become the immediate go-to scoring option for Baylor.
So when she does give her freshmen playing time, they have to make the most of it. Kalani Brown has done exactly that, averaging 9.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game despite playing only 13.9 minutes a night.
Brown’s 0.65 point per minute ranks best on the team and even higher than that of Player of the Year Brittney Martin. Take her statistics and expand them over a 40-minute game, and she’s averaging an easy double-double. In fact, she would lead the Big 12 in scoring and rebounding.
“You’re not going to come into many programs as a freshman and just knock upperclassmen out of the way based on your talent, because it’s not just about talent,” Mulkey said. “It’s team chemistry, it’s learning the system, it’s learning the plays, it’s learning the defense. All those things, and that takes time.”
Brown has plenty of time left. With three more years of college basketball remaining, she appears to be headed on her way to a productive career at Baylor.
At 6-foot-7, she has the size to dominate the paint with just her frame alone. Her post-up moves have shown to be effective, as she ranks second in the Big 12 with a field-goal percentage of .611.
Brown also has disproven the myth that big players can’t shoot free throws. She hit 73 percent from the line in conference play.
Brown has shared the primary center role this season with fellow freshman Beatrice Mompremier, both of whom were McDonald’s All-Americans in high school. Mompremier serves as the smaller, more athletic post player that can command Baylor’s rebounding game. When the Lady Bears need size and power in the paint, Brown enters the game and can provide clutch points.
With both players still growing, the future looks bright in Waco.
“I don’t like to use the word exceed, because you have expectations for talented players,” Mulkey said. “What they have done is that they have figured out how to increase their minutes and get better as the year has progressed.”
Sixth Man Award: Vionise Pierre-Louis, Oklahoma
Vionise Pierre-Louis made the most of the 15-minutes average she was granted off the bench this season for Oklahoma. The 6-foot-4 sophomore center never started a game, but managed to average 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds. She leads the Sooners with 37 blocks.
She was the Big 12’s most precise shooter from the post. She led the conference with a .625 field-goal percentage.
TRIBUNE-HERALD ALL-BIG 12 WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM
|G||Niya Johnson||Sr||Baylor||5-8||7.1||5.3||9.2 assists|
|G||Seanna Johnson||Jr||Iowa State||5-10||16.9||9.4||.771 FT%|
|G||Brittney Martin||Sr||Oklahoma State||6-0||20.4||11.3||2.9 steals|
|F||Nina Davis||Jr||Baylor||5-11||15.7||6.3||.536 FG%|
|F||Breanna Lewis||Jr||Kansas State||6-5||16.8||7.7||.557 FG%|
|G||Alexis Jones||Jr||Baylor||5-9||14.5||4.1||4.0 assists|
|G||Bria Holmes||Sr||West Virginia||6-1||16.9||4.3||3.6 assists|
|G||Zahna Medley||Sr||TCU||5-6||16.4||2.9||.431 3PT%|
|F||Kaylee Jensen||Soph.||Oklahoma State||6-4||15.3||8.6||1.7 blocks|
|C||Imani Boyette||Sr||Texas||6-7||12.0||9.1||3.1 blocks|
|Player of the Year: Brittney Martin, Oklahoma State|
|Defensive Player of the Year: Brittney Martin, OSU|
|Freshman of the Year: Kalani Brown, Baylor|
|Sixth Man Award: Vionise Pierre-Louis, Oklahoma|
|Newcomer of the Year: Alexis Jones, Baylor|
|Coach of the Year: Kim Mulkey, Baylor|
|G||Japreece Dean||Texas Tech||5-6||11.8||3.4||3.3 assists|
|G||Bridget Carleton||Iowa State||6-1||11.4||6.9||.789 FT%|
|G||Tynice Martin||West Virginia||5-10||9.8||2.9||.833 FT%|
|C||Beatrice Mompremier||Baylor||6-4||7.5||6.6||1.5 blocks|
|C||Kalani Brown||Baylor||6-7||9.1||4.3||.611 FG%|