Hot Springs, Ark. — Western Kentucky University senior forward Dominique Duck was selected by the Sun Belt Conference coaches as the league’s Preseason Player of the Year it was announced on Monday at the Sun Belt Basketball Tip-off.
Duck, a Pittsburgh, Pa., native, was also named to the preseason all-conference first team, and was one of three Lady Toppers to make the all-conference squad. Sophomore forward Arnika Brown was a second-team pick, while junior guard Kenzie Rich was named to the third team.
Duck is the second straight Lady Topper to earn Preseason Player-of-the-Year honors. Crystal Kelly was selected prior to the 2007-08 season, and followed it up by winning the award at the end of the season. The lone senior on the 2008-09 Lady Topper roster, Duck was named Most Valuable Player of the 2008 Sun Belt Conference Tournament, leading WKU in scoring with 17 points per game during the championship run. She earned second-team all-Sun Belt Conference honors after averaging 11.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season — scoring in double figures 25 times in 34 games. Duck also finished the year with a career-best 32 blocked shots. She scored 204 of her 392 total points on the season in Sun Belt games, connecting on 47.9 percent of her shots during league play. Duck finished the year ranked 15th in the league in scoring, sixth in field-goal percentage, 15th in free-throw percentage and 10th in blocked shots. She enters her senior season needing just 42 more points to reach 1,000 for her career.
Despite playing only half of the 2007-08 season, Brown earned Sun Belt Conference Freshman-of-the-Year honors as she averaged 10.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in 24 contests. She also shot 57.3 percent from the field, and recorded 22 steals. The Hopkinsville, Ky., native earned a spot on the all-Sun Belt Tournament team after averaging 12.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in WKU’s run to the championship. She scored in double figures on 10 occasions during the year, and posted four double-double performances. Brown averaged 10.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in Sun Belt Conference games last season en route to being named the league’s top freshman.
Rich averaged a career-best 11.4 points per game, shooting 39.9 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from behind the three-point arc during her sophomore campaign. She also earned a spot on the all-Sun Belt Tournament team after averaging 14.7 points and shooting 47.1 percent from three during the three-game championship run. That included a game-high 18 points in the tournament championship game. Rich scored in double figures 20 times in 34 games, including dropping in at least 20 points four times. The Tompkinsville, Ky., product scored 204 of her 388 points in conference games, while dishing out 37 assists and collecting a team-high 23 steals in league play. Rich finished the 2007-08 season ranked 16th in the Sun Belt in scoring, 14th in three-point percentage and 3rd in three-pointers per game.
In addition to the individual honors, the Lady Toppers were picked by the coaches to finish second in the Sun Belt East Division. WKU finished with 68 points in the poll — three behind Middle Tennessee. Both the Lady Toppers and the Blue Raiders picked up six first-place votes. South Alabama (48 points), Florida International (43 points, 1 first-place vote), Troy (24 points) and Florida Atlantic (19 points) rounded out the East Division poll. UALR and Arkansas State tied for first in the West Division poll with 83 points each.
The Lady Toppers captured their fifth Sun Belt East Division championship in the last six years in 2007-08, and won their league-record ninth SBC Tournament title to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time in the program‘s history. WKU posted a 26-8 overall record last season, and finished 16-2 in league play. It was the sixth straight 20-plus win season under head coach Mary Taylor Cowles.
The 2008-09 Lady Toppers will open the season with an exhibition game against DT-3 on Sunday, Nov. 9 at E.A. Diddle Arena. The regular-season will get underway on Nov. 14 when Murray State visits Bowling Green.