Red Storm Picked Fourth In BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll; McKenith, Smith Named To Preseason Squad

Head coach Joe Tartamella interviews with Bob Picozzi on the live BIG EAST Media Day show.

Oct. 18, 2012

NEW YORK - St. John's first-year head coach Joe Tartamella was joined by Red Storm seniors Nadirah McKenith, Shenneika Smith and Eugeneia McPherson at the annual BIG EAST Women's Basketball Media Day, held at the New York Athletic Club on Central Park South on Thursday. St. John's was picked to finish fourth in the BIG EAST Preseason Coaches' Poll, after finishing the 2011-12 season second in the league. McKenith and Smith were also selected to the Preseason All-BIG EAST team. It is Smith's third-consecutive time on the preseason list and the third-straight time St. John's has had two players honored.

St. John's collected 144 points in the poll, while Connecticut was picked as the as the preseason favorite with 194 points and 12 first-place votes. Notre Dame was picked as the conference runner-up with 182 points and the remaining three first-place votes. For the second-straight season, Louisville was the No. 3 selection with 167 points, with Rutgers (143), DePaul (138) and Syracuse (105) filling out the top seven.

Georgetown (104) was picked to finish eighth, followed by USF (97), Villanova (78), Marquette (75) and Cincinnati to round out the top 12. Pittsburgh and Seton Hall were next in the vote, tied at No. 13 with 31 points. Providence was picked 15th.

The Red Storm was ranked seventh in last season's Preseason BIG EAST Coaches' Poll, but finished the season second in the conference with a 13-3 conference record. In 2010-11, St. John's was picked fifth in the Preseason Coaches' Poll. In September, St. John's received preseason rankings of No. 12 and No. 23 from the Lindy's and Athlon Sports preseason publications.

With the fourth-place selection, the Red Storm also placed two players on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team in McKenith and Smith. In addition to St. John's, Connecticut was the only other school to have multiple players honored by the BIG EAST in preseason voting.

"Today was an exciting day," remarked Tartamella, reflecting on his first BIG EAST Media Day experience as head coach. "It was nice to see that we had two of our players on the All-BIG EAST team, as well as our program being recognized as the No. 4 preseason team. For me, I was kind of taking it all in, talking to a lot of people, trying to get them to understand what we've been doing over the last few months and where we want to be. The outlook on this season can be summarized in one word: "exciting." We have a good group of young players who are excited to learn from our veterans. We return a great core group in Nadirah, Eugeneia and Shenneika, who are out there trying to get our freshmen on the same page and to get them to understand what it takes to be successful not only in non-conference play but in our league as well. Our fans will be excited about our young players and the development of the players that we have returning. Both will have a big impact for us this year, as we push forward to return to the NCAA Tournament."

For the second year in a row, Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins was recognized as the BIG EAST's Preseason Player of the Year and was a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-Conference Team. Breanna Stewart from Connecticut was unanimously voted the Preseason Freshman of the Year, while teammates Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis were recognized as Preseason All-BIG EAST selections. DePaul's Anna Martin, Georgetown's Sugar Rodgers, Louisville's Shoni Schimmel and Monique Oliver from Rutgers were also selected.

In addition to the 11-member All-BIG EAST team, Monique Reid from Louisville and Laura Sweeney from Villanova were selected to the All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention list.

Smith, an All-BIG EAST First Team selection last season and 2012 BIG EAST All-Tournament Team selection, was selected to the BIG EAST Preseason all-conference squad for the third-straight season. She was previously honored as a 2010-11 Full Court Press Freshman All-America second team selection and was a unanimous BIG EAST Freshman Team honoree. She was the 2012 All-Metropolitan Women's Basketball Player of the Year and returns as the leading scorer from 2011-12 with 12.5 points per game, 6.4 rebounds and 40 blocks. In addition to ranking eighth all-time in blocks (90) and 13th in scoring with 1,236 points, Smith also owns the school's rookie scoring record with 412 points.

McKenith, St. John's floor general, was an All-BIG EAST Second Team selection last year and, for the third time, was named to the Nancy Lieberman Award Watch List in 2011-12. She ranks fifth all-time at St. John's with 432 assists and sixth all-time in steals with 213. McKenith's 12.1 points per game average was second on the team last year and she led the team in steals (70) and assists (149).

Both Smith and McKenith were also 2012 WBCA Regional All-Americans.

At media day, all 15 head coaches from the BIG EAST Conference and various players met with members of print and television media including SportsNet New York, CBS College Sports, BIG EAST television and Sports News Satellite.

The 2013 BIG EAST Women's Basketball Championship Presented by American Eagle Outfitters returns to the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. After a successful championship in 2012 that again was the national leader in attendance among all conferences, the five-day, 14-game event returns March 8-12, 2013. All 15 teams battle for the conference title and the winner will earn the league's automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship.

2012-13 Preseason BIG EAST Coaches' Poll

1. Connecticut (12)    194
2. Notre Dame (3) 182
3. Louisville 167
4. St. John's 144
5. Rutgers 143
6. DePaul 138
7. Syracuse 105
8. Georgetown 104
9. USF 97
10. Villanova 78
11. Marquette 75
12. Cincinnati 61
13. Pittsburgh 31
13. Seton Hall 31
15. Providence 25

* first-place votes in parentheses

2012-13 Preseason Awards
Preseason Player of the Year
Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame

Preseason Freshman of the Year
*Breanna Stewart, Connecticut

Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
Stefanie Dolson, Connecticut
*Bria Hartley, Connecticut
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Connecticut
*Anna Martin, DePaul
*Sugar Rodgers, Georgetown
*Shoni Schimmel, Louisville
*Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame
Monique Oliver, Rutgers
Nadirah McKenith, St. John's
Shenneika Smith, St. John's
Kayla Alexander, Syracuse

Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Monique Reid, Louisville
Laura Sweeney, Villanova

* - unanimous selections

Keep up to date on all St. John's women's basketball news by following St. John's women's basketball (@STJ_WBasketball) and head coach Joe Tartamella (@STJ_CoachT) on Twitter!




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