Three members of the West Virginia University women’s basketball team have garnered 2021-22 Preseason All-Big 12 accolades, as junior forward Esmery Martinez was unanimously tabbed to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team while senior forward Kari Niblack and junior guard KK Deans earned Preseason All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, the league announced on Wednesday.
The teams were voted upon by Big 12 women’s basketball coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own players. 2021-22 marks the third time in the last four seasons that West Virginia has seen at least three players named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team.
Martinez, a 2021 All-Big 12 First Team selection, is the first Mountaineer to represent WVU on the Preseason All-Big 12 Team since 2019-20, when Tynice Martin was selected to the squad. Additionally, the Hato Mayor Del Ray, Dominican Republic, native also is the first WVU junior since Martin in 2018-19 to earn a spot on the Preseason All-Big 12 Team.
In 2020-21, Martinez played in and started all 29 games for the Mountaineers and averaged a double-double, with 13.6 points and a team-high 11.6 rebounds per game. She also put together one of the best rebounding seasons in program history last year by hauling 335 boards, the most since Georgeann Wells hauled in 348 in 1986. Her 335 rebounds were good enough for the fifth-best mark in single-season program history. At season’s end, Martinez netted 22 double-figure scoring games, including three 20-point games, and 18 double-digit rebound games, including three 20-rebound games.
Additionally, Martinez tallied 15 double-doubles a season ago, the most by a Mountaineer since Lisa Szymczak (15) in 1994, and accomplished the feat in seven consecutive games from Dec. 13-Jan. 16, the best stretch by a WVU player since Olivia Bradley (eight) in 1984.
Niblack, the 2019 Big 12 Sixth Player of the Year, has now been named Preseason All-Big 12 Honorable Mention for the last three seasons. The Leesburg, Florida, native also was played in and started all 29 games for WVU a season ago and averaged 9.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in 2020-21. She once again led West Virginia in blocks for the third consecutive season, with 47, and blocked multiple shots in 16 games for WVU last year.
Of note, Niblack ranks No. 5 in the all-time women’s basketball record books with 148 blocks in her career.
Niblack capped the 2021-22 regular season by being named 2021 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention for the second consecutive season.
Deans, a 2021 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection, has now been named to the Preseason All-Big 12 Team for the first time in her career. The Greensboro, North Carolina, native started all 27 games in which she played a season ago while averaging 13.7 points and 3.7 assists per game. Deans tallied 104 assists, the second-best mark on the team, and led WVU in 3-point field goal percentage (41.5%) last year.
Additionally, Deans also posted 22 double-figure scoring performances, including a five 20-point games and a career-high, 30-point game at Texas on Feb. 6. In total, she led in scoring seven times last season.
The junior guard also provided one of the most memorable moments of the 2020-21 WVU women’s basketball season in the Big 12 Championship Quarterfinal against Kansas State on March 12, when she nailed the game winner at the buzzer to help West Virginia advance to the semifinals.