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March 17, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. – After capping another historic season, honors continue to roll in for South Carolina with two of three individual awards and a league-leading four All-SEC recognitions from the Associated Press, as announced by the organization today. Junior guard Tiffany Mitchell was tapped as Player of the Year and freshman guard/forward A’ja Wilson earned Freshman of the Year accolades. Mitchell and Wilson were selected to the First Team, while senior forward Aleighsa Welch and sophomore center Alaina Coates garnered Second-Team All-SEC honors.

Mitchell’s team-best 14.4 points per game are fifth in the SEC, and she ranks second in the league in field goal percentage (.505) and third in free throw percentage (.840). The Gamecock is one of two SEC players to rank among the league’s top 15 in scoring, assists (11th, 2.7 apg) and steals (4th, 1.8 spg). Earlier this month, Mitchell was named SEC Player of the Year by the coaches, becoming the sixth woman in SEC history to earn the title outright in back-to-back seasons. Nationally, Mitchell is also on the Wooden Award Women’s National Ballot, one of 10 national semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy, one of four finalists for the 2015 Dawn Staley Award while also owning a spot on the Wade Trophy “Wade Watch”.

After joining the Gamecocks as the No. 1 recruit in the nation, Wilson lived up to the lofty expectations, garnering SEC Freshman of the Year honors and a First-Team All-SEC nod from the coaches. She is the only freshman to rank among the SEC’s top 20 in scoring and rebounding, coming in 11th with 13.3 points per game and eighth with 6.8 boards per outing. Her efficiency is illustrated by her needing just 653 minutes to score her 424 points this season, including 218 points in just 329 minutes of SEC regular-season action. She has five double-doubles to her credit, including a South Carolina freshman record-setting 19-rebound performance in the season finale at No. 13/15 Kentucky, pairing with her 16 points. Wilson has reached double figures in 25 of 32 contests this season.

A team captain for the last three seasons, Welch was on the coaches’ All-SEC First Team and became the program’s first SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year earlier this month. Ranking among the program’s all-time best rebounders, Welch is one of just nine Gamecocks to record over 1,000 career points and 800 career rebounds and recently became just the fourth to reach the 1,000 career points and 900 career rebounds plateau. Welch’s leadership and sacrifice have been difference makers for the Gamecocks the last two seasons as she played a key role in developing the confidence of younger teammates by ceding minutes and shots early in the season. When the spotlight is brightest, Welch is as well, averaging 10.3 points and 8.6 rebounds against ranked opponents this season.

Last season’s AP SEC Freshman of the Year, Coates is the league’s third-best rebounder at 8.1 per game and is second in the conference with 11 double-doubles this season. Fourth in the league in blocked shots, she has swatted 1.7 per game and is 11th in the SEC in free throw percentage at .740. Coates’ 21 career double-doubles are already ninth in program history, and she has led the team in rebounds a team-high 15 times this season, including seven SEC regular-season contests. Coates earned spots on the All-Defensive team and All-SEC Second Team from the coaches.

The Gamecocks (30-2) earned the No. 1 seed in the Greensboro Region and will face 16th-seeded Savannah State (21-10) on Fri., March 20, at 5 p.m. ET, at Colonial Life Arena in the NCAA Tournament opening round.

u-Tia Faleru, Mississippi
Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina
Makayla Epps, Kentucky
A’ja Wilson, South Carolina
Courtney Walker, Texas A&M

Isabelle Harrison, Tennessee
Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State
Danielle Ballard, LSU
Cierra Burdick, Tennessee
t- Alaina Coates, South Carolina
t- Jessica Jackson, Arkansas
t- Aleighsa Welch, South Carolina

Jordan Frericks, Missouri
Jennifer O’Neill, Kentucky
Courtney Williams, Texas A&M

PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina
COACH OF THE YEAR – Vic Schaefer, Mississippi State
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR – A’ja Wilson, South Carolina