After a rookie campaign during which she blocked 82 shots, swiped 48 steals, and averaged over eight rebounds per game, Morehead State Women's Basketball freshman Ariel Kirkwood has been tabbed as the 2020 Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
The six-foot guard also earned All-OVC Second Team and All-OVC Newcomer honors, the league announced Tuesday afternoon.
Kirkwood's award-winning season notes the Morehead State Women's program's first OVC Defensive Player of the Year honoree. The freshman also became Morehead State's first individual to be selected to the conference's second team and all-newcomer team while picking up player of the year honors.
"For Ariel to win three awards in her freshman season is amazing," said MSU head coach Greg Todd. "Her rebounding and shot-blocking ability are off the charts for a guard. I'm proud of how she worked to improve her field-goal percentage from non-conference to conference play. It's very rare for a freshman to win the defensive player of the year award regardless of conference, but she came out every game and took on the opponents to earn the accolade."
Amongst her OVC counterparts, Kirkwood's 82 rejections and 2.7 blocks per game led the league. Nationally in NCAA Division I women's hoops, the guard's blocked shot total leads all guards and is second among freshman while being the 10th-most overall.
Kirkwood's 82 blocked shots are a Morehead State freshman record and fifth most in a single-season regardless of class. On the Eagles' career rejections leaderboard, Kirkwood is tied Melissa Ireton who swatted 82 shots from 1982-86.
During the 2019-20 season, Kirkwood recorded a team-best seven double-doubles as she finished with stat line of 10.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 2.7 blocks per game. Kirkwood started in all 30 games and played a team-high 32.3 minutes per game.
Before enrolling at Morehead State, Kirkwood starred at Milwaukee Vincent High School in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wis. During her prep days at Milwaukee Vincent, Kirkwood played for coaches James Wright and Ashley Burks while posting over 1,500 points in her career. In 2019, the guard garnered AP All-State Honorable Mention recognition.
Kirkwood and the Eagles now look to prepare for their 2020-21 season. Looking forward, coach Todd believes the talented guard will continue to up her game and be a factor for Morehead State on the hardwood over the next three seasons.
"She has a great work ethic and I see her improving every year she's her at Morehead State," added Todd.