GREENSBORO, N.C. – Maryland women’s basketball sophomore Alyssa Thomas was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, announced by ACC Commissioner John Swofford Thursday. The conference’s top individual honor is voted on by the league’s “Blue Ribbon Panel,” which consists of national and local media members, as well as school representatives.
Thomas, a native of Harrisburg, Pa., is just the second sophomore ever to be honored with the league’s top honor in its 29-year history. Duke’s Alana Beard won in 2002 as a sophomore. Beard and Thomas were both named ACC Rookie of the Year in their respective freshman seasons.
She is the fourth Terrapin to win the honor and the third in the last five years. Vicky Bullett won in 1989, Crystal Langhorne was honored in 2008 and Kristi Toliver won in 2009.
“First, I have to thank my teammates and our coaches. They push me every single day and we play hard for each other,” Thomas said. “This is such an honor because there’s so many great players in our league.”
Thomas, the ACC’s leading scorer, is averaging 17.0 points per game and 17.7 points per conference game. Her 8.5 rebounds per ACC game are fifth-best in the league. She was named ACC Player of the Week Monday and recorded a total of four weekly honors this season – more than any other player in the league.
“What a tremendous honor for Alyssa and we’re really appreciative that the voters recognized the incredible season she’s had for Maryland,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “We also know that there were other worthy candidates. I think Alyssa’s had more legendary-type moments in one season than most have in a lifetime. Her will to win is unsurpassed and I don’t think anyone plays harder for her team. She’s easy to coach and she responds to being challenged. Of course, this could not have happened without her tremendous teammates and the staff.”
“We feel like we’ve helped her improve, but really, what you see from Alyssa all started back home in Harrisburg, where she was raised by an incredible family and community. As a person and a player, she’s one of the people you want to wear your uniform and to represent your school. We’re incredibly proud and happy for her and our program.”
Thomas proved to be a game-changer for the Terrapins. In their third ACC contest of the season, Thomas scored 18 second half points, including the winning jumper with 17.0 seconds left, to help Maryland come back from a 20-point deficit to top Georgia Tech. Two days later, she made a reverse layup at the buzzer to force overtime at North Carolina. The Terps would go on to win 76-72.
In the Terrapins’ 63-61 win over No. 5 Duke on Feb. 19, Thomas pulled in 12 rebounds but made one of the best defensive plays of the season on the last play. With four seconds left in the game and the Terps with a two-point lead, Thomas helped get a stop in the paint to force the ball outside. As the Blue Devils swung it around the arc to Haley Peters on the opposite side of the court from Thomas, she sprinted to Peters and blocked the potential game-winning shot as the buzzer expired, sealing the win for the Terrapins. It would be Duke’s lone loss in ACC play.
A week later, she scored 22 of her 24 points in the second half to lead Maryland to a 65-50 win at North Carolina State in the regular season finale. In one 10-minute span in the second half, she rattled off 16 straight points for the Terrapins and finished with a career-high 17 blocks and four rebounds.
Thomas has scored in double figures in 25 of 28 games this season with eight double-doubles. The Terrapins won four straight to end the regular season. In that four-game span, Thomas averaged 17.0 points, 13.3 rebounds and four assists per game.
“What Alyssa has done this year against some stiff competition is nothing short of remarkable and has been so much fun to watch,” Maryland director of athletics Kevin Anderson said. “Alyssa represents all that we are here at Maryland with her incredible work ethic, love for her team and leadership on and off the court. Congratulations to her and her teammates, Coach Frese and the rest of the program for their part in this special award.”
Four members of the fifth-ranked Terrapins squad were named to the All-ACC Teams announced Monday. Thomas earned first team honors, while Tianna Hawkins made the second team. Lynetta Kizer and Laurin Mincy each earned honorable mention honors and Kizer was enamed the ACC’s Sixth Player of the Year. Brene Moseley was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team Tuesday and Alicia DeVaughn was named to the ACC All-Defensive Team Wednesday.
The Terrapins (25-4, 11-4 ACC) will open play in the 35th Annual ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament Friday evening at approximately 8 p.m. as the No. 3 seed. They will play either sixth-seeded Virginia or 11th-seeded Boston College, depending on Thursday’s result.
All eight games on Thursday and Friday will be broadcast on the league’s regional sports network (RSN), which includes Comcast SportsNet +, Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Florida and the New England Sports Network. Friday’s contest can be seen locally on Comcast SportsNet +. The entire tournament can also be seen on ESPN3 and Maryland’s games will also be shown online on the Terps’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MarylandWomensBasketballFans.
For more information, visit the official site of the 2012 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament at www.theACC.com/SheCanPlay. Fans can also follow the upcoming Tournament games on Twitter at @ACCwbb.
Maryland is ranked No. 5 in the latest ESPN/USA Today Division I Top 25 Coaches’ poll and No. 6 in this week’s Associated Press rankings.