Iowa’s Megan Gustafson named AP Player of the Year
TAMPA, Fla. — Megan Gustafson rewrote the women’s basketball record book at Iowa.
The 6-foot-3 center led the nation in scoring for the second straight season, averaging 27.9 points, and became the fourth player to reach 1,000 points in a year. On Thursday, she won The Associated Press women’s college basketball player of the year award.
“She’s an amazing young woman who left an incredible legacy at this school,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said.
Led by Gustafson, the Hawkeyes reached the Elite Eight for the first time since 1993. That season, coach Kim Mulkey and Baylor ended their season.
Mulkey was also honored Thursday, taking the AP coach of the year award for the second time. She has led top-ranked Baylor to a 35-1 record and helped the Lady Bears reach the Final Four for the first time since 2012. That was when Mulkey won the coach of the year, leading Baylor to a 40-0 record and the national championship.
Gustafson set an NCAA record this season with 412 field goals. She tied the mark for double-doubles with 33. She shot 69.7 percent from the field this season and finished her career by making nearly 66 percent of her shots.
The Iowa staff surprised Gustafson that she had won the award by slipping in a note while she was reading letters from fans. She is the first player from the Big Ten Conference to receive the award.
“I was not expecting it at all. I love my coaches and they’ve been so supportive of me,” Gustafson said. “It’s been an incredible ride. I’m in a little bit in shock right now, really excited to have represented Iowa.”
Gustafson’s family was joined at the awards ceremony by her parents and her sister.
She received 15 votes Thursday from the 28-member national media panel that selects the weekly AP rankings. Voting was done before the NCAA Tournament.
Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon received seven votes while Napheesa Collier of UConn three. Asia Durr of Louisville had two votes and Teaira McCowan of Mississippi State one.
Mulkey received 17 votes while Wes Moore of North Carolina State and Vic Schaefer of Mississippi State each received five and Bluder one.
“Listen, any award that I receive, you know good and well that goes back to the kids you coach, period,” Mulkey said. “We are only as good as those kids on that floor, and I’ve been blessed to coach numerous great players. And I would trade any award for every one of them to experience a national championship. Let’s get that straight.
“But at the end of the day, that award brings recognition to the program, to the players, and to the school first. And what it does for me, it just gathers dust that I have to get a little cloth and dust off. But I’m humbled. It can go to so many people. You just want to be relevant, and you want to just give these kids an opportunity to experience a Final Four and a national championship.”
Mulkey, who brought her team up on stage after accepting the award, said she’s grown as a coach since her last trip to the Final Four in 2012.
“You know when to laugh more, and you know to cut up with them more, and when to be serious,” she said. “It’s your job as a coach to figure out those personalities and what motivates them, and make sure that you’ve got great leadership in that locker room.”
Gustafson also was presented with the second annual Lisa Leslie Award, given to the best center in women’s college basketball. South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson won the inaugural award last year.
Iowa State senior Bridget Carleton joined Gustafson on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s All-America first team, while Drake junior Becca Hittner was an honorable mention selection.
Carleton also received the Cheryl Miller Award, honoring the best small forward in the country. UConn’s Gabby Williams was last year’s inaugural recipient.
“It’s a huge honor to receive an award named after Cheryl Miller, who has been such a pioneer in bringing women’s basketball to the forefront of athletics,” said Carleton. “She was one of the best to play our game, and I am humbled to be recognized for this award and included in the Naismith Starting 5.
“This isn’t possible without all of the opportunities Iowa State has given me. I am so thankful for my coaches and teammates putting me in the best positions to be successful during the last year.”
Carleton, the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, set school records for points scored in a season (760), scoring average (21.7), and field goals made (254) and attempted (543) this past winter.
Hittner, Drake’s two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, led the MVC scoring 19.7 points per game.