March 8, 2010
South Carolina junior guard Valerie Nainima was named 2009 Sportswoman of the Year by the Fiji Sports Council, the organization announced, for her excellence in basketball and in making a name for Fiji in her sport. Her mother, Betty Jitoko, accepted the award on Nainima’s behalf at the Feb. 26 award ceremony.
After two seasons at Long Island University, during which she became the fastest Blackbird to reach the 1,000-point plateau, Nainima transferred to South Carolina in the summer of 2008. She sat out the 2008-09 season due to NCAA transfer rules, then quickly became the Gamecocks’ leading scorer for the 2009-10 campaign.
In the first two months of the season, Nainima led the team with 19.3 points per game while handing out 3.0 assists per outing. Over the 12 games that closed out the 2009 calendar year, she hit 34.4 percent from 3-point range and scored in double digits in every game, including five games of 20 or more points.
Nainima earned second-team All-SEC honors from the league coaches after finishing the 2009-10 regular season ranked fifth in the SEC in scoring with (17.2 ppg) and 17th in the nation in 3-point field goals made per game (2.9). She scored in double figures 27 times in the Gamecocks’ 29 games, including 10 games of 20 or more points.