Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) star forward Cayla Francis has been named the 2006/07 defencejobs WNBL Bettie Watson Rookie of the Year.
The 18-year-old South Australian scored 278 points at an average of 13.2 points per game and tallied 177 rebounds (132 defensive and 45 offensive) at 8.2 per game – the third highest average in the league.
Francis was instrumental in the Institute’s first win in two seasons, scoring 14 points against Dandenong in round 1, as well as pushing a number of the AIS’s more experienced rivals throughout the season.
In 21 regular season games, she finished second in the league for most defensive rebounds per game with 6.2, averaged 27 minutes per game and contributed 43 assists, 33 blocked shots and 19 steals.
“I was pleased with my personal performance, I had a pretty good season, but we all deserve it,” Francis said.
“I had high expectations of myself at the start of the year - Dean (Head coach Dean Kinsman) gave me the role as starting ‘floorman’ - and I knew I had to step up and lead the team.
“And I feel like a leader when I am out there in WNBL games and in training.”
Francis posted seven double-doubles in the regular season – against Canberra (round 4), Townsville (rounds 9 and 12), Perth (rounds 10 and 15), Dandenong (round 14), Adelaide (round 16) and Bulleen (round 17) - including six in the final seven rounds.
“I went out there and aimed to post a double-double every game,” she said.
“I love the game and I really enjoyed it this season.
“I have developed so much this year at the AIS. It’s a really great experience and I am so glad I had the opportunity to be here.”
“It is a great team to play with and I really love them. Without them I wouldn’t have won this award.”
As well as posting a season high 23 points against Townsville in round 9 and tallying a season high 15 rebounds against Perth in round 10, Francis’ season was highlighted by AIS’ round one win over the Rangers.
“The win was an excellent feeling,” she said. “And we scared a few teams this season,”
“I can’t remember what it feels like to win now because we then had 20 losses, but the first game was really good to experience.
“We still had a good season even though we didn’t get the W’s.”
Francis, an Australian U21 women’s squad member ahead of the 2007 FIBA U21 World Championship to be held Moscow, Russia from June 29 to July 8, joins an illustrious group of past players to have received the Youth Player of the Year/Bettie Watson Rookie of the Year Award.
They include former defencejobs Opal captain Trish Fallon (1990), current Opals captain Lauren Jackson (1997), world champion Opal Laura Summerton (2001/02), fellow Sapphire Renae Camino (2004/05) and last year’s winner Abby Bishop (2005/06).
In 1988, the Youth Player of the Year was first awarded to Lucille Hamilton of the AIS then in 1995 the award became known as the Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award in recognition of Watson’s years of dedication to the Australian women’s national team and for her part in helping found the WNBL.
Prior to 1995 the Betty Watson Award for Rookie of the Year was known as the Youth Player of the Year award.
The Bettie Watson Rookie of the Year Award is determined by a poll of the head coach, assistant coach and team captain from all WNBL clubs, where voters are not allowed to vote for members of their own team.
Youth Player of the Year
1988 - Lucille Hamilton (AIS)
1989 - Renae Fegent (AIS)
1990 – Trish Fallon (AIS)
1991 - Michelle Brogan (Adelaide City Tigers)
1992 - Allison Cook (Melbourne Tigers)
1993 - Allison Cook (Melbourne Tigers)
1994 - Maryanne Difrancesco (Melbourne Tigers)
Bettie Watson Rookie of the Year
1995 - Chika Emeagi (AIS)
1996 - Jessica Bibby (Dandenong Rangers)
1997 - Lauren Jackson (AIS)
1998 - Andrea Cartledge (Melbourne Tigers)
1998/99 - Caitlin Ryan (Dandenong Rangers)
1999/00 - Shelley Hammonds (AIS)
2000/01 - Laura Summerton (AIS)
2001/02 - Alison Downie (Dandenong) and Kamala Lamshed (Adelaide) *
2002/03 - Kelly Wilson (AIS)
2003/04 - Kathleen MacLeod (AIS)
2004/05 - Renae Camino (AIS)
2005/06 - Abby Bishop (AIS)
* Joint winners