Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Markowski Heads Group of Huskers Honored by Big Ten Ahead of Conference Tournament

March 01, 2022

Five Huskers earned All-Big Ten honors on Tuesday, with Jaz Shelley and Alexis Markowski being named second-team all-conference while Sam Haiby and Isabelle Bourne were honorable mention. Bella Cravens earned the sportsmanship award.

On top of those second-team honors, Shelley was also named to the all-defense team while Markowski is the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and member of the all-freshman team. Markowski is just the second player in program history to be named freshman of the year, the first being Jessica Shepard in 2016.

When head coach Amy Williams was watching Markowski play at Lincoln Pius X High School, she knew her program was getting a special player. But Big-Ten-Freshman-of-the-Year kind of special?

“We felt like she was obviously incredibly dominant at Pius and even with her summer team when we got to watch her play quite a bit, that she had the capabilities of really coming in and being dominant,” Williams said of Markowski. “But it’s always a question of how you’re going to transition into playing with and against bigger, faster, stronger, and I think she’s carried that confidence with her and she’s been able to continue believing that she belongs.”

The 6-foot-3 Markowski is the only Big Ten freshman leading her team in scoring and rebounding. She notched her sixth double-double of the season against Northwestern and, on Monday, was named the conference’s freshman-of-the-week for the eighth time this season.

“You always think and believe and hope,” Markowski said of winning freshman of the year. “I was coming in here just hoping I’d receive one freshman-of-the-week. I just want to thank my teammates and coaches for believing in me since day one. It really is a crazy feeling. It all just feels like, everything in my past with basketball, the highs and lows, it’s just all coming together.”

Markowski is averaging a team-high 13 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting 53% (17-of-32) from 3-point range. Her season-high 27 points came against one of the best teams in the Big Ten, Iowa. On that night, Jan. 16, Markowski went 10-of-10-of-12 from the field and a head-turning 6-of-7 from behind the arc.

“Alexis just has an incredible belief and she believes every time that we step out there, that we can and should win the ball game and that she should find a way to contribute to help make that happen,” Williams said. “She’s done that at a high level this year, and very consistently. I think she’s really helped us build on some improvements that we’ve had in the program and expectations.”

Although it appeared like it was a smooth transition from Class A basketball to the Big Ten, Markowski said it was anything but. There were some hard lessons learned, plenty of which came before the season began.

“This summer was kind of a wake-up call,” she said. “Summer workouts, I felt like I didn’t belong there for a little bit. But I just put in a lot of extra work and time. Really just focusing on what I needed to do to get better and putting all that time and energy into basketball helped me this season.”

Shelley, a 5-9 guard from Moe, Australia, and transfer from Oregon, is second on the team in average scoring (12.4) and rebounding (6.8). While she can lead the Huskers in scoring on any given night, Shelley, who has five double-doubles and one triple-double, excels at finding her teammates for buckets. She’s dishing off a team-high five assists per game, which ranks fifth in the conference. Shelley has proven to be a pest on defense—despite her sub-5-10 height, she’s leading the team in blocks with 30—that’s nine more than the 6-3 Bella Cravens—and steals with 50.

“I definitely had a different approach coming in here on a new team,” Shelley said. “I definitely took the defensive side in practice very tough, we have awards for that every week and I think I was just trying to get that team award.”

At the end of the day, individual awards are great. But the season isn’t over yet, and the goals are still attainable. That journey starts Thursday night when the Huskers play the winner of Wisconsin and Illinois.

“We’re excited. Individual awards are incredible and I’m honored and I’m sure the rest of the team is, but we still have so much work to do,” Shelley said. “We know we can win that Big Ten tournament. We’re super excited to get to practice today and we’re looking forward to bigger things, and the NCAA tournament after that. We’re not going there just to go, ‘Oh, we made it,’ we know we can make a difference in that tournament and we’re excited to go for a run.”

Here are the rest of the Big Ten awards:
Player of the Year: Caitlin Clark, Iowa
Defensive Player of the Year: Veronica Burton, Northwestern (three-time winner)
Sixth Player of the year: Shyanne Sellers, Maryland
Coach of the Year: Kim Barnes Arico, Michigan

First-team all-conference:
Grace Berger, Indiana
Caitlin Clark, Iowa
Monika Czinano, Iowa
Angel Reese, Maryland
Naz Hillmon, Michigan
Nia Clouden, Michigan State
Veronica Burton, Northwestern
Taylor Mikesell, Ohio State
Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State
Makenna Marisa, Penn State

Second-team all-conference:
Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, Indiana
Aleksa Gulbe, Indiana
Chloe Bibby, Maryland
Diamond Miller, Maryland
Ashley Owusu, Maryland
Leigha Brown, Michigan
Sara Scalia, Minnesota
Alexis Markowski, Nebraska
Jaz Shelley, Nebraska

Honorable mention:
Aaliyah Nye, Illinois
Ali Patberg, Indiana
McKenna Warnock, Iowa
Katie Benzan, Maryland
Matilda Ekh, Michigan State
Isabelle Bourne, Nebraska
Sam Haiby, Nebraska
Courtney Shaw, Northwestern
Abbey Ellis, Purdue
Madison Layden, Purdue
Jeanae Terry, Purdue
Osh Brown, Rutgers
Julie Pospíšilová, Wisconsin

All-Big Ten Defense:
Nicole Cardaño-Hillary, Indiana
Angel Reese, Maryland
Naz Hillmon, Michigan
Veronica Burton, Northwestern
Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State
Jaz Shelley, Nebraska

All-Freshman Team:
Shyanne Sellers, Maryland
Laila Phelia, Michigan
Matilda Ekh, Michigan State
Alexis Markowski, Nebraska
Leilani Kapinus, Penn State

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