Youngblood grabs spotlight as MAC announces pre-season women's basketball honors



October 10, 2002


DeKALB, IL---Yes, hard work and determination can pay off. Just as Northern Illinois University’s Jennifer Youngblood (Rock Island), whose diligence and consistency were rewarded Thursday (Oct. 10) when the Mid-American Conference announced the junior forward as one of ten members of its preseason All-MAC women’s basketball team.

Youngblood finished second in the MAC in rebounding (9.0 per game) and point-rebound “double-doubles” (nine) plus third in field goal percentage (.547) last season. The 5-11 forward led the Huskies in scoring (13.2 points per game) and scored 15 or more points on 14 occasions. She is on pace to become only the fifth player in school history to record 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in an NIU uniform.

The Rock Island native garnered Second-Team All-MAC recognition as a sophomore and finished the 2001-02 campaign in impressive fashion. Five of her “double-doubles” came in the final six games of the regular season, and she earned a spot on the MAC All-Tournament team with 44 points plus 27 rebounds in three contests at the league summit.

“I believe this is a well-deserved honor. For the past two years, Jennifer has exemplified humility, leadership and consistency,” Northern Illinois coach Carol Hammerle said. “In the last two seasons, she has truly been our most consistent player and deserves to be recognized with an honor like this.”

Youngblood earned a spot on the league’s All-Freshman team in 2000-01 after averaging 11.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in her first collegiate season. That effort enabled NIU to post a 16-16 ledger that year, the school’s best showing since 1994-95 and an eight-game improvement from the previous campaign. With the latest honor, Youngblood becomes the first Huskie named to a preseason All-MAC team.

“Jennifer has helped our program reach another level,” Hammerle added. “Her play has been a big part of what we have accomplished in the last two seasons.”

“I’m hoping to get better as the team gets better,” Youngblood said. “We’re starting to get more respect, but I’m not thinking about honors like this. Our primary goal is winning the MAC tournament, but now more teams will be shooting for us.”

Youngblood has started all 62 games played by Northern Illinois over the last two years, and already stands tenth in school history with 19 career “double-doubles.” With two more seasons, she could join former NIU Athletics Hall of Famers Carol Owens and Lisa Starosta plus previous Huskie standouts Tammy Hinchee and Angela Lockett as the only players to reach the 1,000-rebound plateau.

Joining Youngblood on the West Division preseason honor roll were Tamara Bowie of Ball State University, Tia Davis of the University of Toledo, Western Michigan University’s Kristin Koetsier and Francine Miller of Bowling Green St. University, which moves to the west after residing in the East Division for the past four seasons. The East Division squad includes Kent State University teammates Andrea Csaszar and Valerie Zona, plus 2001-02 MAC Player of the Year Heather Cusick of Miami University. Marshall University’s Ida Dotson and Jessica Kochendorfer of the University at Buffalo round out the list of honorees.

Bowie earned First-Team All-MAC status in each of the last two seasons, ranking second in the conference in scoring (16.6) and leading the league in field goal percentage (.550) a year ago. Bowie’s presence helped the Cardinals win the West Division title in 2001-02. Koetsier is also a defending First-Team All-MAC choice after missing all of 1999-2000 with a knee injury. The Bronco forward ranked in the top 10 in the league in five statistical categories, including scoring (fifth at 15.0 ppg.), rebounding sixth at (7.5 rpg.), field goal percentage (seventh at .459), free throw percentage (fifth at .824) and blocked shots (eighth with 1.03 per contest).

Davis was third on the UT charts at 11.2 ppg. last year, while her all-around talent also produced rates of 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals per outing. Miller missed most of 2001-02 due to injury, but averaged 17.5 ppg. in four games last year before opting for a medical redshirt season. She was a Second-Team All-MAC performer in 2000-01 after gaining First-Team recognition the previous winter.

Csaszar was the Most Valuable Player of the conference tournament last spring, leading the Golden Flashes to the conference championship and an NCAA tournament appearance. That capped a season which saw the 6-6 Csaszar gain Second-Team All-MAC acclaim after ranking second in the league with 1.96 blocked shots per game and sixth in scoring at 15.0 points per game. She set a league tournament record with 18 blocks, including nine in one contest. Zona was an Honorable Mention all-conference selection last winter, averaging 13.1 points and 4.35 assists per game as a junior.

Cusick led the conference with her 17.5 points-per-game scoring pace in 2001-02, but also finished second on the final MAC charts in three other categories: assists (5.60 per game), steals (2.87 per contest) and three-point field goals (2.43 per game). The RedHawk guard was an Honorable Mention all-conference selection in each of her first two seasons before climbing to the top of the league as a junior, the first MU player named First-Team All-MAC in seven years.

Kochendorfer landed on the Honorable Mention All-MAC list as a sophomore after finishing fourth in the conference in rebounding (7.6 caroms per contest), third in blocked shots (1.36 per contest) and tenth in scoring (14.3 ppg.). Her seven “double-doubles” were third in the conference.

Miller, Koetsier and Bowie were all named to the preseason honor roll last year when only five players gained that distinction. The conference expanded to separate squads for each division for the first time this fall.

The awards follow voting by the MAC News Media Association, a collection of reporters, columnists and sports information directors throughout the conference. The MAC hosts its annual Basketball Media Preview at Gund Arena beginning on Wednesday, Oct. 23. The men’s basketball preview comes the following day at the arena, home to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.