Thursday, January 7, 2010

Top Women Players of the Past Decade

Last week this blogger picked an All-Decade team for men's players, so it's now time for the women's picks.

A quick note: This one was much harder. There was a pretty clear-cut top five in the mind of yours truly. The women's top five isn't nearly so easy to identify. In fact, there are legitimately seven players who could be included in a Top 5 of the Decade team. So, I'll include two honorable mentions.

Another note: Your blogger has seen every player under consideration a minimum of eight times, and several of them many more times than that.

Without further adieu ... the best of the 2000's, in no particular order:

Rosalie Mason, Manhattan (2000-04).

The hard-working 6-1 forward was an athletic post presence who could run the floor and make shots from the perimeter, too. Mason, like Manhattan's standout male player of the era Luis Flores, was fundamentally sound and produced major numbers with a minimum of flash and dash. She is the conference's all-time leading career rebounder (1,217) and No. 7 on the scoring list (1,875).

Rachele Fitz, Marist (2006-present)

The 6-1 forward is the only active player on the list, and her name not only belongs on the all-decade team but also in any consideration of the MAAC's all-time single-best female player. The slender Fitz also goes about her work in unspectacular fashion, but just piles up numbers. She is currently No. 3 all-time in scoring (2,104), and is on pace to surpass Patty Stoffey (Loyola) as the league's all-time leader in points (Stoffey has 2,467). Fitz is currently 16th in rebounding at 893, and is on pace to wind up 6th all time. She is also No. 2 on the career field-goal percentage list (57.6). Additionally, she is one of two two-time winners of the conference's Player of the Year award in the just-concluded decade.

Gunta Basko, Siena (1999-03).

The 6-1 swing player is the other two-time MAAC Player of the Year award winner of the past decade. She helped lead the Saints to a dominating 48-6 mark in conference play over her final three seasons, including a 17-1 record in league play in the 2000-01 season making that team one of just three in MAAC history to record at least 17 conference victories. Basko ranks 13th all time in scoring (1,833) and 8th in career rebounding (1,027).

Eva Cunningham, Niagara (2001-05)

A dynamic, athletic combo guard who could run a team and put up points. She finished with 1,753 career points, 17th on the conference's all-time list and with a 1.98 assist-to-turnover ratio, 4th-best over a career. Cunningham's 552 career assists is the second-highest total recorded in the decade of the 2000's. With Cunningham as the featured player, Niagara recorded a 36-18 record over her last three seasons. It hasn't won more than six league games in any season since her graduation.

Alisa Kresge, Marist (2003-07)

Kresge's worth is next-to-impossible to measure in numbers, and you won't find her name in many of the conference's all-time statistical-leader lists. But, some numbers do indicate her contributions. She is No. 1 all-time in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.69) and No. 1 in the past decade in total assists (586), with that total ranking as the fourth-best in conference history. Mostly, though, Kresge was the proverbial coach on the floor, an amazingly steady influence who imposed her will on games without having to score. Marist had a conference record of 8-10 in 2002-03, the year before Kresge's arrival, but had a 61-11 record in her four seasons with the team.

Honorable mentions ...

Liene Jansone, Siena (2000-04).

The rugged 6-2 inside force was the MAAC's Player of the Year as a junior, but a variety of injuries kept her from having as strong a senior season. Still, she is 26th all-time in conference scoring (1,639 points), N0. 18 in rebounding (867) and the MAAC's all-time leader in field-goal percentage (59.1).

Gail Strumpf, Fairfield (1997-2001)

Her 1,873 career points is 8th all-time among conference players, her 1,106 rebounds is the fifth-highest total in league history and her 244 blocks ranks No. 2 on the career list. The standout 6-3 center surely ranks among the better players ever to perform in the MAAC. But, much of that work came in the decade of the 1990's. The fact that this 2001 graduate only played three semesters in the decade of the 2000's kept her off this blogger's all-decade all-star list.

Coach of the Decade: Brian Giorgis, Marist (2002-present)

Not much debate here ... actually, none. Giorgis' work at Marist ranks with the best at any program in the country. He currently has a 178-58 record with the Red Foxes, and his .757 winning percentage there entering the current season was 9th best among all active Division I coaches. He took over a downtrodden program (22-68 in conference play in the five seasons before his arrival) and quickly turned things around. His first team finished 8-10 in MAAC play. Since then, his teams have dominated the conference like no other, recording a 165-45 overall record since the start of the 2003-04 season and an incredible 97-13 mark in MAAC play.

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