ATLANTA - The SUNY Geneseo women's basketball program has been honored by Russell Athletic and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) as the recipient of the sixth-annual Russell Athletic "Together We R" Team Award.
The "Together We R" Team Award honors programs that have strived to succeed in the face of adversity, overcoming extraordinary circumstances such as an unforeseen team crisis, barrier or unfortunate situation that caused extra stress. The team must exemplify strong commitment to core values of togetherness, courage, unparalleled work ethic and heart, and must personify the "Together We R" belief that teams are stronger than individuals.
For the second time within an 11-month period, the Geneseo women's basketball team was faced with the tragic loss of a teammate. First-year guard Savannah Williams was killed in a car accident on December 21, 2016 on her way home from campus for winter break.
The Knights honored Williams' memory by finishing the regular season with an undefeated 25-0 record, including an 18-0 mark in the State University of New York Athletic Conference to earn the top seed for the postseason tournament for the second time in three seasons. The team went on to finish the season 28-2, advancing to the NCAA Division III Tournament round-of-16 for the second time in three seasons while setting a single-season school record for wins.
The Knights were named co-winners of the 2017 honor along with the Northwestern University women's basketball squad, which also played their season following the loss of sophomore guard Jordan Hankins in January. It was also the second-straight season the team won the award after also being recognized for their achievements following the death of senior guard Kelsey Annese.
"It's unfortunate that any family or team has to experience tragedy like those that SUNY Geneseo and Northwestern University communities have endured this year. However, the determination and perseverance the players, coaches and families showed is a perfect demonstration of what we can endure when working together as a team," said Russell Athletic Vice President of Marketing, Matt Murphy. "Everyone associated with these programs came together to ensure they had the support needed to continue. Russell Athletic is proud to recognize SUNY Geneseo and Northwestern University with the 'Together We R' Award."
"Geneseo head coach Scott Hemer and (Northwestern head coach) Joe McKeown have demonstrated exemplary leadership and compassion in the face of tragedy. Scott and Joe's commitment to their student-athletes and their families are a testament to the power of their calling as coaches," said WBCA Executive Director Danielle Donehew. "Through this award, our WBCA family of coaches reinforces their support for Scott and Joe, their staffs, student-athletes, institutions and communities. We commend each program for their commitment to one another. The WBCA family offers our deepest condolences to the families of Savannah Williams and Jordan Hankins. We honor Savannah and Jordan, and affirm their eternal place in our game."
Hemer and McKeown will be presented with the "Together We R" Team Award during the WBCA Convention that is held in conjunction with the NCAA® Women's Final Four® in Dallas .