Utah State women's basketball was selected first in both the Western Athletic Conference coaches' poll and media poll as it was announced Wednesday by the league. This is the first time the Aggies have ever been picked first in a preseason poll. Last season, USU was second in the coaches' poll and third in the media poll. In 2010-11, the Aggies were picked seventh in the coaches' and the media poll.
Senior guard Devyn Christensen became the second-straight Utah State women's basketball player to earn WAC Preseason Player of the Year honors when she was awarded the honor by the coaches and the media. Last season, forward Ashlee Brown was named preseason all-WAC and Christensen was named to the second-team in the coaches' poll.
"For me as a head coach at Utah State, it's a wonderful place to come to. I'm looking forward to the WAC. It's just one year in the WAC for us, but I'm looking forward to the competition," coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. "I've played similar teams in the past and I have a lot of respect for the conference. We played Louisiana Tech last year when I was at Oral Roberts. Probably my biggest shock of the pre-season is seeing that we're voted No. 1 by the media and the coaches. There's a lot of respect that this program has in the conference, so I'm just happy to inherit it. Devyn Christensen is obviously our go-to player coming into the season. I look forward to the competition and the travel with the WAC and down to Las Vegas in March for the conference finals. There's a lot of unknowns: new coaching staff and new philosophy. But our girls are excited, and we're ready to go."
The Aggies received 78 points in the WAC coaches' poll, including seven of the 10 first-place votes. Louisiana Tech was a close second with 75 points and the three remaining first-place votes. In its first season in the WAC, Denver was picked third with 55 points, while fellow newcomer Seattle U was fourth with 48 points. Idaho was just behind Seattle U in fifth place with 47 points. Texas State, another new team to the WAC, is sixth with 41 points, while San Jose State sits in seventh with 36 points. Rounding out the coaches' poll is New Mexico State in eighth (27), and newcomers UTSA (26) and UT Arlington (17) in ninth and 10th, respectively.
In the media poll, Utah State was voted first with 165 points, including nine first-place votes. Louisiana Tech was also second in the media poll with 145 overall points and four first-place votes. Six different teams earned at least one first-place points. Denver was picked third with 135 points and one first-place vote, while Seattle U was fourth with 111 points with two first-place votes. Texas State was fifth with 105 points and one first-place vote, while Idaho was sixth with 91 points. San Jose State was picked seventh with 70 points, followed by UTSA (59), New Mexico State (56) and UT Arlington (53). NMSU earned the final first-place vote.
"The only thing that I would say is nice about it is the fact that you feel like you have respect a little bit from the coaches and the media that votes," Christensen said. "So, its always nice for any athlete at any level to know that they get respect, so that is something that I definitely appreciate. It makes me want to continue to work for it and continue to earn that respect. At this level there are a lot of good athletes, so it is nice to know that on an individual level I am respected."
Christensen is the second Aggie to ever earn first-team preseason all-WAC honors after Brown earned first-team honors last season. Seven USU players have now earned preseason conference honors since joining the WAC prior to the 2005-06 season.
Last season, Christensen was first in the WAC in scoring in conference games, averaging 20.6 points per game. She also set the Utah State and WAC single-season record for free throw percentage record, shooting 89.8 percent from the charity stripe.
Aside from Christensen, Idaho's Alyssa Charlston, Louisiana Tech's Whitney Frazier, Texas State's Diamond Ford and Seattle's Kacie Sowell were named to the first team by the coaches. The media also selected a preseason all-conference first-team, which included Christensen, Charlston, Frazier, Ford and Sowell.
Utah State returns seven players from the 2011-12 roster, including three starters in Christensen (15.1 ppg), senior guard Jenna Johnson (5.8 ppg) and sophomore guard Elise Nelson (3.0 ppg).
USU began practice Thursday, Oct. 4. The Aggies' first exhibition is Friday, Nov. 2, against New Mexico Highlands at 7 p.m.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.