NEW YORK — Nneka Ogwumike put up career numbers this season for Los Angeles and was arguably the most consistent impact player in the league.
Her efforts earned her Associated Press WNBA Player of the Year honors on Tuesday. The award was chosen by the 14-member media panel that votes for the weekly power poll.
“It’s special that there are different perspectives on so many things we do,” Ogwumike said in a phone interview.” Players, coaches, GMs, media. It’s interesting to see the support coming from all different angles.”
She averaged 19.7 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists and shot 66.5 percent from the field, helping lead the Sparks to the second best record in the WNBA and a bye until the semifinals of the playoffs.
“It’s a great thing for someone like Nneka to win an award like this as it shows that hard work and perseverance and continuing to develop your game can elevate you to superstar status,” said Los Angeles coach Brian Agler, who was named the AP’s coach of the year.
Agler narrowly edged Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve for coach of the year honors Los Angeles also had the sixth woman of the year in Jantel Lavender.
Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams was voted the most improved player. She was traded in the offseason from Connecticut to the Dream and helped them reach the playoffs.
“The change of scenery is the first main thing that would pop up,” said Williams on the biggest difference for her this year. “I think coming to this team, coach (Michael) Cooper having a lot of confidence in me in the beginning. Getting healthy and playing overseas in Turkey also helped me gain some confidence.”
Connecticut’s Chiney Ogwumike earned comeback player of the year honors after recovering from microfracture surgery in her right knee that sidelined her last year.
“There’s nothing more humbling than coming back from an injury,” said Chiney Ogwumike. “Being named comeback player of the year means the absolute world to me because, like many athletes who fall down, we keep fighting to not only get back up, but also to exceed expectations.”
Minnesota’s Sylvia Fowles was defensive player of the year while leading the Lynx to one of the top-rated defenses in the league.
Seattle’s Breanna Stewart won rookie of the year, finishing third all-time for points by a rookie and breaking Lisa Leslie’s WNBA record for defensive rebounds in a season. The former UConn star was the only rookie on the AP WNBA first team. She was joined by Ogwumike, Tina Charles, Maya Moore and Elena Delle Donne.
Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Angel McCoughtry, Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles were on the second team.
Stewart also headlined the all-rookie team. She was joined by San Antonio’s Moriah Jefferson, Dallas’ Aerial Powers, Chicago’s Imani Boyette and Indiana’s Tiffany Mitchell.
The Minnesota Lynx finished the season where they started, atop the AP Power Poll . The Lynx were a unanimous choice at No. 1. The team held the top spot in the poll 10 of the 15 weeks.
“Our team prides itself on being efficient on both ends of the court,” Reeve said. “Finishing No. 1 in the power rankings exemplifies that commitment.”
Los Angeles, which was first the other five weeks, finished second. The Sparks were followed by New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Indiana and Seattle. Phoenix, Connecticut, Washington, Dallas and San Antonio rounded out the poll.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Nneka Ogwumike had 20.5 points, 10 rebounds and four assists last week to help the Sparks win their final two regular season contests. Others receiving votes included: Minnesota’s Maya Moore, Connecticut’s Jasmine Thomas.
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