ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Saturday the four finalists for the women’s Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T, with no seniors remaining in consideration. UConn junior Breanna Stewart looks to repeat, and is joined by juniors Jewell Loyd (Notre Dame) and Tiffany Mitchell (South Carolina), along with Minnesota sophomore Amanda Zahui B.
Stewart won the Naismith Trophy in 2014 and also claimed the Naismith High School Trophy, the country’s top prep honor, in 2012. Should Stewart win, she would join Chamique Holdsclaw, Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi as the only women to win at least one Naismith Girl’s High School Player of the Year award and two Naismith Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year awards.
The four finalists were chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national voting academy, which based selections on individual performances throughout the 2014-15 women’s college basketball regular season. The winner of the Naismith Trophy Women’s College Player of the Year Trophy presented by AT&T will be announced on April 7, 2015.
For the 11th consecutive year, fans will have the opportunity to vote for the player of their choice and help determine the 2015 Naismith Trophy winner. Beginning March 23 and running through April 4 fans can cast their vote through the online and mobile optimized site www.NaismithVote.com. The fan vote represents 25 percent of the selection process -- the largest fan impact of any collegiate basketball award.
The vote was tabulated and certified by the accounting firm of Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, LLP. HA&W is the largest independent accounting firm in Georgia and one of the top 50 firms in the United States.
“We congratulate each of the Naismith Trophy finalists for their outstanding accomplishments on the hardwood. They displayed remarkable resolve by competing at the highest level, while leading their teams to successful seasons,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
“This year’s finalists are an impressive group of student-athletes, representing some of the best teams in the country during this thrilling basketball season,” said Jamie Kerr, director, AT&T Corporate Sponsorships. “Each has earned the right to be called the Naismith College Player of the Year, but we’ll rely on the fans to play a large part in deciding who ultimately receives the honor.”
Jewell Loyd, Notre Dame: Loyd was named the 2014-15 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, and is a two-time first-team All-ACC selection. She has started all 33 games for Notre Dame this season, averaging a career-high 20.5 points (tops in the ACC), 5.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game, and scored at least 20 points in 18 games this season, with four 30-point performances, both of which lead the ACC, with the latter also a single-season Fighting Irish record. Notre Dame went 31-2 (15-1 ACC) this season, including a second straight sweep of the ACC regular-season and tournament titles. The Fighting Irish are a No.1 seed in the Oklahoma City Region of the NCAA Tournament.
Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina: Mitchell became the seventh player to win back-to-back conference Player of the Year honors since the award was started in 1987, and was
Mitchell leads the Gamecocks and is sixth in the SEC in scoring at 14.8 points per game, and was also named to the All-SEC first team. South
Carolina opens the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed in the Greensboro region.
Breanna Stewart, Connecticut: She became the first UConn player to win consecutive Player of the Year honors since Maya Moore in 2007-09 when she was recently named the AAC top performer. Stewart averaged 17.4 points per game, good enough for third in the conference and also ranks in the top-10 in field goal percentage (.540), blocks per game (2.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6). This season, she notched 10 20- point games and has reached double figures in 26 of UConn’s 30 games. The top-ranked Huskies are the No. 1 seed in the Albany Region of the NCAA tournament.
Amanda Zahui B., Minnesota: She was the media’s choice for Big Ten Player of the Year and was a unanimous selection to the All-Big Ten First Team. Zahui B. averaged 18.8 points, 12.6 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game this season to become one of the top centers in the nation. During the Big Ten Tournament, she averaged 23 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks per game over two games to be named to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team. As just a sophomore, she’s already Minnesota’s career blocks leader with 239. The Golden Gophers (23-9) open the NCAA tournament as a No. 8 seed in the Oklahoma City region.
Notable past Naismith Women’s College Player of the Year winners include Brittney Griner, Holdsclaw, Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo and Moore. The Naismith Trophy is the most prestigious national award presented annually to the women’s college basketball player of the year.