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Wilson earns WNBA's Most Valuable Player award

By DOUG FEINBERG AP Basketball Writer

A’ja Wilson doesn’t remember much after figuring out that WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert was surprising her with the league’s MVP award.

The Aces star thought she was going to a league meeting Thursday when Engelbert started to talk about Wilson’s accomplishments this season.

“She was reading off my stats and that’s when it hit me what was going on,” Wilson said. “I wish I could tell you the rest, but I can’t because I was balling my eyes out. I was crying because I was so grateful for the moment. They surprised me with that one.”

The No. 1 overall pick three years ago led the Aces to an 18-4 record during the shortened season and the top seed in the WNBA playoffs. Wilson averaged 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and two blocks this year for the Aces. She received 43 of the 47 first-place votes in easily outpacing Breanna Stewart, who finished second and Candace Parker who was third.

“I’ve had lots of great players and All-Stars, but no one has carried a team like A’ja has this year,” Aces coach Bill Laimbeer said. ”

The 24-year-old is the first player from the franchise to win the award going back to when the team was in San Antonio and before that Utah.

The league also announced that Minnesota’s Crystal Dangerfield was the league’s rookie of the year and Cheryl Reeve earned coach of the year honors. Dangerfield was the runaway winner for rookie of the year.

The second-round draft pick became the second consecutive Lynx player to win the award, joining Napheesa Collier. Dangerfield, who averaged 16.2 points and 3.6 assists this season, became the lowest drafted player to ever win the award. Before Thursday, the lowest draft pick ever to win the league’s top rookie honor was Tracy Reid, who was drafted seventh in 1998.

Dangerfield particularly excelled in the fourth quarter, scoring the second-most total points in the league in the final period behind only Arike Ogunbwale. The UConn grad averaged 6.5 points a game in the final period.

Dangerfield received 44 votes. Atlanta Dream guard Chennedy Carter finished second with two votes and Dallas Wings forward Satou Sabally was third with one vote.

Reeve helped the Lynx to the No. 4 seed in the playoffs despite missing their star center to a calf injury for more than half of the season. It’s the third time that Reeve has won the award as she also earned it in 2011 and 2016. She’s now tied with Van Chancellor and Mike Thibault for most times winning the award.

“There’s a lot of good coaches in this league and that’s what stands out the most,” Reeve said of winning the award this year while the entire season was played in a bubble in Bradenton, Florida. “All of us had to deal with a variety of things. this wasn’t an easy season. It’s a tremendous honor.”

Reeve went on to praise the Lynx staff around her in the bubble who deserved a lot of credit as well.

She received 25 votes from a national panel of 47 sportswriters and broadcasters. Bill Laimbeer of the Las Vegas Aces finished second with 17 votes, Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Sparks and Thibault of the Washington Mystics tied for third with two votes each

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