MACON, Ga. - FGCU enters the 2015-16 Atlantic Sun Women's Basketball season as the overwhelming favorite to repeat as league champions after being voted in first place in the preseason coaches' poll and media poll, announced Thursday by the league office.
The winners of five consecutive regular season and two-straight tournament championships, FGCU secured all eight first place votes in the coaches' poll, while collecting 22 of 23 first place votes in the media poll. Stetson, who earned the final first place vote in the media poll, was tabbed to finish behind the Eagles, while Jacksonville claimed third place in both coaches' poll and media polls.
Kennesaw State was picked to finish fourth with USC Upstate coming in fifth. Lipscomb, NJIT and North Florida rounded out the coaches' poll selections. The media poll reflected the same results as the coaches' poll as all teams finished with the same ranking.
FGCU took home both individual honors as Whitney Knight was voted the Preseason Player of the Year and Kaneisha Atwater was tabbed the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year by the league's head coaches. Both also garnered a spot on the 10-person A-Sun Preseason All-Conference team; read more about the selections below.
Atlantic Sun Preseason All-Conference Team:
(* - Denotes unanimous selection)
- Whitney Knight, FGCU*: The 2014-15 Player of the Year and First Team All-Conference selection returns for her senior campaign with FGCU. Led the A-Sun last season with 15.1 PPG and collected 6.4 RPG. Only player in the country to lead her team in three-pointers made and blocked shots. Made 91 three-pointers while shooting 41.2 percent from behind the arc. Blocked 3.21 shots per game in conference play for FGCU. Led the Eagles to their first NCAA victory over Oklahoma State last postseason.
- Kaneisha Atwater, FGCU*: The Preseason Defensive Player of the Year returns after garnering First Team All-Conference honors last season. Set FGCU's Division I era scoring record with 33-point performance against Providence. Recorded 58 steals and 1.70 steals per game last season for FGCU. Averaged 14.2 PPG, second most on team behind Knight. Played 31.4 minutes per game with team's highest intensity and tenacity on defense.
- Sherranda Reddick, Jacksonville*: Averaged 15.9 PPG in conference games last season; second highest scorer in the A-Sun. Finished with 23 double-figure scoring games to lead the Dolphins team. Made 55 three-pointers on the season, including going 6-8 from behind the arc in career-high 30 point performance against North Florida.
- Jasmine McAllister, Kennesaw State*: The 2014-15 A-Sun Newcomer of the Year and Second Team All-Conference selection returns for senior season with Owls. Tied record for most Newcomer of the Week awards last season. Led the A-Sun with 15 double-doubles, which ranked 22nd in the nation. Averaged 13.8 PPG and 10.6 RPG in first season with Owls.
- Ashley Southern, Lipscomb*: Led the Lady Bisons with 14.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG last season, which ranked fifth in the A-Sun in both categories. Notched seven double-doubles, while scoring in double-figures in 23 of 29 games played. Her 44.7 field goal percentage ranked ninth in the conference. She added 1.00 blocks per game in conference play.
- Brittany Starling, USC Upstate*: A 2014-15 Second Team All-Conference selection returns for the Spartans. She became the 15th player in program history last year to join the 1,000 career point club. Finished season with 12.1 PPG and 8.9 RPG. Led the A-Sun shooting 52.3 percent from the field. Recorded 11 double-doubles last season to lead Spartans.
- Brianti Saunders, Stetson*: The junior from Hilliard, Fla. averaged 14.6 PPG and shot over 50.4 percent from the floor in conference games last season. Made 43 three-point field goals last season for the Hatters. Scored in double-figures in 20 games, including six games of 20 points or more. Scored a career-high 33 points in conference win over Lipscomb last year.
- Stephanie Haas, FGCU: The 2014-15 A-Sun Scholar-Athlete of the Year is back for her senior season with the Eagles. A spark plug off the bench averaged 9.2 PPG for FGCU. Scored in double-figures in 14 games, while only making 18 starts. Shot 44.5 percent from the field and added 1.5 assists per game. Comes back as team's third highest scorer behind Atwater and Knight.
- Briona Brown, Jacksonville: Averaged 12.3 PPG last season to finish second on the team only behind Sherranda Reddick. Set a new career-high with 25 points against Lipscomb, one of 20 double-figure scoring games on the season. Recorded a team-high 37 steals last season, while pulling down 4.7 RPG.
- Kayla Gordon, Jacksonville: The 2014-15 A-Sun Freshman of the Year returns after scoring 9.9 PPG in conference play last season. Led all A-Sun freshman with 7.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 55.4 percent from the field in league games. Crowned the A-Sun Newcomer of the Week a record-tying six times last season.
For the fifth-straight year, the Atlantic Sun took to social media to poll the fans for the conference preseason superlative awards. NJIT's Leah Horton was voted the Fan-Voted Preseason Player of the Year with 114 votes , while FGCU's Kaneisha Atwater earned the Fan-Voted Preseason Defensive Player with 215 ballots cast in her favor.