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Los Angeles (August 20, 2009) – Richard “Duke” Llewellyn, John R. Wooden Award Chairman and founder, announced the 2009-10 preseason candidates for the Women’s Wooden Award today. The list is comprised of 31 student athletes who, based on last year’s individual performance and team records, are the frontrunners for college basketball’s most prestigious honor. This year’s list includes Ohio State’s dynamic duo of junior Jantel Lavender and sophomore Samantha Prahalis. Prahalis was the only sophomore chosen; the rest of the nominees are juniors or seniors.

Both also were named to the Wade Trophy watch list July 30.

Lavender, the 2008-09 Ohio State Female Athlete of the Year, enjoyed a record-breaking season in 2008-09 on her way to earning State Farm/WBCA Coaches and USBWA All-America honors. The Cleveland, Ohio, native was the Big Ten Player of the Year for a second-consecutive season and became only the second player in conference history to complete the statistical triple crown, leading the conference in points (20.0), rebounds (9.9) and a shooting percentage (.549) in conference games while averaging 20.8 points and 10.7 rebounds with 24 double-doubles in all games played. The only Division I player to rank in the Top 20 in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage, Lavender set a Big Ten single-season record with 374 rebounds and was named the 2009 Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Lavender scored in double-figures each game and has done so in all 66 career contests, the longest active streak in Division I.

Prahalis burst on to the scene as a freshman in 2008-09, starting all 35 games and earning Big Ten freshman of the year honors. She led all Big Ten freshmen in scoring (10.2 ppg), assists (5.8) and steals (1.9) while her 5.8 assists per game was good for 15th in Division I. The Commack, N.Y. native also was named to the NCAA Berkeley Regional All-Tournament team. Prahalis had 19 games with six or more assists and set an Ohio State freshman record with 203. She was one of 13 finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding point guard.

Lavender and Prahalis led the Buckeyes to a 29-6 record (tying for the third-most wins in Division I), a record-tying fifth straight Big Ten regular season championship, tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16.

The list contains 31 players, not the traditional 30, because the playing status of North Carolina’s Jessica Breland is uncertain due to a possible medical redshirt year. Transfers, freshmen and 2009 medical redshirts are not eligible for the preseason list. These players and others who excel throughout the season will be evaluated and considered for December’s midseason list and the official ballot released in March.

The breadth of talent across the country is shown by the record number of NCAA Division I conferences (12) highlighted on the list. The Big 10 conference has five candidates, followed by the Big East, ACC, Big 12 and Pac-10 with four apiece, the SEC (3), West Coast (2), America East (1), Atlantic 10 (1), CAA (1), Mountain West (1) and Sun Belt (1).

Connecticut (Moore, Tina Charles), Ohio State (Lavender, Prahalis), Stanford (Appel, Jeanette Pohlen) and Gonzaga (Heather Bowman, Courtney Vandersloot) are the only schools with two preseason candidates.

In late December, the Wooden Award Committee will release the Midseason Top 20 list, followed in March by the National Ballot, consisting of approximately 15 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA.  The Women’s Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced the week of the “Elite Eight” round during the NCAA Tournament.

The 34th annual Wooden Award ceremony, which will include the announcement of the Men’s and Women’s Wooden Award, and the presentation of the Wooden Award All-American Teams and the Legends of Coaching Award, will take place the weekend of April 9-11, 2010.

About the John R. Wooden Award
Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball.  The women’s category was added in 2004. The Award is bestowed upon the nation’s best player at an institution of higher education who has proven to his or her university that he or she is making progress toward graduation and maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA.  Previous winners include such notables as Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84), Tim Duncan (’97), Alana Beard (’06) and Blake Griffin (’09). Candace Parker won the Women’s Wooden Award in 2007 and 2008.
 
Since its inception, the John R. Wooden Award has contributed close to a million dollars to universities’ general scholarship fund in the names of the All-American recipients. The Award has also sent more than 1,000 underprivileged children to week-long college basketball camps in the Award’s name.   Additionally, the John R. Wooden Award partners with Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) each year to host a day-long basketball tournament. The tournament brings together Special Olympic athletes and the All-Americans in a setting that exemplifies the spirit of competition.

Follow the candidates and get the latest news throughout the season by logging on to www.WoodenAward.com.  For more information on the John R. Wooden Award, please contact the Wooden Award staff at 213-630-5206 or email at woodenaward@laac.net.