Lincoln – Nebraska’s Kate Cain claimed one of 20 spots on the preseason watch list for the 2019 Lisa Leslie Award announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) on Friday, Oct. 26.
The Lisa Leslie Award is in its second season of recognizing the top centers in NCAA Division I women’s college basketball. It is named after the three-time All-American and 1994 National Player of the Year. The award will be announced by ESPN at the 2019 NCAA Women’s Final Four in Tampa.
Cain, a 6-5 sophomore from Middletown, N.Y., made an instant impact as a freshman for the Nebraska women’s basketball team in 2017-18. She was one of five players across the conference to capture first-team Big Ten All-Freshman honors, while being the only freshman or sophomore named to the five-player Big Ten All-Defensive Team.
Cain shattered the Nebraska single-season blocked shot record with 100 on the season, while leading the Big Ten in blocks per game. She ranked among the top 10 players nationally in blocked shots. Cain also smashed Nebraska’s single-game block record with 11 against Florida Atlantic on Dec. 17, 2017, when she became the first Husker in history to produce a triple-double in points (22), rebounds (14) and blocks (11).
During the season, Cain’s growth on the court helped the Huskers produce one of the nation’s top turnarounds, improving 14 games in the win column to capture a bid to the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Cain finished the season by averaging 9.9 points and team bests of 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.
Cain is one of five Big Ten Conference centers who make up a combined one quarter of the preseason national watch list for the Lisa Leslie Award. Cain is the youngest Big Ten center on the list, joining Iowa senior Megan Gustafson, Michigan senior Hallie Thome, Illinois senior Alex Wittinger and Purdue junior Ae’Rianna Harris in representing the conference.
Cain is scheduled to go head-to-head against those Big Ten centers seven times during the 2018-19 conference season, including twice each against Gustafson, Thome and Harris, who will all play the Huskers at Pinnacle Bank Arena this season. Cain is also set to face another center on the list – Louisville’s Sam Fuehring in the ACC/B1G Challenge in Kentucky on Nov. 29.
Overall, Cain is one of just four sophomores nationally on the Lisa Leslie Award watch list, joining North Carolina’s Janelle Bailey, Duke’s Jade Williams and IUPUI’s Macee Williams. No freshmen start the season on the award watch list, but centers can play their way onto or off the list at any point during the season.
The inaugural winner of the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Award was A’ja Wilson from South Carolina in 2018.
The selection committee for the Lisa Leslie Award is composed of media members, head coaches, sports information directors and Hall of Famers. In mid-February, the watch list will be narrowed to a list of 10 centers. In March, five finalists for the award will be announced. Fans will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite finalist at www.hoophallawards.com.
The Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Award is part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Starting Five awards, which include the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award, the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard Award, the Cheryl Miller Small Forward Award and the Katrina McClain Power Forward Award. The WBCA also presents the annual Wade Trophy, which honors the overall national player of the year. In 1993, Nebraska’s Karen Jennings won the Wade Trophy.
The Nebraska women’s basketball team tips off its 2018-19 season with an exhibition game against Nebraska-Kearney at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 4 p.m