After starting the final 21 games of last season and the first 18 of the current campaign, junior forward Gabby Lyon was benched by Rick Insell at the outset of C-USA play.
It had nothing to do with lack of production.
In fact, it was just the opposite as she spent the next 18 games as a reserve. In most of those instances she was the team’s first player off of the bench.
“Our bench was not as deep or productive as I would have liked entering conference play so we decided to bring Gabby off of the bench to light a spark and bring some energy,” Lady Raider Head Coach Rick Insell said.
Lyon, indeed, bolstered the Lady Raider bench and provided that much-need spark with tenacious defensive and relentless rebounding.
Lyon’s efforts did not go unnoticed throughout the league as she was named C-USA Sixth Player of the Year, as the league’s specialty award winners were announced by the conference office Monday morning. The league’s 14 head coaches and select media members who cover the conference vote on the awards.
“I believe this goes to show if you do your job for your team, it doesn’t matter if you start or come off of the bench, good things happen,” Insell said. “Gabby is a team player. When we decided to switch roles with her, the young lady never batted an eye. She took on her new role and gave this team exactly what we needed.”
Middle Tennessee was 14-4 in Lyon’s 18 non-starts, including a 12-3 mark against C-USA foes. She produced three of her six double-figure scoring games as a reserve, and her first career double-double came off of the bench against Old Dominion with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“I’m so appreciative of the people who voted for me,” Lyon said. “This is really a surprise. I try to do my best for my teammates and coaches. When coach wanted to change things up, I understood. I just wanted to do whatever I could to help us win games.”
Lyon averaged six points and six rebounds as a reserve, while shooting 58 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range.
Superlative Awards (Not Announced Until Monday Morning)
Player of the Year: Jennie Simms, Old Dominion
Freshman of the Year: Rachael Childress, UAB
Defensive Player of the Year: Brittanny Dinkins, Southern Miss
Newcomer of the Year: Loryn Goodwin, UTSA
Sixth Player of the Year: Gabby Lyon, Middle Tennessee
Coach of the Year: Joye Lee-McNelis, Southern Miss
C-USA Coaches Circle
(Given to head coaches that received votes in the poll)
Brooke Stoehr, Louisiana Tech
Rick Insell, Middle Tennessee
Michelle Clark-Heard, WKU