Prahalis Named Big Ten’s Best With Player Of The Year Award, Stokes Named Defensive POTY
By Ben Axelrod
For the eighth time in as many years, the Ohio State women’s basketball team had one of its players named as a Big Ten Player of the Year when point guard Samantha Prahalis was recognized by both the media and conference coaches as the Big Ten’s top player during Monday night’s conference award show.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Prahalis’ victory continues a streak of Buckeyes winning the the Big Ten’s top individual honor that was started with the first of center Jessica Davenport’s three-consecutive player of the year honors in 2005 and continued when center Jantel Lavender won the award in each of her four seasons at OSU from 2008-2011.
A four-year starter at OSU, Prahalis saved her best season for last, leading the Big Ten in both scoring and assists. In 15 games against conference opponents this year, the Commack, N.Y. product has averaged 22.5 points and 6.1 assists per game.
The Buckeyes’ lone senior also led the conference with 39.4 minutes played per league game. Her finest performance came in her last game at Value City Arena when she scored a school-record 42 points in the Buckeyes’ 81-56 victory over Minnesota on Feb. 23.
Photo by Jim Davidson
There remains the possibility that this won’t be Prahalis’ final award for a season that saw her lead an OSU team that started the season unranked to a program-best 15-0 start. She remains a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given annually to the nation’s best point guard, as well as a trio of national player of the year trophies in the Wooden, State Farm/Wade, and United States Basketball Writers awards.
After breaking OSU’s all-time assists record during her junior season, Prahalis is now just four assists away from holding the Big Ten’s career assists record, which was set by Northwestern’s Nancy Kennnelly, who recorded 892 assists from 1989-93.
A second-team All-Big Ten media selection during her freshman season in 2009, Prahalis was named to the conference’s first team in 2010 before again being named a second team media selection in 2011. She finishes her OSU career back on the All-Big Ten first team, where she was joined by teammate Tayler Hill. The junior guard enjoyed a breakout season in 2011-12, averaging a team-high 20.7 over the course of the entire season. Hill was also recognized on Monday for her effort on the defensive end of the floor, being named to the conference’s All-Defensive team.
With the Big Ten’s top-two scorers in Prahalis and Hill, the No. 14-ranked Buckeyes finished the season with a 24-5 record, including an 11-5 record in conference play. All five of OSU’s losses came on the road, but it was still good for a second place finish in the Big Ten.
“There’s always adversity in the season, it’s never going to be perfect,” Prahalis said. “I just wanted it to be a good year and everyone stepped up.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
In addition to Hill, one of those players who stepped up was junior guard Amber Stokes, who was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year. Stokes averaged 1.2 steals per game throughout the regular season while typically guarding the opponent’s top perimeter player. The Gahanna-native averaged 7.9 points per game, pulled down 3.4 rebounds per game, and like Hill, was named an All-Defensive team selection for her efforts this season.
“People kept saying, ‘you know (Jantel Lavender) left, Sammy’s got to take on all this stuff,’ but really it’s been everyone taking on all this stuff,” Prahalis said. “Everyone stepped up, you know, Amber, Tayler, they’re also like veterans, so it’s on them too. It’s on all of us.”
OSU center Ashley Adams was named as a conference honorable mention. In her first full season as starter, the 6-foot-5 sophomore led the Buckeyes in blocks with 2.9 per game, as well as rebounding with 6.7 boards per night.
The Buckeyes closed out the regular season on Sunday with a 71-57 loss at Nebraska. They’ll return to action on Friday at 11:30 AM as the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, where they’ll face the winner of Thursday’s match-up between Michigan and Illinois. OSU has won the Big Ten Tournament in each of the past three seasons.