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Big South Best of the Best: Katie Feenstra

January 14, 2009
|  Charlotte, N.C.
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Katie Feenstra is pictured above sporting Liberty, Team USA and Atlanta Dream uniforms.

Katie Feenstra is pictured above sporting Liberty, Team USA and Atlanta Dream uniforms.

View a video vignette chronicling Katie Feenstra's remarkable career

Vote for Katie Feenstra as the Big South's Top Moment

As part of the Big South Conference's 25th Anniversary celebration in 2008-09, which is presented by Royal Purple, the conference is profiling each week the Top 25 "Best of the Best" moments in league history. This week's feature is Big South and Liberty women's basketball All-American Katie Feenstra.

Katie Feenstra's presence in the Big South during her career from 2001-05 was enormous, and not just due to her 6-8 stature. She improved each year and became arguably one of the most dominating players in Big South Conference women's basketball history, and helped elevate Liberty and the Big South into the national spotlight in 2004-05 with the Lady Flames' "Sweet Sixteen" run in the NCAA Tournament.

Feenstra's career with the Lady Flames did not begin as hoped in 2001-02, as she missed the first 14 games while recovering from a dislocated knee. She made her collegiate debut on Jan. 15, 2002 against UNC Asheville, playing seven minutes and scoring three points and grabbing five rebounds. She played in the final 17 contests off the bench and led the squad in scoring with 10.5 points per game, in addition to 5.6 rebounds, to earn a spot on the Big South All-Rookie Team.

But in the 2002 Advance Auto Parts Women's Basketball Championship, Feenstra provided a glimpse of her future greatness. In her first tournament game, she scored 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting in 18 minutes to lead Liberty past UNC Asheville. In a semifinal victory against Charleston Southern, Feenstra again paced the Liberty scoring attack with 15 points. She then added 16 points in the Lady Flames' championship game triumph over Coastal Carolina to mark Liberty 's sixth consecutive tournament title and NCAA berth. Feenstra averaged 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and shot .553 percent from the field, receiving all-tournament team honors for her performance.

The 2002-03 season was Feenstra's breakout season, as she opened the campaign as a member of the league's preseason all-conference team and concluded the year with her first Big South Player of the Year award. She improved in every statistical category, as she averaged 15.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and shot a conference-best .569 percent from the field – the highest in the Big South in four seasons. She was No. 22 nationally in field goal percentage and ranked No. 14 in the country in blocked shots with 2.5 per game. She also led the Big South in rebounding and offensive rebounds. Feenstra posted 10 double-doubles on the year, while her 71 blocked shots her sophomore season ranked fourth in school history at the time.

Feenstra helped the Lady Flames to the first of several monumental wins when Liberty defeated No. 23 Virginia in overtime, 77-69, on Nov. 26, 2002. It was the program's first win over the Cavaliers and the first time the Lady Flames defeated a ranked team. Feenstra's layup just nine seconds into the extra period gave Liberty a lead it would not lose.

Behind Feenstra, the Lady Flames finished the Big South regular-season a perfect 14-0 and 23-3 overall. In the conference tournament, Feenstra continued her postseason prowess, as she opened the quarterfinals with 17 points and nine rebounds in a victory over UNC Asheville. In the semifinals, Liberty and Coastal Carolina met in a rematch of the previous year's championship game, and again it was Feenstra leading the way, as she tallied 18 points and seven boards in the win over the Chanticleers. In the 2003 championship game against High Point , Feenstra showed why she had been voted Big South Player of the Year, as she scored a career-high 28 points and nabbed 13 rebounds to lead top-seeded Liberty to its seventh consecutive Big South championship. For her efforts, Feenstra collected the first of three career tournament MVP honors after averaging 21.0 points and 9.7 rebounds.

Feenstra began to receive national attention in her junior season, as she was named a Street & Smith's Preseason Honorable Mention All-American, in addition to Preseason Big South Player of the Year accolades. Feenstra again carried the Lady Flames to a perfect conference record at 14-0, and was again honored as the Big South Player of the Year, becoming the fourth multiple winner in league history. She elevated her status in 2003-04, as she averaged career-highs of 21.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and led the nation in field goal percentage at .657 percent – becoming the Big South's first women's basketball NCAA statistical champion. She was the only player in the country ranked in the top 15 in field goal percentage (1st), points (10th), rebounds (10th) and blocked shots per game (14th), while recording 22 double-doubles on the season.

