Trio earns SEC women's basketball honors

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A first-ever Sixth Woman of the Year and the program’s third Freshman of the Year highlight the University of Arkansas Razorback women’s basketball players selected for the All-Southeastern Conference awards this week.

The Razorbacks, 17-12, open the 2009 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament at ALLTEL Arena in North Little Rock this Thursday, March 6, at noon against Ole Miss.

Arkansas’ leading scorer, freshman Ceira Ricketts, was voted by the league’s 12 head coaches as the 2009 SEC Co-Freshman of the Year and as a member of the All-SEC second team.

Junior Charity Ford became the first Razorback to receive the Sixth Woman of the Year award. Lyndsay Harris joined Ricketts on the SEC’s All-Freshman Team.

“I’m very pleased with the overall recognition of our program,” UA head coach Tom Collen said. “Two get two freshmen on the rookie team and one of those on the all-conference team plus the sixth player – and they are all underclassmen coming back next year – that is just great for our team.”

Ricketts and Harris were starters for Arkansas most of the season at the guard positions. Ford gave up her spot in the starting lineup from the past two seasons to make way for the newcomers.

“It is all part of a whole effort by our team,” Collen said. “Ceira and Lyndsay would not have had the opportunity to improve and gain the experience that put them on the all-freshman team without Charity’s efforts. They wouldn’t have had the chance to be the conference award winners without the leadership of our two seniors, Whitney Jones and Ayana Brereton. These really are team awards.”

With three guards who are all underclassmen earning SEC honors, Collen is excited about the future for the Razorbacks.

“That’s a key to becoming a top 25 team.,” Collen said. “If you’ve got two of the best freshmen guards in the SEC and the sixth player in the SEC, it means you’ve got two of the top freshmen guards in America and one of the best bench players in the nation.”

Ford averaged 7.8 ppg during a season that saw her miss several key games at the start of SEC play. Once healthy and back full-time, Arkansas with Ford as the top sub off the bench went on a 5-1 run to close to the conference season and finish 6-8 overall, the best SEC record since 2003. Ford averaged 9.7 ppg against SEC foes, including highlight games leading the team in scoring with 22 at Georgia and 19 at Florida.

“I’m really pleased the conference coaches felt Charity was impactful enough to earn this award,” Collen said. “Everyone in our program clearly understands how valuable she is to the Razorbacks, but it’s nice to know that the other coaches in the conference think the same thing.”

Ricketts was the SEC’s top statistical freshman for almost the entire season, leading Arkansas in scoring with 12.7 ppg and the SEC in steals with 2.4 per game. Ricketts was a five-time SEC Freshman of the Week selection, scoring her best games against the crème of the SEC crop. Ricketts’ career high of 22 was against Tennessee. She became the first Razorback to have a triple-double against 2009 SEC Champion Auburn back in January with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.

Ricketts is only the second Razorback women’s basketball player to also earn all-conference honors as a freshman. The first was 1995 SEC Freshman of the Year and also second-team All-SEC, Christy Smith.

“I realize that Arkansas fans want to draw comparisons between Ceira and Christy,” Collen said. “The fact is they are two totally different style of players, but at the same time, they have both had an immediate impact on our program in a very, very positive way.”

Harris and Ricketts are only the second teammates to earn selection to the SEC All-Freshman team. In 1996, Shaka Massey and Sytia Messer were chosen for the all-freshman squad.

“We are really proud that two players from our first recruiting class have made the all-freshman team,” Collen said. “Ceira had such a great year that it often overshadowed the outstanding year that Lyndsay was having. It means a lot that the coaches felt strongly enough to put Lyndsay on the all-freshman team.”

Harris was Arkansas’ top three-point shooter with 52 treys during the regular season as the Razorbacks’ third-leading scorer with 9.9 ppg heading into the SEC Tournament. Her 23 points against Oregon State ties for the most by any Razorback this season, and she received all-tournament honors at the Junkanoo Jam in November.

With Harris and Ricketts, Arkansas has 10 players that were Freshman All-SEC and half – six – were recruited to Arkansas by Collen during his time as an assistant in the mid-1990s or as the head coach returning to the Razorbacks in 2007.

“I think we all know that great players make coaches look good, and I’m certainly excited to be a part of bringing several impactful freshmen into the program,” Collen said. “I’m excited for Ceira and Lyndsay, but I do believe before the careers of this entire 2008 class are over we’ll look back and see that our other newcomers have made a lot of noise at Arkansas.”