On the heels of the greatest season in Iowa women's basketball history (and at this point it probably doesn't even require the "women's basketball caveat), the richly deserved awards and honors keep rolling in for Megan Gustafson. On Thursday Megan Gustafson was named a unanimous first team All-America pick by ESPNW. On Friday Gustafson did one better than that, earning ESPNW's National Player of the Year Award.
Gustafson was a unanimous pick for the Player of the Year Award, a clear nod to her breathtaking dominance on a nightly basis. As ESPN explains:
Iowa center Megan Gustafson won the honor both for her game-after-game consistency and her big-game fireworks. For the second year in a row, she led the nation in scoring, defying every type of defense designed to slow her down. And she dominated the boards, too, averaging a double-double (28.0 PPG and 13.3 RPG) this season.
According to Her Hoop Stats, Gustafson is atop Division I not just in scoring average but also shooting percentage (69.6), field goals made (369), field goals made per game (11.5) and points per scoring attempt (1.44).
Stats are good, but coming through in the biggest moments is even better -- and Gustafson did just that in the biggest games of Iowa's season last week at the Big Ten Tournament. And that, per ESPN, solidified her status among the selectors as the hands-down Player of the Year. Which makes sense: when you go off for 45 points and 10 rebounds in the Big Ten Championship Game and single-handedly lock up a conference championship for your team, well, that's greatness that cannot be denied.
Despite being the focal point of every defense Iowa played, Gustafson continued to put up staggering numbers and carry Iowa forward with win after win (26 and counting). Maryland head coach Brenda Frese explains the impossibility of defending Gustafson well:
"Megan is so strong, so physical, and just a very difficult matchup, obviously, for us," Frese said. "It just really impacted us because of just the tremendous foul trouble that we were in.
"She's just that good. The first time we played them, we tried to run a lot of triangle-and-two and different looks at her, and it didn't pay off. We tried to front; we tried to have great help-side defense."
Frese's laments were expressed by all of Iowa's opponents. Defenses were set up specifically to slow her down, but she had a double-double in every game but two, when she just missed on the rebounding side.
There was no stopping Gustafson on the court this season and so far there's been no stopping her on the awards circuit, either. Here's guessing this won't be the last National Player of the Year award that she adds to her trophy collection this season.
Congratulations to Megan Gustafson on a phenomenal season so far and this well-deserved piece of recognition.