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Tulane Women's Basketball Preseason Favorite To Win C-USA Title

Senior guard Olivia Grayson selected to Preseason All-Conference USA Team

NEW ORLEANS – The Tulane University women’s basketball team was chosen as the favorite to win the 2012-13 regular-season Conference USA crown and senior guard Olivia Grayson earned a spot on the Preseason All C-USA Team, the league announced Monday on a vote of conference head coaches.

The Green Wave edged defending champion UTEP for the top spot in the preseason rankings, and both teams had a conference-best five first-place votes. UAB and Memphis also garnered one first-place vote each as the Blazers were picked to finish third and the Tigers in the No. 5 slot. Rice was picked to finish fourth, followed by Memphis, Tulsa, Southern Miss, SMU, UCF, Houston, East Carolina and Marshall.

Grayson is the first Tulane student-athlete to claim a spot on the preseason All C-USA Team since Danielle Nunn prior to the 2010-11 campaign. She is joined on the preseason list by Karisma Chapman of UAB, Nicole Dickson of Memphis, Jamierra Faulker of Southern Miss, Jessica Kuster of Rice, Taleya Mayberry of Tulsa, Akil Simpson of SMU and Kayla Thorton of UTEP. Kuster was named the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year.

“I feel confident going into the season that we have a strong group returning. Starting No. 1 is nice, but finishing No. 1 is certainly our goal. There are a lot of games to be played before the end of the season, but I’m proud of the group for what they were able to accomplish last year to get this kind of recognition from the coaches in the conference.”

The Green Wave enter the upcoming season coming off three-straight 20-win seasons, three consecutive appearances in the Conference USA Championship game and trio of postseason appearances. Last season, Tulane went 23-11 overall, finished tied for third in the C-USA regular-season standings with a 9-7 league mark, and advanced to the second round of the WNIT.

Among the 10 returning letterwinners, five – Grayson, senior guard Tyria Snow, senior forward Janique Kautsky, sophomore forward Adesuwa Ebomwonyi and sophomore guard Daniell Blagg – started at least 17 games. Also back for the 2012-13 season are sophomore guard Jamie Kaplan, sophomore forward Tiffany Dale, sophomore guard Katye Magee, senior forward Brittany McDonald and junior center Ashley Westby. In addition, Tulane will welcome back the talents of sophomore wing Whitney Bibbins, who missed all of last season due to injury.

All told, Tulane returns 84.6 percent of its scoring output (1,784-of-2,109 points), 77.3 percent of its rebounds (1,057-of-1,367 boards), 91.5 percent of its assists (462-of-505 dimes), 91.9 percent of its steals (298-of-324 thefts) and 55.2 percent of its blocks (90-of-163 swats) from a year ago.

The Green Wave will add the talent of a trio of newcomers as true freshmen Chinwe Duru (Round Rock, Texas), guard Tierra Jones (Madison, Ala.) and center Morgan Rogers (Shreveport, La.) join the team for the 2012-13 season.

“(Having a perceived target on your back is) always something you worry about, but I feel like that’s where you want to be and that’s where you want your team to think you are,” Stockton said. “Now, it’s something they have to come out and represent every day so I think it’s only a positive for our team.”

Grayson, meanwhile, is coming off a successful junior season where she claimed first-team All C-USA and All-Louisiana honors after played in 34 games with 33 starts as a junior and led the team in points (470), points per game (13.8), field goals made (158), free throws made (122), free throw percentage (.819), assists (119), steals (78), minutes played (1068) and minutes per game (31.4). She also ranked second on the squad in 3-point baskets (32), rebounds (200) and rebounds per game (5.9), fourth in blocked shots (14) and fifth in 3-point percentage (.291).

The native of Metairie, La., and graduate of nearby Archbishop Chapelle High School was named C-USA Player of the Week on Nov. 21, 2011, after averaging 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game and again on Dec. 12 after averaging 18.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 1.0 assist per outing, and was tabbed both Tulane/DoubleTree Classic MVP and C-USA Player of the Week on Jan. 3, 2012, after averaging 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game during the Green Wave's run to the tourney title

She claimed a spot on the C-USA Women's Basketball Championship All-Tournament Team after averaging a team-best 18.3 points, 4.7 assists and 3.3 steals per game while chipping in 8.0 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game during Tulane's march to the championship contest

Grayson scored in double figures 26 times with five 20-plus point outings, including a career-high 29 after hitting 9-of-21 field goals, 4-of-7 3-pointers and 7-of-9 free throws vs. Southern Dec. 11, 2011. She pulled down double-digit rebounds three times, including a career-high 14 in the C-USA Championship Quarterfinals on March 8, 2012 She posted a pair of double-doubles, including a 23-point, 14-board effort in the C-USA Tourney against the Pirates, tallied five-or-more assist outings 11 times, including a season-best seven vs Louisiana-Monroe (11/14), and had four-or-more steals six times, including a career-best six thefts on three occasions.

