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Mary Baldwin University Basketball: MBU’s James, Calhoun grab top conference honors

mary baldwin universityMary Baldwin University freshman Leah Calhoun and second-year head coach Ross James have earned two of the USA South Conference’s top three conference honors for women’s basketball, announced today.

Calhoun and James collected Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year accolades, respectively. The awards will be presented to individuals from teams competing in the semifinals of the USA South Women’s Basketball tournament immediately following the conclusion of the first semifinal contest.

Calhoun, a freshman guard from Churchville, becomes the first Fighting Squirrel to earn an individual year-end USA South women’s basketball honor. She led all conference rookies during the regular season averaging 16.7 points, 6.1 defensive rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. Among all USA South performers, Calhoun was third in defensive rebounding, third in scoring, fourth in steals and tenth in total rebounding. Calhoun was also named to the First Team East Division, becoming just the fifth Mary Baldwin women’s basketball student-athlete to collect USA South All-Conference honors. Over the course of her stellar season, she was named USA South Player of the Week once and USA South Rookie of the Week twice.

“Leah is as self-motivated and as disciplined a player as I have ever coached,” James said. “Her consistency both in the classroom and on the court is truly admirable. Winning Rookie of the Year as well as First Team East Division is an amazing accomplishment.”

In only his second season at the helm of Fighting Squirrels women’s basketball, James becomes the first Mary Baldwin coach in any sport to be named a USA South Coach of the Year. He has led Mary Baldwin to a 17–9 overall record, just the fourth winning season in program history (first since 2003–04), and a 10–8 mark in USA South play. So far, the Fighting Squirrels have improved their performance by 15 wins from a season ago. The 17 overall wins are currently tied for the second-most in school history and most since the 2003–04 squad, while the 10 conference wins were the most since joining the USA South. Picked to finish eighth in the East Division, James’ team placed fourth and earned the right to host a USA South Women’s Basketball Tournament game for the first time since joining the conference. With a first round 114-108 overtime win over N.C. Wesleyan, the Fighting Squirrels notched the program’s first USA South tournament victory.

James was quick to acknowledge that his USA South Coach of the Year award is due to the hard work of everyone involved with Mary Baldwin women’s basketball. “It is an honor to be named USA South Coach of the Year by my fellow coaching peers. This award is shared by the players, assistant coaches, and support staff. Their commitment, dedication, and sacrifices made this honor possible.”

Jonas Worth, Mary Baldwin University director of athletics, offered high praise for what James has accomplished. “As a former coach, I can’t express how proud I am of Coach James, his staff, and his players right now. The euphoria of that overtime win still has us all buzzing, but to be recognized by the conference in this way is an absolute game-changer for the entire Mary Baldwin community. Coach James has focused so much on the tiny details that can turn a program into a winner, so I am thrilled that someone else is able to recognize the work that I see on a daily basis.”

Two additional Fighting Squirrels earned accolades from the USA South Conference. Freshman guard Brooke Anders was voted a spot on the Second Team East Division. “Brooke’s steady left hand has provided the team with clutch performances throughout the season,” said James. “However, it is her defensive intensity and commitment to rebounding that has propelled her forward as a player. Being named to the Second Team All East is most deserving, as she has worked countless hours in the gym.”

Senior forward Nicole Blackburn was named to the conference’s All-Sportsmanship Team, earning praise from James as the quintessential teammate. “Nicole is a selfless, team-first player,” he said. “It is not surprising to me that she would be widely recognized for her sportsmanship.”

All awards are voted on by the head women’s basketball coach at each conference institution. Individual awards and first team all-conference voting is completed by all conference coaches, while divisional team voting is completed by coaches in each division.

The Fighting Squirrels will take on USA South Player of the Year Amari Price and the Piedmont College Lions at 2 p.m. Saturday in Demorest, Ga.

augusta free press
augusta free press