Mobile, Ala. — Western Kentucky University senior forward Crystal Kelly was named the Sun Belt Conference Women’s Basketball Preseason Player of the Year Monday afternoon at the league’s annual Media Days. Kelly was also a first-team preseason all-conference selection, while junior forward Dominique Duck earned a spot on the second team.
In addition to the individual accolades, the Lady Toppers were picked by the league coaches to win the Sun Belt East Division. WKU earned nine of a possible 13 first-place votes, and earned a total of 74 points — five more than defending league champion Middle Tennessee which earned the remaining four first-place votes. Florida International was picked to finish third in the division, with Troy and South Alabama tying for fourth and Florida Atlantic coming in sixth. UALR was picked to win the West Division, finishing six points ahead of second-place Denver.
Kelly — a first-team all-Sun Belt selection each of her first three years on the Hill — is poised to become both WKU’s and the Sun Belt Conference’s all-time leading scorer during her senior campaign. Entering the year with 2,036 career points, she needs just 227 more to pass Lillie Mason to sit atop the Lady Toppers’ all-time list, and 250 points to pass South Alabama’s Adrian Vickers for first on the conference’s list. Kelly is coming off a junior season that saw her earn both Kodak/WBCA and Associated Press All-America honors after dropping in a school-record 770 points. She finished the year ranked second in the nation in scoring at 24.1 points per game, and is the top returning scorer in the country entering the ‘07-08 season. Kelly scored in double figures in all 32 games last year, including 25 games in which she scored over 20 points. In addition to her scoring, Kelly led the Sun Belt with a .611 field-goal percentage, while finishing tied for second in rebounding (9.4 rpg) and sixth in free-throw percentage (.774). She is also on the verge of joining Mason and ShaRae Mansfield as the only 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound players in Lady Topper history, entering the year with 901 career boards.
Duck was a third-team all-Sun Belt Conference selection last season after scoring 11.8 points per game, which ranked among the league leaders and was second behind Kelly on the Lady Topper squad. She also finished the year ranked eighth in the Sun Belt with a .498 field-goal percentage. Duck averaged 12.3 points per game in Sun Belt Conference action, scoring in double figures in 10 league games. In all, she reached double figures in 20 of the 28 games in which she saw action — including a pair of 20-point efforts.
The Lady Toppers will take the court for the first time next Sunday (Nov. 4) when they host Lindsey Wilson College in a 2 p.m. (CST) exhibition game at E.A. Diddle Arena.