Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The New Mexico State women’s basketball team’s magical season continued on Monday after the Western Athletic Conference announced the team has picked up the conference’s coach and player of the year awards as voted on by the eight WAC head coaches.
Head coach Mark Trakh is the 2014-15 WAC Coach of the Year while sophomore Brianna Freeman has been tabbed the 2014-15 WAC Player of the Year.
This is the first time the Aggies have received either a coach or player of the year by the WAC. The last NM State head coach to garner a conference coach of the year honor was Joe McKeown who was tabbed as the High Country Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1988, which was also the last season the Aggies, then Roadrunners, made the NCAA Tournament.
Trakh joins McKeown and Karen Fay, who was the Intermountain Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1980, as the only NM State coaches to receive the conference coach of the year award.
The last time the women’s program had a conference player of the year was in 1996 when Anita Maxwell, the program’s all-time leading scorer and only All-American, won the Big West Conference Player of the Year award for the third-consecutive season.
Freeman joins the short list of Maxwell and Vicki Evans, who was the High Country Athletic Conference Player of the year in 1989 and shared the honor in 1988, as the only NM State players tabbed conference player of the year.
Trakh and Freeman join McKeown and Evans in 1988 as the only coach-player tandem in program history to sweep the top conference awards, although Evans was a co-player of the year.
The conference also announced its All-WAC teams on Monday. Joining Freeman as part of the All-WAC first team are juniors Sasha Weber and Shanice Davis as the Aggies had three of the five first teamers.
Davis, a transfer from McLennan Community College and high school teammate of Freeman at Harker Heights High School in Killeen, Texas, was also placed on the WAC All-Newcomer team. Another Texas product, sophomore Moriah Mack, was honored as part of the WAC All-Defensive team.
In his fourth season in Las Cruces, Trakh led NM State to a 20-7 overall record that included a 13-1 mark in WAC games, leading the Aggies to their first WAC regular-season championship and first conference title in 20 years.
Under Trakh, NM State gets to 20 wins for the first time since the 2007-08 season when the team went 23-9. It is also the most wins and best record in conference play for the Aggies since joining the WAC.
The 13 WAC wins is the most conference wins since going 14-4 in the Big West in 1996. The 13-1 record is also the second-best record in conference play in program history, only outdone by the 10-0 High Country Athletic Conference finish in 1988.
Freeman, meanwhile, played well all season, ranking in the top 30 in the nation throughout the season in field-goal percentage. But the 6-1 forward turned it on in WAC play, finishing conference games almost averaging a double-double with a 17.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game average while shooting .541 from the field. All three statistics led the team and were second in the WAC.
She finished the conference schedule with seven double-doubles, posting double figures in points and rebounds in half of the WAC contests. Freeman also finished in double-digit scoring in all 14 conference games.
Late in the season, Freeman was rewarded for her superior play by being recognized as the WAC Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks. In doing so, she became the first-ever Aggie to win the award from the WAC in consecutive weeks and the first NM State player to win a conference player of the week honor in back-to-back weeks since Maxwell did it in 1996.
Freeman (17.5 points/game), Davis (16.9 points/game) and Weber (15.1 points/game) finished 2-3-4 in scoring during WAC play at the conclusion of the regular season. Weber, who became the 20th player in program history to reach 1,000 points earlier this season and now sits in 19th on the Aggie all-time scoring list, led the WAC in conference games by sinking 2.5 3-pointers per game. Davis almost marked three steals per game (2.9) in WAC play to lead the conference and also place her in the top 40 in the country.
Mack, meanwhile, always produced the intangibles that were necessary for NM State’s success. In WAC games she had 23 steals and 45 defensive rebounds, the only player on the team with at least 20 steals and 40 defensive boards. It seemed every time the Aggies needed a critical stop, steal or rebound, Mack was always around the ball.