Lady Dawgs set for tommorow's NCAAs

ATHENS – Earlier this week, Stanford guard Candice Wiggins called Georgia forward Tasha Humphrey's cell phone.

"She said, ‘Hey, freshman of the year,' I said, ‘No, that's you,'" Humphrey recalled.

On Wednesday, it turned out they were both right as Humphrey and Wiggins shared the National Freshman of the Year award handed out by the United States Basketball Writers Association.

Humphrey leads the No. 20 Lady Bulldogs in scoring (19.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.2 rpg) and was previously named SEC Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-SEC player. Georgia (22-9) plays Rice on Saturday in Dallas in the first round of the NCAA Women's Tournament.

"I guess it's an understatement to say she deserves (the most recent honor)," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "When you battle the attention she's gotten defensively from the opposing teams without as much as flinching and you continue to perform night in and night out, forget whether you're a freshman or a senior, it's impressive."

Landers said Humphrey has faced more double teams this season than any player he has coached, and she still manages to shoot 57.5 percent, the third-best percentage in the SEC. She also ranks third in the conference in scoring, fifth in rebounding, ninth in blocks and ninth in free throw percentage.

She is the Lady Bulldogs' first national freshman of the year since Tammye Jenkins in 1998. Janet Harris (1982) is the only other Georgia player to win the award.

"It was never my No. 1 priority, but in the back of my mind, it was one of the things on a short list of goals I had," Humphrey said.

Humphrey was a three-time prep player of the year in the state of Georgia and considered one of the country's top five high school players when she signed with the Lady Bulldogs.

"After a few days of practice, I started to think she was special," Landers said. "After two or three games, I knew she was."

Midway through the season, shortly after Sports Illustrated ran a feature story on Wiggins, Landers publicly expressed his concern that Humphrey wasn't getting enough media attention to win freshman of the year honors. Humphrey took care of that when she hit 13 of 20 shots and scored 33 points during a televised game against then-No. 1 LSU in the SEC Tournament last week.

"Anybody that hadn't seen her play may have only needed to see her that one time," Landers said.

Humphrey scored in double figures in 28 of the 30 games she played this year. Two of her best games came against LSU and then-No. 2 Texas (27 points).

"She's been a model of consistency, really," Landers said.

Landers praised not just Humphrey's physical talents but also her willingness to accept coaching, a quality that's not always present in elite players.

"She is just so coachable," he said. "She gets it. She understands basketball."

Humphrey said she has always taken pride in being "the most coachable player there is" and pointed out that she feels compelled to listen to Landers because he has "97 years of basketball experience."

Humphrey and Wiggins first met playing against each other in AAU basketball and became close while spending time together before last year's McDonald's All-American game. Wiggins, the daughter of former San Diego Padre Alan Wiggins, was the Pac-10 Player of the Year this season after leading No. 1 Stanford with 17.3 points per game. She also plays on the Stanford volleyball team.

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