Defense has long been the area of her game that Kelly Faris has taken the utmost pride in throughout her career with the Huskies. It was only fitting today that she was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in voting by the conference coaches.
Faris, who also shared the Big East Most Improved Player of the Year award with DePaul sophomore Brittany Hrynko and was named to the all-conference second team, could care less about individual awards. But being honored as the Defensive Player of the Year meant the most to her.
“It definitely feels good and, I say it over and over, I’m not huge on the accolades and getting the individual awards,’’ Faris said. “But at the same time I appreciate it a lot and I’m honored that they felt that I deserve that. I wouldn’t want to get it if I didn’t feel or if they didn’t feel like I deserved it.’’
Said UConn coach Geno Auriemma: “She certainly deserved it. I think when you work at something you should be rewarded for it. A lot of times it’s shot blockers that get Defensive Player of the Year because it’s so obvious when guys block shots. I think what Kelly does it’s not so obvious sometimes. So I think for the other coaches to recognize that about her is fitting. It’s a great way to wrap up your senior year. I wish she would’ve made first team, but that’s asking too much.
“The Most Improved part? That’s a sign that people put a lot of value on making shots because there’s a couple people that made a lot of shots that shot 30 percent from the floor that are going to make first or second team because people react to making shots. It doesn’t matter how many you take to have to make them. So I think Most Improved can mean a lot of things. And in Kelly’s case because she’s made more shots this year than she made last year, which is probably the only thing that she’s done way better. Last year she was the same kind of defender. Last year she passed the ball about the same way, maybe a little better this year. But because this year all of a sudden the shots went in I think that’s the improvement that coaches notice the most.’’
Faris leads the Huskies in assists (4.0) and steals (2.7) and is fourth on the team in scoring (career-high 10.9) and rebounding (5.5). She has also set career-highs in field goal shooting percentage (.531) and 3-point shooting percentage (.406).
Faris is the third UConn player to earn Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors. Nykesha Sales twice won the award in 1996-97 and 1997-98 and Ashley Battle was honored in 2002-03.
Faris is the second UConn player selected as Most Improved, joining Mel Thomas in 2005-06.
“I’ve said it plenty of times that I think that Kelly should be recognized every year for the work that she’s put in, but I think that this year Kelly’s transformed herself into something more than she was,’’ said sophomore Mosqueda-Lewis, who was a unanimous All-Big first-team pick. “She’s taken more responsibility for this team. She’s speaking up as a leader. She’s an offensive option for us now. And she’s just taken her game to a whole other level and made it complete.’’
Said junior Stefanie Dolson, who was also named to the All-Big East first team: “I think everything that she does on the court is all that no-name, not really stats or anything like that. So for to get Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved, just all the hard work that she’s put in for the four years has definitely paid off and I’m so proud to be her teammate and so happy for her because she deserves it.’’