March 11, 2012
Freshman Rachel Banham and senior Kiara Buford were named the recipients of Minnesota's Most Valuable Player award, highlighting the women's basketball program's annual team banquet, which took place at the McNamara Alumni Center Sunday afternoon.
A native of Lakeville, Minn., Banham was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, was voted onto the All-Big Ten Second Team and the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, and also garnered Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors five times over the course of her first season as a Gopher. She not only led the team in scoring, field goals and three-point percentage, but Banham also had the best stats of any freshman in the six power conferences.
Buford, a native of St. Paul, Minn., was named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention by both the conference's coaches and media members for the third-straight year in her senior campaign. Buford finished her career ranked seventh all-time in Minnesota history with 1,480 career points, while also ranking fifth all-time with 126 three-point field goals, ninth with 160 steals and 10th with 312 free throws, 57 blocks and 271 career assists. Buford is the first player to move into the top-10 in scoring since Emily Fox, who finished her career with 1,449 career points from 2005-09.
Buford was also honored with the 2012 Coaches Award, an award selected by the coaching staff in recognition of a player's impact on her team, her leadership qualities and work ethic, while also being named the recipient of the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Senior Jackie Voigt, a native of Cottage Grove, Minn., was honored with the Golden Gopher Award, which is bestowed upon a player who displays what a Minnesota student-athlete is all about - the values, respect, loyalty and integrity of being a Golden Gopher athletically, academically and in the community - throughout a collegiate career.
Senior Brianna Mastey was the recipient of Minnesota's Most Improved Player award. Mastey, a native of Becker, Minn., played her best basketball in her final campaign, posting career-highs in three-point field goal percentage, free throw percentage, rebounds, blocks and steals. After coming off the bench early in the season, Mastey started the last six games of the year.
The Most Outstanding Scholar award was presented to junior Amber Dvorak. A native of Hinckley, Minn., Dvorak is set to graduate in just three years with a degree in youth studies in May. The center posted career-highs in almost every statistical category in her second season on the floor for the Gophers, including points, minutes, field goals, free throws, free throw percentage, rebounds, assists and blocks.
The Terry McFarland Sixth Player of the Year Award is given to a person or people who make a special contribution to the Golden Gopher program, whether in time, effort, donation or spirit. The 2011-12 recipients of this special award were Joel and Lois Maturi.
The Fast Break Club also announced its award winners at the banquet. The awards are voted upon by the FBC's Board of Directors. For the third-straight year, the Fast Break Club Award was awarded to Voigt. The FBC's Love of the Game awards were given to Buford, Voigt and Nicole Mastey.
The afternoon's festivities concluded with the 2011-12 highlight video, which was produced by Jess Lemanski and John Tipton.
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Courtside with Jasmine Brunson
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Game Preview: Illinois
The Gophers and Illini will meet at Williams Arena on Wednesday night. Minnesota has beaten Illinois twice in a row.