March 3, 2000

NORMAN, Okla. - The University of Oklahoma women's basketball team clinched a piece of the Big 12 Conference regular season title Wednesday and the Sooners headlined the 2000 Big 12 Conference postseason award list that was voted on by the league coaches and released by the conference office Friday.

Earning OU's first ever conference player and coach of the year awards were OU senior Phylesha Whaley and coach Sherri Coale. Whaley (Slaton, Texas) headlined the five member All-Big 12 first team selections. The 5-10 forward has led the Sooners in scoring for the past four years and rebounding the last three seasons. She currently ranks second on OU's career scoring list, just 50 points shy of the all-time record. This season, Whaley is averaging 20.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in all games but leads the league in conference matchups with 22.2 points per game and shoots an impressive 54.5 percent from the three-point line. She has produced nine double doubles and scored 10-or-more points in all 29 games this year, including 15 20-plus performances.

"It's a great honor for me to receive this award," stated Whaley. "I"m kinda' shock to tell you the truth because there's so many great players in this league: Stacy Frese, Edwina Brown, Lynn Pride, I could go on and on. It's overwhelming when the coaches choose you over all of those great players."

"I am so thrilled for Phylesha," said Coale. "I don't even know where to begin because she has earned it in every way, shape and form imaged. She was here when we were 5-22. She was our go to player as a freshman. She was getting tripled teamed. It could of made her angry and bitter but instead it challenged her. She went every summer on her own and figured out a way to get better, weather it be taking the ball to the basket, shooting the three or improving her post moves. I'm so grateful for her effort, work ethic and example she has given all of these young kids. Phylesha has set the standard. I'm very proud that Phylesha won this."

"I think that the coaches in our league are always first class people in their voting regardless of where a player my be from," said Coale. "There may be coaches out there that has had an opportunity to coach more talented players than Phylesha Whaley but there's been nobody that's been as fortune as I am to have coached a kid like Phylesha Whaley."

Coale has led this year's team to a national ranking, a school single season attendance record, second most single season victories, 23, to date, and the school's first conference title since 1986, after being a preseason pick of sixth.

Coale opened her collegiate coaching career with a 5-22 record, followed by an 8-19 campaign in 1998. Last year, Coale took OU to the WNIT and finished the year with an overall record of 15-14. After struggling to just 28 wins in her first three years, Coale's Sooners are 23-6 this season, and sit at No 21 on the Associated Press and No. 22 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' polls. The Sooners had won just 13 conference games over the past three years prior to the 1999-2000 season.

"I've got terrific coaches," said Coale. "I'm smart enough to surround myself with superior people. We have a real nice balance here. When you have people with the same vision, for the program, and who fit well and enjoy each other as we do, it's easy to enjoy your job. That's one of the very, very, special thing about our staff, we appreciate each other and bring different views to the program. It would be hard to do this job with people who you didn't enjoy."

In addition, OU's sophomore guards Stacey Dales and LaNeishea Caufield were named to the All-Big 12 Conference second team. Dales (Brockville, Ontario, Canada) leads the team and ranks second in conference games in assists with 5.72 a game. She also averages 12.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game for the Sooners. Caufield (Ada, Okla.), who was tabbed as the 1999 Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year, ranks second on the team in scoring with 14.9 ppg, but is the team leader in steals, pocketing 3.1 a game. She also pockets a Big 12 best 3.44 thefts per game against league teams. The duo earned all-conference honorable mention merits a year ago.

"It's really a great honor," said Caufield. "I couldn't of done it without my teammates pushing me in practice and making me work hard. It's a team sport that we're in and we work really hard to be a team. It's nice to be recognized but you couldn't of done it with the help of your teammates."

"It's a great honor for me," replied Dales. "We've worked hard all year."

"I really just wanted to see Phylesha (Whaley) get player of the year because she deserves it. I knew all along Phylesha was player of the year. She's maintained through four years OU's scoring title, and led the league in several categories, especially scoring and rebounding. She's a great defensive player. She's our go to player and we rely on her. If her shooting is off, she contributes in some other facet of the game weather it's rebounding, defense or leadership. She is always contributing in some way and that's why she's the player of the year. She contributes in so many ways on a consistent basics. To be that productive in this league and against some great players and continue it for four years, that's amazing."

"I think its a tremendous honor to have three of our starting five players named to the top two teams in the conference," said Coale. "Both (LaNeishea and Stacey) have had a terrific season, especially as of late. Had they been a little more consistent early on they might have been named to the first team."

2000 All-Big 12 Conference teams

NameSchoolPosHtCl/ExpHometown
First Team
Phylesha WhaleyOklahomaF5-10Sr/3LSlaton, Texas
Edwina BrownTexasG/F5-10Sr/3LLockhart, Texas
Stacy FreseIowa StateG5-8Sr/2LCedar Rapids, Iowa
Lynn PrideKansasG/F6-2Sr/3LArlington, Texas
Nicole KubikNebraskaG5-10Sr/3LCambridge, Neb.
Second Team
Keitha DickersonTexas TechF6-0Sr/3LElk City, Okla.
Jennifer CrowOklahoma StateG5-9Sr/3LCorn, Okla.
Stacey DalesOklahomaG6-0So/1LBrockville, Ontario, Canada
Angie WelleIowa StateC6-4So/1LFargo, N.D.
LaNeishea CaufieldOklahomaG5-9So/1LAda, Okla.
Third Team
Amanda LassiterMissouriF6-1Jr/TRSan Francisco, Calif.
Jaynetta SaundersTexas A&MF5-11Jr/TRLouisville, Ky.
Megan TaylorIowa StateG5-10Jr/2LRoseau, Minn.
Jenny RoulierColoradoG5-8So/1LEnglewood, Colo.
Desiree FrancisIowa StateF6-1Sr/1LAntigua, West Indies

Honorable Mentions: Nicole Collins, Baylor, Suzi Raymant, Kansas, Brooke Reves, Kansas, Jaclyn Johnson, Kansas, Jennifer Jackson, Kansas, Angie Finkes, Kansas State, Nicky Ramage, Kansas State, Olga Firsova, Kansas State, Julie Helm, Missouri, Brooke Schwartz, Nebraska, Prissy Sharpe, Texas A&M, Melinda Schmucker-Pharies, Texas Tech

Player of the Year: Phylesha Whaley, Oklahoma

Newcomer of the Year: Amanda Lassiter, Missouri

Freshman of the Year: Plenette Pierson, Texas Tech (P, 6-1, Fr/HS, Kingwood, Texas)

Coach of the Year: Sherri Coale, Oklahoma