MACON Ga. – On the tails of the team’s fourth-straight Atlantic Sun Regular Season Championship, the FGCU women’s basketball team earned two of the league’s five major awards, as announced by the conference Monday afternoon. Head coach Karl Smesko earned his fifth Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year award, while senior captain Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane High School) was named Atlantic Sun Player of the Year for the second-straight year and earned a position on the All-Conference First Team for the third-consecutive year. Hansen was the team’s only unanimous selection. Redshirt-sophomore Whitney Knight (Winston-Salem, N.C./R.J. Reynolds High School) also picked up a First Team All-Conference nod in her first season back from injury.
“Sarah and Whitney have had excellent seasons and I am pleased to see them recognized,” said Smesko of the accolades. “There are so many really good players in the Atlantic Sun right now. For both of them to be selected First Team All-Atlantic Sun is quite an achievement. Sarah has had an amazing career at FGCU, and now she has earned back-to-back A-Sun Player of the Year awards. I am really happy for her.”
As the team’s captain and only senior, Hansen led the team with 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season. Hansen also recorded a team-high shooting percentage at .483 and led the team with 58 steals during the regular season. She recorded six double-doubles on the season with four in the last seven games and had 23 games with double-figure points with two 20+ point performances. Hansen led the Eagles in scoring on seven occasions and led the team in rebounds 20 times.
Hansen has set her mark in FGCU history as she set a new program record with nine steals in the win over Saint Francis University and rewrote the FGCU all-time record books. Hansen will graduate as the program leader in 11 categories - points, rebounds, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, field goals made, field goals attempted, steals, free-throws made, games started, minutes played and games played.
In Hansen’s four years on the court, the Eagles have never finished below first place in the Atlantic Sun standings. Hansen’s tenure boasts 106 team wins that include notable wins over LSU, Michigan State, Virginia Tech and USF and a mark of 68-4 in Atlantic Sun play.
Hansen is the program’s first and only Player of the Year. She earned the award last season after averaging 16.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and leading FGCU to the Regular Season Championship and is a three-time First Team selection. Hansen earned an All-Conference award in each of her four years with FGCU after being selected as a Second Team All-Conference member as a freshman.
After sitting out last season with an ACL tear, Knight returned to the court ready to lead the Eagles to success. She opened the season with 25 points in a win over FIU and added 19 double-figure performances with five games over 20 points. She averaged 12.6 points per game with a team-high 84 blocks in the regular season to set the FGCU single-season record and take over the career record at 134 blocks through just two years. Knight also holds the single-game record for blocks with nine in a win over Jacksonville earlier this season.
Knight’s versatility is shown in her shooting strength. The 6’1 sophomore leads the Eagles and the Atlantic Sun with 75 shots made from the perimeter and holds a shooting percentage of .394 percent through 30 games. Knight’s efforts for the Eagles were evident in multiple games as she single-handedly led the Eagles back from deficit on several occasions including a 9-0 run to spark the team over ETSU in January. Knight produced 14 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and three steals on Saturday to help lead the Eagles over Stetson for the team’s fourth-straight Regular Season Conference Championship and will be a force for FGCU in the conference tournament this week.
In this 12th season as head coach of the Eagles Smesko holds an incredible record of 311-63 at FGCU for a win percentage of .831. Smesko has led the Green and Blue to four-straight Atlantic Sun Regular Season titles and five championships in the last six years with a record of 117-13 in conference play. Through his career, Smesko holds a record of 372-93 to rank among the top five active NCAA Division I coaches with win percentages over .800. The Ohio native has coached 17 All-Conference award winners at the Division I level with six first-team members, including Hansen and Knight.
Smesko and the team will begin Atlantic Sun Championship action on Tuesday, March 11 as the top-seeded Eagles host no. 8 Lipscomb in the quarterfinals at Alico Arena. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. and can be viewed live and free of charge on ESPN3. Following Tuesday’s matchup, the semifinal and final rounds will be played at the top remaining seed, meaning FGCU will play all conference tournament games in front of the home crowd.
Tickets for all three games are selling quickly. Fans can reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets.
For up-to-the-minute information and behind-the-scenes access to the women’s basketball program, follow @FGCU_WBB on Twitter and Instagram, and “Like” us on Facebook at /FGCUWBB.
FULL ATLANTIC SUN HONORS
Player of the Year: Sarah Hansen, FGCU
Defensive Player of the Year: Teanna Robinson, Mercer
Freshman of the Year: Amber Porter, Stetson
Newcomer of the Year: Ashley Southern, Lipscomb
Coach of the Year: Karl Smesko, FGCU
First Team All-Atlantic Sun
*G, Sarah Hansen, FGCU
G, Whitney Knight, FGCU
F, Melody Doss, Northern Kentucky
F/C, Amber Porter, Stetson
G, Jama Sharp, Stetson
F, Sasha Sims, Stetson
Second Team All-Atlantic Sun
G, Queen Alford, Jacksonville
F, Ashley Southern, Lipscomb
G, Kendra Grant, Mercer
F, Kayla Thacker, Northern Kentucky
G, Brittany Clency, USC Upstate
Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team
*G, Sherranda Reddick, Jacksonville
*F/C, Amber Porter, Stetson
G, Deandrea Sawyers, Kennesaw State
G, Chandler Cooper, Lipscomb
G, Brianti Saunders, Stetson