The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team has announced its award winners for the 2016-17 season.
The Crusaders recognized the team’s Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player, Hardest Worker, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Player of the Year and Fountain Award Winner.
Team MVP: Dani Franklin | Junior | Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Franklin finished the season with 559 points, which ranks second in program history for points in a single year. She led the Crusaders in scoring with 18.0 points per game and rebounding with 7.8 boards per contest. Franklin crossed the 1,000-point plateau as only a junior, and enters her senior season with 1,236 career points, which already ranks sixth in program history. Her 18.0 points per game are fifth in program history for single-season scoring average. She also shot 85.8 percent at the free-throw line, the second-best single-season free-throw percentage in program history. Franklin started the year with a 34-point performance on Nov. 12 at Stetson. It was the fifth-highest single-game scoring output in program history and the highest since 1992. Franklin finished the season second in the Horizon League in scoring, eighth in rebounding, second in free-throw percentage, second in three-point field goal percentage (.430) and fourth in made 3s per game (2.1).
“The words Most Valuable Player summarize Dani Franklin’s season perfectly,” Valpo head coach Tracey Dorow said. “She could have won nearly every award she was eligible for this year. She was so valuable in so many areas. She defended much better than what she had the last couple of years. She really tried to challenge herself and come out of her comfort zone this year. I can’t say enough good things about Dani and her value to our team, which is why she earned this award.”
Most Improved Players: Dani Franklin and Georgi Donchetz
Franklin has been a standout throughout her collegiate career, but this season she reached a whole new level. She increased her scoring average from last year by nearly eight points, boosted her 3-point percentage by nearly 12 percent and over doubled her number of total rebounds and made free throws from a year ago. For her efforts this season, Franklin was recognized as a Horizon League all-second team honoree.
“Dani has grown from wanting to be a spot-up 3-point shooter her first few years to scoring regularly in a variety of ways,” Dorow said. “She has become much more consistent. She’s put in the work and you can see how much she’s improved from year to year.”
After two injury-riddled seasons during which Donchetz played sparingly, she burst onto the scene as a regular contributor throughout her junior campaign. Donchetz played in 28 games and made eight starts. She set single-season career bests in points, rebounds, assists and shooting percentage.
“Georgi was a significant member of the core group on the floor this season,” Dorow said. “She played multiple positions and made a difference at every spot. Sometimes her impact showed through numbers, but most of the time it was by being the glue that kept our team together.”
Hardest Worker: Addison Stoller | Freshman | Cissna Park, Ill.
Stoller’s first collegiate season took an unexpected and unwelcomed turn when she suffered a season-ending knee injury in only the fifth game of the year on Nov. 25 against Liberty. When faced with such adversity, Stoller’s work ethic and resiliency showed through. Although her injury prevented her from making an impact on the court for the remainder of the season, the Crusaders are optimistic that her hard work during the rehabilitation process will pay dividends for the team as she returns to the court for the 2017-18 campaign.
“It was hard to pick this one because all of our kids work hard, but Addy stood out,” Dorow said. “Before she got hurt, she was doing so much extra to prepare herself to be on the court this season. After she got hurt, she was always in the training room. That’s her mentality – she wants to do more than everybody else. As we look to the future, that’s the mentality that we want from our entire team. If everybody works as hard as Addison Stoller, we’re going to be right where we need to be.”
Rookie of the Year: Caitlin Morrison | Freshman | Glenview, Ill.
Morrison started 25 games as a freshman this season, chipping in 5.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. She buried 22 3-pointers and made 50 total field goals this year. Morrison finished the season strong, scoring a career-high 11 points and matching a career high with eight rebounds in Valpo’s first round Horizon League Tournament win over Youngstown State on March 3.
“Caitlin earned the right to start as a freshman, and a lot of that was due to her athleticism and attributes people don’t always see from the stands,” Dorow said. “You could see flashes of brilliance this year. I’m excited for her future now that Caitlin knows what to expect at the college level and how to prepare for next season.”
Sixth Player of the Year: Grace Hales | Cromwell, Ind. | Westview
Hales knocked down 3 threes in her Valpo debut, becoming the first Crusader freshman to do so in the last decade. She also made a good first impression in the Horizon League opener on Dec. 29, scoring a career-high 13 points at Detroit Mercy. She led the team in scoring on Feb. 16 against Oakland with 11 points. Hales was a consistent force off the bench, contributing 5.5 points per game while making one start in 31 appearances. She finished the season second on the team in free-throw percentage at 81.4 after enjoying a stretch of 21 straight made free throws that spanned December, January and February.
“Grace came off the bench the whole season and our opponents always had to worry about her,” Dorow said. “She surprised us with her ability to drive to the hoop and get to the free-throw line. It’s exciting to see her ability to both attack the basket and shoot the 3. She did some things we didn’t expect her freshman year, and we can’t wait to see her build on that going forward.”
Fountain Award: Georgi Donchetz | Junior | Savage, Minn.
Perhaps the premiere award handed out by the Valpo women’s basketball program, the Fountain Award is given annually to the player who most raises the team’s energy level. There was little question Donchetz would be the runaway winner for this honor for the second consecutive season.
“This award is all about what we stand for as a program,” Dorow said. “We really want players who are excited about playing basketball here at Valpo. You can see the passion in Georgi. She exemplifies everything about this award.”