CARBONDALE — Abby Brockmeyer, SIU's first Missouri Valley Conference freshman of the year in six years, told coach Cindy Stein she wanted to be more of a go-to player this winter.
This past season, the Salukis often went to their only senior, guard/forward Kylie Giebelhausen, down the stretch — for good reason. Giebelhausen, a two-time first team all-conference pick, led the team in 3-pointers (60), steals (45) and blocks (36) and was second in scoring (11.6 points per game).
Brockmeyer, SIU's top rebounder at 6.87 per game, still finished her first Division I season ranked in the top 25 in the Valley in seven different categories.
"She may not have been our first option sometimes, but she made great opportunities out of what she had," Stein said. "That's what good players do, so, what I asked her to get better at was her defense and her conditioning."
Like most freshmen, Brockmeyer appeared to hit the wall in mid-January. The 6-foot-1 forward made 1 of 4 from the field in 21 minutes in a home win over Valparaiso and had a season-high four turnovers in an overtime win over Missouri State. Brockmeyer still grabbed eight rebounds to go with her seven points against the Lady Bears.
"Last year was kind of like an eye-opener, I guess you could say," Brockmeyer said. "I didn't really expect the season to be as long as it was, so, this year I'm kind of hoping to build up my endurance more during this preseason and then be ready to go all the way through the season."
One of three freshmen in SIU's main rotation, along with MVC All-Freshman Team guard Makenzie Silvey and forward Rachel Pudlowski, Brockmeyer became just the third player in school history to win the league's biggest freshman honor. Cari Hassell won it in 1995, and Cartaesha Macklin, the program's all-time leading scorer, won it in 2012.
Brockmeyer ended a three-year stranglehold of the award by Drake. Evansville guard Sara Dickey shared the MVC Freshman of the Year Award with Drake forward Lizzy Wendell in 2014, and a Bulldog won each of the next three years. Drake won the MVC title with an 18-0 record this year, but was led largely by sophomores and juniors.
Brockmeyer's career-high 27 points at Evansville Dec. 29 tied Macklin's 2011 school record for points by a freshman in a single game. It was only the 14th time a Saluki freshman had scored 20 or more points, period. Brockmeyer, a three-time all-state pick at Litchfield High School, was SIU's top scorer four times and led the Salukis in rebounding 14 times.
Silvey (28.1) and Brockmeyer (28.8) both averaged more than 28 minutes a game as true freshmen for SIU's 17-14 squad. The Salukis went 11-7 in the MVC, finishing fourth, and return seven of their top eight scorers.
Brockmeyer hopes to avoid a sophomore slump, and build enough trust to become SIU's next go-to player.
"Like coach said, 'They don't give a Sophomore of the Year Award,'" Brockmeyer said. "It's gonna be working that hard to be All-MVC or anything like that."