Suspended for academic reasons after 11 games last season, UNLV senior Lenita Sanford redeemed herself this year, earning first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors.
“It’s big for me, coming back from last year not playing, to being first team,” Sanford said Monday. “(Sitting out) definitely drove me to play how I know I can play.
“I feel like I’ve proved myself a little bit.”
Sanford, a 6-foot-3-inch center from Inglewood, Calif., is the first Lady Rebels player to be named first-team all-conference since 2008, when former WNBA player Sequoia Holmes received the honor.
Also named to the all-defensive team, Sanford was second in the conference in blocked shots (2.4 per game), fourth in rebounding (7.4), 14th in steals (1.4) and 15th in scoring (10.8).
The conference’s coaches chose Courtney Clements of San Diego State as Player of the Year and Aztecs point guard Chelsea Hopkins as Newcomer of the Year.
Joining them on the first team, which featured six players due to a tie in the voting, were Texas Christian’s Natalie Ventress, the Freshman of the Year, Colorado State’s Kim Mestdagh and New Mexico’s Caroline Durbin.
New Mexico’s Porche Torrance was named Defensive Player of the Year, and San Diego State’s Beth Burns was named Coach of the Year.
Three other Lady Rebels earned all-conference honors, with leading scorer Kelli Thompson named to the second team and Jamie Smith and Mia Bell named to the third team.
Thompson, a junior from Long Beach, Calif., was eighth in the league in scoring (13.6 points) and also averaged 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals.
Smith is UNLV’s all-time leading rebounder and the second player in league history to compile at least 1,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds. The senior from Kailua, Hawaii, was third in rebounding (8.4) and third in 3-point shooting percentage (36.4 percent, 48-for-132).
Bell, a junior from Durango High, averaged 8.8 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals. She also made the all-defensive team.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-338-0354.