NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (April 13, 2012) – Friday evening marked the Rutgers women’s basketball program’s annual banquet, held at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick. The Scarlet Knights celebrated their accomplishments throughout the 2011-12 season and handed out the team’s annual awards.
Redshirt senior Khadiajh Rushdan (Wilmington, Del.) and junior Monique Oliver (Las Vegas, Nev.) were named Co-Most Valuable Players by their peers. Rushdan averaged career-highs in points (13.1) and rebounds (5.9) en route to being named an All-BIG EAST First Team selection. The senior became the 30th Rutgers player in history to score 1,000 career points and just the second in program history to reach 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists.
Oliver, an All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention selectee, also recorded career-high in points (11.8 per game) and rebounding (7.3 per contest) after starting in a team-best 31 games. The junior tallied a team-high six double-doubles and a pair of 20-point games.
Rushdan also received the Cagers Club Award, which is given annually to the player whose performance, dedication and leadership on and off the court exemplify the best in sportsmanship and character.
Senior Nikki Speed (Pasadena, Calif.) was named the team’s Most Improved Player and the Kevin and Helen Collins Most Improved Scholar Athlete. Speed returned from last season’s ankle injury at full strength to play in all 32 games, making 20 starts. The guard recorded multiple assists in 12 games, including six assists on senior night against Marquette to go along with a season-best eight points.
The Chelsea Newton Scarlet Heart Award, given to the player that best exemplifies perseverance, dedication and loyalty to her coaches, was one of two awards that junior guard Erica Wheeler (Miami, Fla.) received. Wheeler did a little bit of everything for RU throughout the season, leading the team with 52 steals, while averaging 8.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists. Wheeler proved to be the Scarlet Knights most efficient three-point shooter on the year, hitting 30.2 percent from behind the arc. The junior recorded a career-best 28 points – the most in an NCAA game since 1994 – in Rutgers’ first round game against Gonzaga. Wheeler also received the team’s Most Inspirational Award.
Senior guard April Sykes (Starkville, Miss.) earned Offensive Player of the Year honors for the second-straight season. Sykes was the third of four Scarlet Knights to earn all-conference honors, being named to the All-BIG EAST Second Team – for the second-consecutive year. The senior led RU in scoring in a team-best 11 games and rebounding in seven contests. She averaged double-digit scoring for the second-straight campaign, posting 12.9 points per game, to go along with a career high 5.6 rebounds per contest. Sykes tallied four double-doubles and led the team with four 20-point scoring games.
The recipient of Defensive Player of the Year was freshman Syessence Davis (Neptune, N.J.). In her first season with Rutgers, Davis led the squad in steals six times and recorded two-or-more steals in seven games. She averaged 1.5 rebounds per game and 1.0 steals.
Jaymee Tucker (North Brunswick, N.J.) rounded out the night, earning the Scarlet Knights’ Scholar Athlete Award.
Rutgers concluded the year 22-10 overall and 10-6 in the BIG EAST play to earn a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. RU graduates four seniors, but return a very experienced trio in Oliver, Wheeler and redshirt senior Chelsey Lee (Miami, Fla.). The Scarlet Knights welcome another top recruiting class – ranked third nationally – with four players ranking in the ESPNU HoopGurlz Top-100 list.