She continued her domination in the Big South Tournament, as she turned in another MVP performance with 20.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest in the 2004 Advance Auto Parts Women's Basketball Championship, leading Liberty to its eighth-straight championship. National honors began to roll in for the first time at the conclusion of her junior season, as she was named an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American. In addition, Feenstra was named to the Kodak/WBCA All-America Region II Team and was the 2004 Richmond Times-Dispatch Virginia State Player of the Year.

Already with numerous accomplishments in her first three years, Feenstra was tabbed a preseason Wade Trophy, John R. Wooden Award, Naismith and Bayer Senior CLASS Award nominee in 2004-05. She did not disappoint, as she and the Lady Flames won at No. 17 Kansas State, 77-56 in the 10th Annual Commerce Bank Wildcat Tournament. Feenstra had 22 points and eight rebounds in helping snap the Wildcats' 35-game home winning streak en route to tournament MVP honors. It was another signature win in Liberty and Big South women's basketball history.

The regular season was much of the same for Feenstra, as she finished the year averaging 17.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and again leading the nation in field goal percentage with a Big South single-season record of .671 percent. She was just the second player in NCAA history to lead the nation in field goal percentage in back-to-back seasons, and was the only player in the country in 2004-05 to lead her conference in points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. She also posted 17 double-doubles on the year in becoming the first three-time Women's Basketball Player of the Year in the Big South. In the Big South Tournament, she captured her third Tournament MVP honor after leading Liberty to its ninth Big South title and NCAA Tournament appearance with averages of 20.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per outing.

Entering the NCAA Tournament as an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America honoree for the second-straight season, Feenstra scored 22 points and had 11 rebounds in the Lady Flames' upset of Penn State in the first round. She followed that performance with 29 points and 13 boards to lead Liberty past DePaul to reach the "Sweet Sixteen." Despite the run ending in the next round against LSU, Feenstra and Liberty were the talk of the tournament. USA Today wrote of Feenstra on March 24, 2005:

"Feenstra makes believers out of doubters."

Feenstra capped her college career as the Big South's 2004-05 Female Athlete of the Year, becoming the first female athlete to win the award in back-to-back seasons. In addition, the two-time Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American was the first Big South women's player to earn three Player of the Year awards -- all consecutively, and garnered all-tournament team honors all four years of her career. In 12 career Big South Tournament games, she averaged 19.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and shot .614 percent from the field (97-of-158). She concluded her career fifth all-time in conference history with 1,845 points and second with 1,033 rebounds, in addition to the highest career field goal percentage at .623.

With her college career complete and after answering the now-famous ESPN question with "Why Not Liberty?" Feenstra became the first Big South women's basketball player to be drafted in the WNBA when the Connecticut Sun selected her in the first round of the 2005 Draft with the eighth overall pick. She was later traded to the San Antonio Silver Stars, where she was one of two players unanimously selected to the WNBA's inaugural All-Rookie Team.

Feenstra played two seasons with the Silver Stars before joining the Detroit Shock in 2007, and helped the squad reach the WNBA Finals against the Phoenix Mercury. She started three of the five WNBA Finals games and averaged 7.0 ppg and 3.6 rpg in the series in her WNBA playoff debut.

Following the Finals, Feenstra was a member of the USA Basketball Select Team that finished runner-up in the 2007 FIBA World League Tournament in Ekaterinburg , Russia. She then was added to the USA National Team Roster, and was considered for the 12-player USA Olympic Team roster for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Feenstra spent the 2008 WNBA season with the expansion Atlanta Dream, where she averaged 6.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 33 games.

Katie Feenstra is one of the Top 25 "Best of the Best" moments in League history. The Conference is conducting an online fan poll to help determine the Top Moment in the first 25 years of the Big South Conference. Voting is open on www.BigSouthSports.com and continues through March 25. Fan voting will be combined with the 25th Anniversary Committee's votes to come up with the official rank order of the "Best of the Best" moments. The countdown will be unveiled at the concluding 25th Anniversary banquet in May.

Liberty's other "Best of the Best" moments
Josh McDougal
Liberty track & field program