RICHMOND, Va. – James Madison women’s basketball was unanimously selected to win the Colonial Athletic Association title, while senior Kamiah Smalls repeats as the CAA Preseason Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season.
After claiming the regular-season title last year and going 17-1 during league play in the 2018-19 season, the Dukes were selected as the preseason favorite. JMU earned 81 points picking up nine first-place votes (coaches cannot vote for their team). Drexel was picked second with 70 points and one first-place vote while Towson rounded out the top-three with 65 points.
The Dukes led the league with four players being named to Preseason All-Conference Teams. Besides being named the Preseason Player of the Year, Smalls was the sole Duke on the First Team. Lexie Barrier, Jackie Benitez and Kayla Cooper-Williams were all placed on the Second Team.
Smalls raked in the awards last season with First Team All-CAA, VaSID First Team, Richmond Times-Dispatch State Player of the Year and Richmond Times-Dispatch All-State nods. It was her third All-CAA honor and second-straight First Team honor. She averaged 15.9 points per game to lead the Dukes to a WNIT semifinal berth. The guard shot 46% from the field, 38% from behind the arc and 83% from the charity stripe. She was second on the team with 65 made three-pointers and 90 assists. Smalls averaged 5.2 rebounds per game and her 131 defensive boards were second-most on the team.
Barrier's junior season was cut short due to injury, but she still pulled in postseason honors. She received her third All-CAA nomination and second-straight Second Team honor. Barrier averaged 11 points per game shooting 37% from the field which was the third-best on the team. She recorded one double-double last season, scoring 14 points while grabbing 11 rebounds against Towson on Feb. 3. She led JMU in scoring in five games last year, including a game-high 24 against Northeastern on Jan. 13. She led the Dukes in steals seven times, including a season-high three against William & Mary on Jan. 25.
In her first season playing for the Dukes, Benitez took home the CAA Sixth Player of the Year award which was the first in program history. She also earned All-CAA Third Team honors and was named to the WNIT All-Tournament Team. Before the conference tournament, she came off the bench in 26 of the Dukes 28 games, averaging 23.9 minutes per game. Benitez hit 95 three-pointers during the 2018-19 season which is the sixth most in a season in JMU history, while 235 in her career are fourth-most. She is seventh all-time with 196 steals after swiping the ball 53 times last season.
Cooper-Williams boasted a handful of accolades last season including ECAC Honorable Mention, CAA Defensive Player of the Year, a CAA Defensive Team member and a CAA Third Team selection. She was the first JMU player named Defensive Player of the Year since Nikki Newman took home the award in 2014. She was just the third student-athlete in program history with the honor. This was also the second time being named to the All-Defensive Team as she received the award in 2016. Cooper-Williams led the team with 98 blocks, breaking her previous record in a season while breaking the blocks by a junior record.
CAA Predicted Order of Finish
1. James Madison (9)
2. Drexel (1)
7. William & Mary
(first-place votes in parenthesis)
CAA Preseason All-Conference Teams
Nicole Enabosi, Delaware
Bailey Greenberg, Drexel
Kionna Jeter, Towson
Nukiya Mayo, Towson
Kamiah Smalls, James Madison
Lexie Barrier, James Madison
Jackie Benitez, James Madison
Kayla Cooper-Williams, James Madison
Samone DeFreese, Delaware
Gigi Smith, UNCW
CAA Preseason Player of the Year
Kamiah Small, James Madison
Honorable Mention: Deja Ford (Charleston), Niki Metzel (Drexel), Victoria Reynolds (William & Mary), Lacey Suggs (UNCW), Shannon Todd (Northeastern)