Six finalists, selected by a statewide media panel, have been named for the C Spire Howell and Gillom Trophies, which go to the state’s most outstanding male and female college basketball players.
No big surprises really: On the women’s side, two-time Gillom Trophy winner Victoria Vivians of Mississippi State is joined by teammate Morgan William and Southern Miss standout Brittany Dinkins. The three Howell Trophy finalists: Ole Miss’s Sebastian Saiz, Delta State’s Devin Schmidt and Mississippi State’s Quindarry Weatherspoon.
All six finalists and their coaches will attend the awards luncheon Monday, March 6, at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The statewide media panel will vote again with choices restricted to the six finalists and that voting will account for 90 percent of the final tally. On-line public voting, conducted by C Spire, will account for a weighted 10 percent of the final vote total. Fans can vote for their favorites at www.csopavoting.com.
Here, I’ll make a case for each (in alphabetical order):
C Spire Howell Trophy
Sebastian Saiz: Seldom does a player improve as much over the course of a college career as has Saiz. The 6-foot, 9-inch Spaniard averaged 5.1 points and 5.6 rebounds as a skinny freshman, but has muscled up and improved with each successive season to the point where he averaged a double-double (15.1 points, 10.8 rebounds) as a senior. His 18 double-doubles this season lead the SEC and rank him seventh in the nation. He is the glue to an Ole Miss team that enters the last week of the regular season with a 18-11 overall record, 9-7 in the SEC.
The SEC’s active career rebounding leader, Saiz this season leads the SEC and ranks eighth in the nation in rebounding. He is only the second Ole Miss player in history (following Murphy Holloway) to top both 1,000 points and 900 rebounds in a career. He is the first Rebel to top 1,000 points, 900 rebounds and 100 blocked shots.
Quindarry Weatherspoon: Weatherspoon suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist on Nov. 18 against Boise State. Shortly afterward, MSU announced Weatherspoona pre-season All-SEC pick, would undergo surgery and miss the remainder of the season. Instead, he has played through the injury and leads the Bulldogs in numerous categories including one that can’t be measured: playing with pain.
Weatherspoon leads State in scoring (16.5 ppg), minutes (32.1 per game), and steals (44). He shoots 45.7 percent from the field, 77.8 percent from the foul line and 38.7 percent on 3-pointers. He also averages 5.1 rebounds per game.
It has not been a banner season for the young Bulldogs (14-14 overall, 5-11 in the SEC), but no telling how bad it would have been with Weatherspoon on the shelf.
Devin Schmidt: Schmidt is bidding to be the second DSU player to win the Howell. Jasper Johnson, a transfer from Southern Miss, won it in 2006. If it’s scoring you like, Schmidt can provide. He leads DSU and is second in the Gulf South Conference, averaging 22.6 points per game in leading the Statesmen to a 21-7 record.
This isn’t a career award, but Schmidt has been a four-year starter, who averaged 15.1 as a freshman, 21.1 as a sophomore and 25.4 as a junior. He has scored 2,505 career points and with 65 more points would become the Gulf South Conference’s all-time leading scorer.
C Spire Gillom Trophy
Brittany Dinkins: Dinkins hasn’t played in the limelight of her fellow Gillom finalists, but she has enjoyed a monster of a senior season in leading USM to a 19-9 record, 11-5 in Conference USA.
Dinkins is leading the Lady Eagles with 18.4 points and 3.8 assists per game. The senior is atop the C-USA with 98 total steals, good enough for fifth in the country. She set her career mark for points this season when she had a 32-point outburst against Old Dominion. In the same game, Dinkins tied the single-game record with 10 steals.
Victoria Vivians: The clear favorite, Vivians leads 27-3 State in scoring for the third consecutive year and has won the Gillom Trophy the two previous seasons. She is bidding to become the only three-time Gillom Trophy winner. She finished the regular season fifth in the SEC in scoring (17.2 points per game). Although State lost two of its final three games, Vivians averaged 23.3 points per game in those three and averaged 18.1 points per game on the SEC season.
Morgan William: The point guard and playmaker for the Lady Bulldogs, William enjoyed the best offensive season of her career, averaging 10.1 ppg. on 46.2-percent shooting from the field. She is second in the SEC in assists with 5.4 per game and also ranks 10th in the SEC in steals. She has taken a team-high 21 charges.
For tickets to the awards luncheon, contact the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum at 601 982-8264.
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