On a team filled with talented junior-college transfers, it was almost a forgone conclusion that somebody from Southeast Missouri State University would win the women's Ohio Valley Conference's Newcomer of the Year award.
The only question was who would be honored -- and it turned out to be Kenja White, the Otahkians' leading scorer heading into today's 2 p.m. OVC Tournament semifinal game against Tennessee Tech in Nashville, Tenn.
First-year OVC players, excluding freshman, are eligible for the award, which was announced Thursday in Nashville, along with the rest of the all-OVC women's and men's honors based on voting by the league's head basketball coaches and sports information directors.
"It could have been several of our players, but Kenja is very deserving," Southeast coach B.J. Smith said. "She really has had a good year."
A 5-foot-8 junior from Waukegan, Ill., White transferred to Southeast from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, where she played for first-year Southeast coach Smith.
White is averaging 13.6 points per game to rank 10th in the conference and she is also sixth in the OVC in steals.
"My first year at SEMO, and my first year as a Division I player, I'm pretty excited about this," White said.
White, like Smith, figured a few other Southeast junior-college transfers could have just as well won the award, including forward Carina Souza, third on the squad in scoring at 12 points per game.
"I didn't expect it," White said. "Four or five of us could have gotten it."
Souza, a 6-1 junior, joined White in making honorable-mention all-OVC. Souza is 14th in the league in scoring, 15th in rebounding (5.4) and sixth in field-goal percentage (52.8).
Southeast had no first-team selections, but senior forward Lori Chase, third on the school's career scoring list, made the second team. She is the Otahkians' second-leading scorer (13.3 ppg) and top rebounder (6.0), figures that rank 11th in the OVC.
Chase also made the second team last year after being a first-team selection as a sophomore.
"I was a little disappointed Lori didn't make the first team," Smith said. "And I thought Tiffanne Ryan could have made the all-freshmen team. She's had a good year for a freshman."
The first team consists of Austin Peay's Brooke Armistead and Gerlonda Hardin; Tennessee-Martin's Amy Watson; Eastern Kentucky's Teresa McNair; and Morehead State's Travece Turner.
Armistead is the OVC Player of the Year after leading the league in scoring (18.2 ppg) and helping the Govs win the regular-season title with a perfect record. Austin Peay's Susie Gardner is the Coach of the Year while Tennessee Tech's Emily Christian is the Freshman of the Year.Winans on third team
Southeast had one representative on the men's side when Derek Winans made the third team for the second straight year.
Winans, a 6-2 sophomore guard, led the Indians in scoring for the second consecutive season and averaged 15.3 points per game to rank 10th in the league. Winans was also 10th in free-throw percentage (77.6), ninth in assists (3.63) and fifth in 3-point percentage (41.3).
Southeast junior center Brandon Griffin, who averaged double figures in points and rebounds and was the OVC's second-leading rebounder, was thought to be the leading candidate to win Newcomer of the Year but Tennessee-Martin guard Earl Bullock edged him out.
"It's nice to see him honored," Southeast coach Gary Garner said. "We're disappointed about Brandon. With the year he had, we thought he had a good chance to get the newcomer award."
Morehead State's Ricky Minard is the Player of the Year after he nosed out Eastern Illinois' Henry Domercant, last year's winner. Domercant, the nation's second-leading scorer (27.9 ppg), broke the OVC's scoring record this year. Minard is the OVC's second-leading scorer (22.5 ppg) and ranks among the league's top 15 in 11 of 12 statistical categories.
Joining that pair on the first team are Austin Peay's Adrian Henning, Murray State's James Singleton and Tennessee Tech's Damien Kinloch.
Austin Peay's Dave Loos is the Coach of the Year after leading the surprising Govs to a tie for the regular-season title with Morehead State. Eastern Kentucky's Matt Witt is the Freshman of the Year.
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