ORONO, Maine — There wasn’t a great deal about which fans could get excited this winter in regard to the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
Liz Wood was one of the notable exceptions.
Wood’s name was called Thursday evening when the America East Conference handed out its annual women’s basketball season awards.
Even though the Black Bears pulled out of the conference tournament, UMaine was represented in Albany by athletics director Steve Abbott and Senior Woman Administrator Eileen Flaherty.
Wood, a 5-foot-10 freshman from Catlett, Va., earned a spot on the league’s all-rookie team.
The coaches were able to see past UMaine’s season-long struggles (4-24 record, 11-3 AE) as a team, and named Wood co-rookie of the year.
Most of the statistics back up that selection, although Albany freshman Shereesha Richards, the co-winner, certainly deserved strong consideration for the honor.
In conference play Wood, a versatile guard/forward, ranked fourth in America East by scoring 12.9 points per game. She was the No. 5 rebounder with 7.3 per contest.
Wood ranked seventh in steals (2.0) and was 15th in blocked shots (0.5). She shot 39 percent from the field (71-for-183), 64 percent from the foul line (36-for-56) and 30 percent (16-for-54) from 3-point range.
By comparison Richards, a talented 6-1 forward from Oceanview, N.J., ranked seventh in scoring (12.4) and eighth in rebounding (7.1). Her glowing stat was her .670 field-goal percentage (75-for-112).
Richards, who was No. 4 in steals (2.5), shot 62 percent (48-for-78) from the foul line and attempted only one 3-pointer.
Suffice it to say Richards had a much easier job playing with the juggernaut Great Danes (25-3, 16-0 AE), who outscored league opponents by an average of 23.8 points.
Opponents had many other Albany players about which to concern themselves, including co-player of the year and defensive player of the year Ebone Henry, 6-8 center Megan Craig, 3-point shooter Lindsey Lowrie and tenacious forward Julie Forster.
Henry, Lowrie and Forster are all seniors on a team that won the AE title a year ago. Richards just had to pick her spots and pick up the slack, with the focus on her teammates.
Things couldn’t have been more different for Wood, who was not playing alongside any all-conference stars.
She played both guard and forward, depending upon what UMaine needed, and later in the season often found herself matched up defensively against much taller, more experienced post players.
Despite her freshman status, Wood emerged as a calm, steadying force on a Black Bears team that was in constant flux because of injuries, inexperience and inconsistency.
In AE play, she led UMaine in scoring and rebounding and was second in minutes played (33.5 mpg). Wood was the only player to appear in all 28 games for the Bears, and started each.
Early in the season, as the coaching staff attempted to find some semblance of chemistry and consistency, Wood demonstrated a willingness to be aggressive, even in the face of offensive struggles.
She demonstrated a high basketball IQ, contributing in every facet of the game. She was fearless and relentless, regardless of the situation.
Admittedly, Wood did experience some turnover woes (2.9 per game).
When all was said and done, Wood proved she was the best overall player on the UMaine team. Over the next three seasons, she likely will demonstrate that she is among the best in the America East Conference while helping the Bears turn the program around.
This season, Wood was the rookie of the year.