Mike Carlson

USBWA Names Laksa National Freshman of the Week

January 12, 2016

TAMPA, JAN. 12, 2016 – When Kitija Laksa (Riga, Latvia) committed to USF just over one year ago, head coach Jose Fernandez knew she would make an immediate impact on the program. What no one could have predicted is that one third of the way through her freshman campaign, she has already left her mark in the record books.

The U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) named Laksa the National Freshman of the Week Tuesday, for her amazing performances in the past three games for the Bulls. The Latvian is the first USBWA National Freshman of the Week in program history.

“I’m really pleased for [Laksa],” said Fernandez. “I’m excited about what she brings to our team, and for her potential over the next four years. She plays a big part in our success and where we want to be at the end of the season.”

In an 83-56 win over SMU on Jan. 7, Laksa became the third freshman in Division I to score at least 38 points, the second-most points scored in a single game by any player in the American Athletic Conference history. Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham is the only freshman to turn in more points in a single game with 42 against Wake Forest Nov. 22. Cal State Fullerton’s Michelle Berry matched the 38 points against Portland State Nov. 13.

Breaking through the freshman barrier can be tough, but Laksa’s 41.5 three-point field goal percentage ranks in the top 50 nationwide, and it’s also the highest percentage by any freshman this season.

To date, Laksa has collected 170 points in 14 games. Compared to some of the greatest players to wear the USF jersey, Laksa is on pace to rank as one of the top five freshman campaigns in program history. Jessica Dickson (’07) paved the way with 540 points in her first season, Mary Klinewski (’85) follows with 376 points as a freshman and Jackie Eisenhauer (’91) round out the top three.

Last week, Laksa led the Bulls averaging 25.3 points per game, shooting 52 percent from the floor. She now ranks third on the Bulls roster, averaging 12.1 points per game.  In the Bulls’ 2-1 week, the freshman totaled 76 points, 51 points coming from behind the arc. In the Bulls’ 40-point win over UCF on Jan. 5, Laksa led the team with 21 points, but the freshman’s career night came in an 83-56 thumping of SMU. Laksa turned in a the second-highest single-game point total in USF history, scoring 38 points thanks to eight 3-pointers in the game, which rank second in program history. Laksa shot 62 percent (15-for-24), from the floor, and 66 percent (8-for-12) from long range.

Against the No. 1 team in the country, Laksa stayed hot in her third consecutive double-digit performance. Laska recorded 17 points and grabbed a career-high six rebounds. The Latvian bomber notched her best shooting performance of the season from behind the arc, shooting 5-for-7 from long range at 71 percent.

Laksa and the Bulls return to action on the road Wednesday. The Bulls travel to New Orleans to face Tulane in their second road conference game of the year. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.

Jose Fernandez’s 2015 women’s basketball team returns all five starters, including All-American Candidate Courtney Williams, from a team that posted a 27-8 (15-3 American) record in 2014-15 and finished the season in the top 25 rankings. The squad finished second behind eventual NCAA champion UConn in the American Athletic Conference and made an exciting NCAA Tournament run that saw USF top LSU in front of 5,560 fans in the Sun Dome in the NCAA regional round.

In 2015-16, the Bulls will be hosting their toughest schedule yet, including the opening rounds of the Preseason WNIT, along with perennial powers Penn State, Chattanooga, Oklahoma State and UConn making trips to Tampa. Season tickets, starting at just $65, are available for purchase online at USFBullsTix.com, by phone at 1-800-GoBulls or in person at the Gate B ticket office of the Sun Dome, with single game tickets going on sale in late September.

USF has made 11 postseason tournament appearances and had three NCAA Tournament berths in Head Coach Jose Fernandez’s 15 seasons. The all-time winningest coach in program history, Fernandez has guided USF to six 20-win seasons, two WNIT final four appearances, the 2009 WNIT championship and won more than 260 games.

– #GoBulls –

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