FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas senior Sarah Watkins
earned a first-team nod and the Razorbacks were selected ninth in the Southeastern Conference Coaches Preseason Poll released today.
Watkins, who was a preseason second-team pick by the league’s media, was a second-team honoree last year for the Razorbacks.
“We know going into this season that Sarah has a target on her back,” Arkansas head coach Tom Collen
said. “Sarah’s selection to the preseason first-team only confirms that the other SEC teams will be keying on her this year. We need a big year from her and I know she is ready for the challenge.”
Watkins’ presence in the paint made opponents think twice before driving the lane in 2011-12. A shot-blocking force, Watkins tallied 63 blocks and is third all-time at Arkansas with 161 career rejections. She finished her junior season tied for first in SEC only games with 2.5 blocks per game and third in all games with 1.9 bpg. Watkins ranked 45th in the country in blocks per game as well.
In addition to her shot-blocking ability, Watkins scored 10.0 points per game and scored in double figures in 17 contests as a junior. She also had one double-digit rebounding game grabbing a season-best 10 rebounds.
Watkins recorded a block in 26 games last year and tied her career-best with six blocks against No. 25/22 Vanderbilt tying the Arkansas record for blocks in an SEC game.
In SEC only games, Watkins finished her junior season ranked ninth in free throw percentage hitting 76.0 percent of her bonus shots. She ranked 26th in all games in scoring averaging 10.0 ppg and was seventh in free throw percentage with a 73.9 mark.
She earned preseason All-SEC Second-Team honors from the coaches and media and postseason second-team honors from the coaches. Watkins was a preseason CollegeSportsMadness.com All-SEC Second-Team selection and a fourth-team postseason pick. The Germantown, Tenn., native earned SEC Player of the Week (1-23-12) and selection to the Primetime Performers Weekly Honor Roll (1-24-12).
Watkins ranks 26th in points with 964 and 26th in rebounding with 452 heading into her senior season.
As a team, the Razorbacks returned to the NCAA Tournament last year, reaching the postseason for the third time in five seasons under Collen. Arkansas set program records for most SEC wins, most consecutive SEC wins and for the team’s finish, a tie for fourth last year.
“Polls are great for fan interest but have not proven to be very accurate over the years,” Collen said. “I believe last year we were picked eighth or ninth and finished fourth. I know ninth doesn't sound very good to many of our fans, but in this league in probably gets you in the NCAA tournament. There is no hiding we lost five very good seniors so it’s probably a fair assessment of where coaches think we might finish. Fortunately we have 16 conference games to make our case as a team that has been underestimated.
The Razorbacks open the 2012 season hosting Jackson State at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 9, in Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks play their next five games away from home before returning to campus hosting Texas Southern Nov. 29.
2012 SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE PRESEASON COACHES POLL
FIRST TEAM ALL-SEC
|3. Texas A&M
|6. South Carolina
|11. Mississippi State
|14. Ole Miss
SARAH WATKINS, ARKANSAS
Jennifer George, Florida
Anne Marie Armstrong, Georgia
Jasmine Hassell, Georgia
A’dia Mathies, Kentucky
Meighan Simmons, Tennessee
Kelsey Bone, Texas A&M
Christina Foggie, Vanderbilt
Jasmine Lister, Vanderbilt
SECOND TEAM ALL-SEC
Jasmine James, Georgia
Bria Goss, Kentucky
Samarie Walker, Kentucky
Adrienne Webb, LSU
Valencia McFarland, Ole Miss
Ieasia Walker, South Carolina
Ariel Massengale, Tennessee
Tiffany Clarke, Vanderbilt
|PLAYER OF THE YEAR
|A’dia Mathies, Kentucky
|Christina Foggie, Vanderbilt
|Anne Marie Armstrong, Georgia