“I believe she is probably one of the most underrated players in our conference and probably in our region,” Stockton said of Grayson. “She’s been a part of a successful program here for the last three years and played a major part in that. I think it’s certainly very deserving and I think she’s a player who should be in contention for Player of the Year at the end of the season if she has the kind of season we believe she can have.”

Grayson will becomes the first Green Wave player to take the court for her senior season with at least 1,000 career points since All-American Grace Daley did so with 1,567 points to her credit heading into her the 1999-2000 campaign. She enters the upcoming year with 1,115 career points after sinking 377-of-1043 (.361) field goals, 81-of-273 (.297) 3-pointers and 280-of-365 (.767) free throws. In addition, Grayson has also accumulated 544 rebounds (5.39 rpg), 383 assists (3.79 apg), 186 steals (1.84 spg) and 40 blocks (0.39 bpg) to date.

At her current rate and with 29 regular-season games plus at least one game in the 2013 Conference USA Women’s Basketball Championship on tap for 2012-13, Grayson would complete her career with 1,441 points, 706 rebounds, 496 assists, 241 steals and 51 blocks. If those numbers were to hold true, Grayson would rank second in the Tulane career record book in assists, fourth in steals, seventh in points scored and eighth in rebounds.

Tulane will open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 9, when the Green Wave play host to Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. Season tickets for the 2012-13 Tulane women’s basketball season will cost $100 for floor seats, $85 for reserved courtside and $50 for end-court general admission. For additional information, contact the Tulane Atheltics Ticket Office in person on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center. Information is also available over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.

2012-13 CONFERENCE USA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON POLL

Team Overall Record C-USA Record/Finish

1 Tulane (5) 23-11 (.676) 9-7 (.563)/T3rd

2 UTEP (5) 29-4 (.879) 15-1 (.938)/1st

3 UAB (1) 19-11 (.633) 9-7 (.563)/T3rd

4 Rice 16-16 (.500) 9-7 (.563)/T3rd

5 Memphis (1) 25-8 (.758) 13-3 (.813)/2nd

6 Tulsa 13-15 (.464) 8-8 (.500)/6th

7 Southern Miss 13-18 (.419) 6-10 (.375)/T9th

8 SMU 14-17 (.452) 6-10 (.375)/T9th

9 UCF 12-17 (.414) 7-9 (.438)/T7th

10 Houston 3-26 (.103) 2-14 (.143)/12th

11 East Carolina 12-19 (.387) 5-11 (.313)/11th

12 Marshall 16-14 (.533) 7-9 (.438)/T7th

(denotes first-place votes)

2012-13 CONFERENCE USA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON TEAM

Name School Ht Cl Pos Hometown/High School

Karisma Chapman UAB 5-11 Jr. F Calumet City, Ill./T.F. North HS

Nicole Dickerson Memphis 6-0 Sr. F Greenville, Tenn./Greenville HS

Jamierra Faulkner Southern Miss 5-6 Jr. G West Palm Beach, Fla./Trinity Christian Academy

Olivia Grayson Tulane 5-8 Sr. G Metairie, La./Archbishop Chapelle HS

Jessica Kuster* Rice 6-2 Jr. F San Antonio, Texas/Reagan HS

Taleya Mayberry Tulsa 5-6 Sr. G Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington HS

Akil Simpson SMU 6-0 Jr. F Duncanville, Texas/Duncanville HS

Kayla Thorton UTEP 6-1 Jr. F El Paso, Texas/Irvin HS

*denotes C-USA Preseason Player of the Year

COACH STOCKTON’S COMMENTS FOLLOWING C-USA’S PRESEASON ANNOUNCEMENTS

On being picked to win the 2013 C-USA title

“I feel confident going into the season that we have a strong group returning. Starting No. 1 is nice, but finishing No. 1 is certainly our goal. There are a lot of games to be played before the end of the season, but I’m proud of the group for what they were able to accomplish last year to get this kind of recognition from the coaches in the conference.”

On if being picked No. 1 in the preseason puts a target on the team’s back

“That’s always something you worry about, but I feel like that’s where you want to be and that’s where you want your team to think you are. Now, it’s something they have to come out and represent every day so I think it’s only a positive for our team.”

On Olivia Grayson being named to the Preseason All C-USA Team

“I believe she is probably one of the most underrated players in our conference and probably in our region. She’s been a part of a successful program here for the last three years and played a major part in that. I think it’s certainly very deserving and I think she’s a player who should be in contention for Player of the Year at the end of the season if she has the kind of season we believe she can have.”

On if she feels that as Grayson goes, so go the Green Wave

“I think we have more talent than that. I think we are more versatile. But I do believe that not only her play but her leadership is very important in determining where we are at the end of the season.”