March 5, 2014 6:53:42 AM
Jamierra Faulkner is a great player.
The same can be said for Martha Alwal and Tia Faleru.
For arguments sake, you could throw in Valencia McFarland and no one would argue she isn't one of the best women's basketball players in the state of Mississippi.
Which player is "the best?"
According to 18 voters from television, radio, and newspapers in Mississippi, Southern Mississippi senior point guard and Ole Miss junior guard Jarvis Summers deserve that distinction. Their prizes Monday were the Gillom and Howell trophies, which are given every year to the top women's and men's basketball players in the state.
In previous years, I didn't pay much attention to the process. I received the emails and I tried to remember to send in my ballot on time, and each year I heard results and thought the right players won the awards.
This year, I have a problem. Statistically, there is enough ammunition to make a case for Faulkner or for Alwal. Faulkner leads the nation in assists (8.5 per game) and is averaging 17.3 points per game and is shooting 47.6 percent from the field. More importantly, she has been a driving force behind Southern Miss' 23-5 record (12-3 in Conference USA). The 23 wins are the most for the Golden Eagles since 1993-94.
Alwal, who won the Gillom Trophy last season, also has been a fixture in her team's success. The 6-foot-4 center from Worthington, Minn., leads the Bulldogs (18-12, 5-11 Southeastern Conference) in scoring (15.5 points), rebounding (8.9), locked shots (78), and field goal percentage (50.3 percent). She has 10 double-doubles this season, and is the SEC's active leader in that category with 29.
Faleru has had a breakout junior season. She is second on the team in scoring (16.8 ppg.) and the team and the league in rebounding (9.8). Not to be outdone, McFarland leads the Rebels in scoring (16.9 ppg.) and is third in the league in assists (6.3).
Balancing the weight of those numbers is a challenge, so I will add in a couple more. According to RealTime RPI, the SEC is the nation's top-rated conference with an average Rating Percentage Index of 0.5914 and an average Strength of Schedule of 0.5802. Conference USA is 10th at 0.5181 and 0.5123. Collegiate Basketball News and Warren Nolan.com, two Internet sites that chart those figures, also have the SEC first and C-USA 10th.
Those numbers back up the argument of MSU coach Vic Schaefer, who feels Alwal's statistics are even more impressive when you consider she is playing in the "biggest, baddest" conference in the nation.
That's a lot of information to process. My problem comes from the fact that The Commercial Dispatch and The Starkville Daily News, two newspapers that cover MSU and women's basketball better than any other daily newspaper in the state, didn't get to vote. In a state with 19 daily newspapers, according to the Mississippi Press Association, that is odd.
Rick Cleveland, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, which organizes the voting, said in an email the voting for the Gillom and the Howell trophies was "evenly distributed in different parts of the state, just as they are every year." I can see getting a representative sample from each part of a state if it is the size of Texas, California, or New York, but Mississippi isn't big enough not to have every daily newspaper participate in voting for an award that is supposed to recognize "the best" in the state. Including all of the daily newspapers and the writers from Rivals.com, Scout.com, and 247Sports.com that cover MSU, Ole Miss, and Southern Miss would be a start. Each television and radio station that covers a school should have a vote, too. I think that would be the best way to get the biggest sample of voters so you receive the most accurate feedback from everyone in the state.
If that sounds like too many votes to handle for an award, I would be more than willing to assist in notification and gathering of the votes. When it comes to finding "the best," members of the media in Mississippi should make every effort to ensure that a label like that is only handed out when as many people as possible get an opportunity to participate.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Commercial Dispatch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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