Oct. 14, 2009

Courtesy Conference USA

IRVING, Texas – The 2009-10 women’s basketball season gets underway this weekend as the official first day of practice is Friday. Prior to the season tipping off, Conference USA is set to announce its Preseason All-C-USA Team and Player of the Year. This year’s team highlights five of the most athletic and completive players in the league.

UCF’s Emma Cannon headlines this year’s team as she was voted the Preseason Player of the Year, edging out two-time C-USA Player of the Year Jareica Hughes of UTEP. Hughes joins Cannon on the preseason team as well as Houston’s Courtney Taylor, Pauline Love of Southern Miss and SMU’s Brittany Gilliam.  Cannon and Love were unanimous selections.

Cannon had a breakout season a year ago, scoring 526 points and pulling down a UCF-record 393 rebounds, second most in the league for a single season. The junior averaged 15.5 points and a league-best 11.6 rebounds per contest. She also posted a conference best 21 double-doubles for the season. She was named to the All-C-USA first-team and took home C-USA Tournament MVP honors after leading the Knights to the title and a berth in the NCAA Championship. UCF became just the second program in league history to capture the tournament title by winning four games in four days. The Rochester, N.Y., native was named C-USA Player of the Week a league-high three times. She concluded the 2009 season ranked tied for fifth nationally in boards per game (11.6) and offensive rebounds per game (5.06). Her 173 offensive rebounds is the most by a C-USA player in league history.

Hughes repeated as the C-USA Player of the Year, making her just the third player in league history to reap multiple player of the year awards. She enters this season on pace to shatter the Miners' career point standard, while also finishing as part of the winningest class in program annals.  The two-time All-C-USA first team honoree averaged a team-best 14.2 points, 5.42 assists, 2.19 steals and a 1.72 assist/turnover ratio. Hughes, a native of Southfield, Mich., toppled UTEP's career standards for assists and steals while also becoming its sixth member of the 1,000-point club.

Love, an All-C-USA first-team selection, averaged 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds for the 20-11 Southern Miss team that reached the Conference USA championship game for the first time in its history. The Luxora, Ark., native was one of three Golden Eagles to surpass the 1,000-point milestone in 2009 and became just the second player in program history to reach this milestone in just two seasons (1,063). The 6-foot-1 forward notched a total of 20 double-doubles a year ago, second most in the league.

Taylor, a 6-0 forward from Crockett, Texas, emerged as one of the best in C-USA as one of three players that averaged a double-double with 16.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game in 2009. She finished third in both categories as well as fourth in steals with 2.29 per game. Taylor was named to the All-C-USA first team and selected to the league’s All-Defensive Team. She was named C-USA Player of the Week twice and finished the year with 16 double-doubles, third most in the league. Taylor also finished third with a team-best 2.28 steals per game, swiping 66, and fourth in blocks with 49.

Gilliam and the Mustangs have been one of the final four teams in the last two C-USA Championships, with SMU winning the tournament title in 2008 and regular season crown in 2009. The Tyler, Texas native concluded last season by scoring her 1,000th-career point in the first round of the WNIT. Gilliam led the team with an average of 14.7 points and 2.5 steals per game.  She efforts were rewarded by earning All-C-USA second-team honors and was the second Mustang in as many years to win the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year award.

The 2009-10 Conference USA Championship is slated for March 8-12 in Tulsa, Okla. The University of Tulsa will host the five-day event at the Reynolds Center on campus.  This will mark the second time in the last three years Tulsa has hosted the conference tournament.

Emma Cannon         UCF                       6-2          Jr.            F              Rochester, N.Y.

Courtney Taylor     Houston               6-0          Jr.            F              Crockett, Texas
Brittany Gilliam       SMU                      5-11        Sr.           F              Tyler, Texas
Pauline Love           Southern Miss    6-0          Sr.           F              Luxora, Ark.
Emma Cannon         UCF                       6-2          Jr.            F              Rochester, N.Y.
Jareica Hughes       UTEP                     5-3          Sr.           G             Southfield, Mich.