|Spanou Named NEC Rookie of the Year|
Moon Township, Pa.-Robert Morris University women's basketball freshman Artemis Spanou (Rhodes, Greece / Greek National Team) earned more hardware than anyone in the Northeast Conference this season after being named the league's Rookie of the Year and being put on both the All-NEC Second Team and the NEC All-Rookie Team. Senior guard Yohanna Morton (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic / Dominican National Team) was also named to the All-NEC Second Team as the conference office held a teleconference Wednesday morning to announce the awards.
"We're really excited about Artemis getting rookie of the year," said eighth-year RMU head coach Sal Buscaglia. "It's well deserved for her and I wouldn't be surprised if it was a unanimous vote because she was certainly deserving. She put herself way above any of the other rookies and I appreciate the coaches recognizing that. And not only that, but she was named to the all-conference second team, so not only was she recognized as the top rookie, but also one of the top players overall in the league.
Spanou is the first player from Robert Morris to be honored as the NEC Rookie of the Year. She has been a dominant force as a freshman, earning the Choice Hotels Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week award six times while averaging a double-double, 13.7 points and 10.6 rebounds, in conference games. Overall, the Greek National Team member is putting up 12.9 points and a league-best 9.5 rebounds per game. On top of those numbers, she is second on the squad with 88 assists this season and leads the team with 33 blocks.
Those statistics put her in the top-10 in the NEC in overall points (7th- 12.9), rebounding (1st - 9.5), assists (8th - 3.14) and blocked shots (t5th - 1.18). Her 11 double-doubles this season are the second most among all NEC players.
"I'm also really happy for Yohanna, who even though she got injured, the coaches felt she was one of the best players in the league," said Buscaglia. "I felt there was a shot for her being the best player in the league, although there are certainly some other very good players out there, I think she is the top point guard in the conference."
Had a late-season injury not forced Morton to the bench for five games, the senior point guard would have been a favorite to earn NEC Player of the Year honors. Morton leads the Colonials and is fifth in the conference averaging 13.7 points per game, a number that swells to 15.5 points in league games. She also has 101 assists in 23 games, an average of 4.39 that puts her third among league peers, and her 47 steals this season rank eighth.
"I'm a little bit disappointed that Kristine Silaraja didn't get recognized," said Buscaglia. "That always happens. You always get that kid on the team that does everything for you. Kristine always plays good defense, she a hard worker and is an easy kid to coach. She comes out and works hard in practice every day.
Silaraja (Ventspils, Latvia / Barton County CC) was third on the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game. She plays nearly 38 minutes a game, two minutes more than any other player in the league. Silaraja is one of the NEC's most accurate shooters, hitting at 48.8 percent, which is made even more impressive when you realize that over half of her attempts are three-pointers. She is sixth in overall field goal percentage and her 37.7 percent conversion rate from three-point range puts her seventh.
"She will stick in my mind, if anyone ever asks me who was one of the best kids you ever coached - the most competitive, nicest, hardest working, listened -one of the first names that will come to mind is Kristine Silaraja," said Buscaglia. "But she also knows that getting the team hardware is more important than winning individual awards. Last year we won a lot of awards, and there is no doubt we were the best in the team in the conference, but we didn't get it done on the road in the playoffs. This year, we have a group of seniors - Destiny Harrison, Yohanna, Kristine - who want the team goal of winning the conference tournament and getting to the big dance. To do that, we have to take it one game at a time starting on Saturday."
The fourth-seeded Colonials begin their quest to earn an NCAA Tournament berth this Saturday, March 5, when they play fifth-seeded Long Island at the Charles L. Sewall Center at 4:00 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Northeast Conference Basketball Championships Presented by Ruby Tuesday. The two teams split the regular season meetings, each winning on the other team's court. Robert Morris knocked off LIU, 62-50, behind 22 points from Yohanna Morton in Brooklyn back on Dec. 5. Nearly two months later, the Blackbirds returned the favor, escaping the Sewall Center with a four-point victory, 65-61.
2011 Northeast Conference Postseason Honors
Rookie of the Year
Defensive Player of the Year
Brenda Reilly Coach of the Year
Player of the Year
First Team All-Conference