Four of the five members of The Associated Press women's basketball preseason All-America team this fall have something else in common aside from being great players anticipating great seasons.
The top three vote totals (from a 40-member media panel) and four of the top five went to former Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year award winners. Baylor junior center Brittney Griner, the 2008-09 Gatorade Texas POY, became just the eighth player selected unanimously. All seven others in history were also former Gatorade Player of the Year honorees.
Griner led the way on the 2011-12 squad, followed by 2008-09 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year and Notre Dame junior guard Skylar Diggins, who received 37 votes. Stanford senior center Nneka Ogwumike, who earned Gatorade National POY honors in 2007-08, also captured 37 balloters. Rounding out the former POY quartet that populates this year’s AP starting five is Tennessee senior wing Shekinna Stricklen, a two-time Gatorade Arkansas POY (2006-08).
The only non-POY on the AP squad is Miami senior and Rush-Henrietta High (Henrietta, NY) alumnae Shenise Johnson, who was edged in the 2007-08 Gatorade New York POY race by Ohio State senior and All-Big Ten guard Samantha Prahalis -- already the only Buckeye ever to score 1,000 points and pass for 700 assists. As a Commack High (Commack, NY) senior in 2007-08, Prahalis made a good case for herself, averaging 30.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 7.2 steals per game.
Griner, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National Defensive Player of the Year last year, dominated Lone Star State basketball as a high school senior, averaging 27.1 points, 12.2 rebounds and 7.6 blocks per game for Nimitz High (Houston, Texas).
Diggins led the Irish to the NCAA title game this past spring as the team-leader in assists (4.8), averaging 15 points per game. As a prep senior at Washington High (South Bend, Ind.), she averaged 29 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 5.4 steals. Diggins -- also the 2009 Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year -- graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA.
Meanwhile, Ogwumike is poised to complete an All-American career with the Cardinal, leading Stanford to three straight Final Four appearances (and counting). As a high school senior at Cy-Fair High (Cypress, Texas), she averaged 18.2 points and 9.3 rebounds and led the Bobcats to the Class 5A state title -- all while maintaining a 3.86 GPA.
Stricklen averaged 12.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game for the Vols as a junior. As a high school senior at Morrilton High, she averaged 26 points, 13 rebounds, six steals and five assists per game while maintaining a 3.62 GPA.
Interestingly, the only other unanimous selections to the AP preseason All-America team were all former Gatorade POYs: Maya Moore (twice unanimous), Courtney Paris, Chamique Holdsclaw, Diana Taurasi, Alana Beard, Seimone Augustus and Candace Parker.
Moore (2006-07) and Parker (2003-04) were Gatorade National POYs as prep stars. Augustus (2000-02), Holdsclaw (1993-95) and Taurasi (1998-00) were two-time State POY winners, respectively, in Louisiana, New York and California. Paris (2004-05) also won California POY honors while Beard (1999-00) preceded Augustus as Gatorade State POY in Louisiana.