Expected to be the Gophers' leader from Day 1, Rachel Banham was just that.
As a result, the point guard from Lakeville North was named the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year on Monday, the second Gophers women's basketball player to receive the award.
Banham was named the conference's top freshman by both the media and the coaches after a 2011-12 season that saw her lead the Gophers in scoring at 16.1 points per game, good for seventh in the Big Ten. She also averaged 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists and led the team in minutes at 34.2 per game.
"My coach kind of threw me into that position where I just had to go with it and be able to compete and fit in right away," Banham said on the Big Ten Network's "Women's Sports Report" awards show. "Right in the first game, I felt pretty comfortable."
The 5-9 Banham was named conference freshman of the week five times and has scored at least 10 points in 26 consecutive games heading into the Big Ten tournament. She joined Janel McCarville in 2002 as Gophers named Freshman of the Year.
Banham also was named second-team All-Big Ten on both teams. Gophers senior guard Kiara Buford was named honorable mention on both teams.
"Rachel has proven over and over with her play and consistency that she can flourish at this level and on the national scene," coach Pam Borton said in a release. "For her to come in and do the things she has done for our program, and to make a statement in the Big Ten like she has again and again has been remarkable."
Ohio State senior guard Samantha Prahalis was named Player of the Year by both coaches and the media, the eighth consecutive year a Buckeyes player has won the award. Prahalis averaged 20.4 points and 6.5 assists per game, and with 889 assists, she is four away from becoming the Big Ten's career leader.
Both media and coaches selected the same first team. Joining Prahalis on the team was Buckeyes backcourt mate Tayler Hill. The Minneapolis South product and Minnesota's all-time leading high school scorer, Hill led the conference at 20.7 points per game, good for 12th-best in Division I. Hill, a junior, was also named to the all-defensive team for the second year in a row.
Rounding out the first team were guards Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas of Big Ten champion Penn State and Nebraska forward Jordan Hooper. Penn State's Coquese Washington was named Coach of the Year.