Three Redbirds Earn All-Valley Honors
March 13, 2013
ST. LOUIS - Illinois State finished in sole possession of third place with a 13-5 record in conference play and a 21-9 overall mark. For the team's performance during the conference season, three Illinois State players earned Missouri Valley Conference honors, as announced by the league office Wednesday.
Jamie Russell earned All-Valley First Team and All-Defensive Team accolades for the second-consecutive season, while Janae Smith was named to the All-Valley Second Team. Rounding out the All-Valley accolades was Candace Sykes, who earned All-Valley Honorable Mention honors for the second-straight season.
Russell, a Valley Scholar-Athlete selection,¬ has started every game for the Redbirds this season and is the team's leading scorer with 14.2 points per game. Through 30 games, she has tallied double-digit performances in 21 games, including nine-straight games with a double-digit scoring effort. Besides leading ISU in points per game, the Rock Falls, Ill., native also leads the Redbirds in steals (75), free throw percentage (.870) and ranks second on the team in assists (86). Russell was named the MVC Player of the Week on Nov. 12, after netting 20 points against Morehead State (Nov. 9) and 30 points at Iowa (Nov. 11), tying a career-high. At Iowa, the senior just missed a triple double with 30 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high eight steals.
"Jamie is very deserving of this honor, and it is great to see her rewarded by being a first-team all-conference selection for a second-straight season," head coach Stephanie Glancesaid. "She leads our team in several statistical categories and always gives her best effort, whether it is in practice or in games. Any time we have a player receive first-team all-conference honors, it is a tremendous accomplishment for the individual player, but it is also a reflection of our team's success this season. Jamie was also recognized to the All-Defensive Team for the second time, which is an indication of how hard she works on both ends of the floor. She is certainly one of our best defenders. She is a person who can defend the best perimeter player on the other team, but also gives great help off of the ball, which is why she leads us in steals."
Smith has competed in every game this season and started in 29 of them, averaging the second-most minutes on the team. She is the second-leading scorer, averaging 13.3 points per game, along with Sykes, and leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game and 31 blocks. Smith, a six-time Valley Newcomer of the Week selection, has recorded eight double-double performances and has scored in double-digits in all but nine games this season. Smith poured in a career-high 31 points against Memphis (Nov. 18) and grabbed 16 rebounds against Princeton (Dec. 19), which was a career-high. The Matteson, Ill., native has also recorded career-highs in assists (6), blocks (4) and steals (3) this season. Smith is in the top-10 in the Valley rankings in five categories, the most for any Redbird.
"Janae is a competitor and driven to succeed on the court," Glance said. "After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Janae stepped in and helped our team immediately. She leads the team in rebounding, field goal percentage, blocks and is one of our top scorers. We are pleased to see her being recognized for her contributions this season."
Sykes averaged 13.3 points per game and was the team's second leading scorer, along with Smith. Sykes leads the Redbirds in three pointers made with 62 and three-point field goal percentage (34 percent). She was second on the team in rebounds, pulling down 5.5 boards per game, and blocks with 21. The St. Anne, Ill., native sank a career-high 24 points at Evansville (Feb. 16) with 21 points coming in the second half, thanks to a career-high five made three pointers. Sykes also recorded a career-high in blocks during the 2012-13 season, tallying five against Milwaukee (Jan. 4).
"Candace is well deserving of being selected to the honorable mention all-conference team for the second-straight season," Glance said. "She has played a pivotal role for us once again. Her versatility makes her a threat inside and out. We are happy to see her efforts recognized, as she is one of our leading scorers, rebounders and biggest threat from three-point range."
The Redbirds enter the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Charles, Mo., as the No. 3 seed. ISU will play Friday at Family Arena at 8:35 p.m., against No. 6-seeded Bradley.
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