WEST LAFAYETTE — Although Stephanie White had yet to submit her ballot, the Big Ten Network women’s basketball analyst said Sunday that she was leaning strongly toward Illinois’ Matt Bollant as the conference’s Coach of the Year. The former Purdue great called Bollant “the front-runner” for the award.
“I think Matt’s done a terrific job,” said White, who joined play-by-play announcer Eric Collins on BTN’s call of the Illini-Purdue game at Mackey Arena. “I think even though everyone knew they had great players coming back, I don’t think anyone could have expected that they would be fighting for third place in the league so quickly.”
White said Penn State’s Coquese Washington and Michigan State’s Suzy Merchant also deserved consideration. Washington’s Nittany Lions were the preseason conference favorite in the Big Ten coaches’ poll and entered Sunday’s regular season finale with a one-game lead in the league race.
“There’s a lot that goes into having the target on your back and being able to manage those expectations,” White said of Washington.
White cited Merchant’s work with a team that faced a challenging transition this season.
“They graduated their three top scorers and returned a team that didn’t have a lot of game experience,” White said, “and I think she’s done an outstanding job as well.”
White said Penn State guard Maggie Lucas was her pick for Player of the Year.
“I like Maggie Lucas, not only because she puts up really big numbers, but I also think that part of being Player of the Year is how you make you teammates better,” White said. “And I think that she does that. I think the success of your team is also a strong indicator of how you are as a teammate. And to me, that weighs heavily on my decision, as opposed to numbers.
White also mentioned Tayler Hill of Ohio State and Rachel Banham of Minnesota but said the fact that each played for second-division teams swayed her POY thinking on the duo.
“I think their teams have underperformed,” she said.
White indicated she believes Illini center Karisma Penn has made a strong argument for consideration for first-team All-Big Ten, and that fellow UI senior Adrienne GodBold also should be recognized.
“There are times where (Penn) puts up Player of the Year-type numbers,” White said. “And I think Adrienne GodBold is someone that needs to be considered for one of the all-conference teams.
“I think both of them have elevated their game and certainly deserve a spot on one of the teams.”