April 15, 2012
Houston - The Rice Owls women's basketball team conducted its year-end season banquet in the R Room Sunday evening and handed out its team awards.
Sophomore Jessica Kuster was once again named the Gene Hackerman Most Valuable Player. Kuster, from San Antonio, led the team in scoring (17.3), rebounding (11.1), blocked shots (50), free throw percentage (71.6 percent), and field goal percent (43.1 percent). She was named to the All-Conference USA First Team for the second time and again earned a spot on the All-C-USA Defensive Team. Her rebounding average ranked ninth in the nation and was second amongst all sophomores.
Kuster was one of only 21 players in the nation that averaged a double-double last season.
"It is not often you have a team MVP as a freshman and follow it up again her sophomore year," said Owl head Greg Williams. "Her goal was to not have a sophomore slump and she certainly did not do that as her points went up and her rebounding went up as well. She was no secret this year and every team we played she was the one player that they targeted in trying to stop."
Junior Jessica Goswitz, from Knoxville, Tenn., earned the Team Academic award and the Fighting Owl award. The Fighting Owl Award is given to the player who has demonstrated exceptional toughness and has persevered. Goswitz has a 3.4 grade point average and is majoring in sports management.
The Most Improved Award was given to freshman Nakachi Maduka. She missed the first nine contests of the season with an injury, but once healthy was a force on the court. Maduka, from Arlington, Texas, even earned C-USA Freshman of the Week when she registered her first career double-double with career highs of 13 points and 10 rebounds in the team's 55-48 win over Tulsa. She was 5-9 from the field, which included a 3-pointer, and had a team-high four steals.
Senior D'Frantz Smart earned the Owls' Defensive Award. The Chicago, native, led Rice in steals with 90, which was a league-high total. Smart also was presented with a commemorative basketball signifying her school record of 580 career assists.
Freshman Christal Porter, from Germantown, Tenn., was honored as the squad's Newcomer of the Year. Porter was second on the team in rebounding at 5.4 rebounds per game and she twice earned C-USA Freshman of the Week accolades.
The Owls concluded the 2011-12 season with a 16-16 record, a 9-7 mark in Conference USA (third place), and a berth in the Women's Basketball Invitational tournament. For next year, Williams returns two starters in Kuster and Goswitz. Joining the squad are three freshman from the Lone Star state, forward Megan Palmer (Katy, Texas), guard Elena Gumbs (Ciobolo, Texas), and forward Alyssa Lang (Rockwall, Texas), and guard Breion Allen from Hoover, Ala.