Mar 05, 2024

MWSU's Whitaker named MIAA Coach of the Year, Clarke named best defensive player

Posted Mar 05, 2024 7:51 PM
Candi Whitaker is the 2023-24 MIAA women's basketball Coach of the Year. Photo by A.J. Robbins.
Candi Whitaker is the 2023-24 MIAA women's basketball Coach of the Year. Photo by A.J. Robbins.


St. Joseph Post

Missouri Western women's basketball raked in some of the top honors from the MIAA Tuesday as postseason play approaches.

Head coach Candi Whitaker was named MIAA Coach of the Year after leading the Griffons to an MIAA regular season title and a 24-4 campaign.

Whitaker, in her fifth season at Western, has guided the Griffons to a 99-45 record in that time. She now has a Central Region title and MIAA regular season title to her name.

Whitaker has guided the Griffons to three straight seasons with 20 wins or more. She's achieved 20 or more wins in four of her first five seasons with Missouri Western.

Missouri Western senior forward Connie Clarke was tabbed as the league's Defensive Player of the Year for a second straight season.

The Birmingham, Alabama native led the MIAA this season with 72 steals. Clarke was Western's lead scorer and rebounder, averaging 12.3 points and 7.5 boards per contest.

Clarke was also named as a first-team all-MIAA selection and a member of the MIAA All-Defensive team.

Another Missouri Western senior, guard Brionna Budgets, was picked a second-team all-MIAA honoree. The Kansas City native and 2022 Central Region tournament MVP is now a three-time all-MIAA pick.

The Missouri Western women, now ranked No. 18 in the nation, open MIAA tournament play on Thursday at noon in the quarterfinals at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City. The game is on KFEQ Radio (680, 95.3,, KFEQ app).

The Griffons will play either No. 8 seed Northeastern State (14-14) or No. 9 seed Emporia State (13-15). Emporia and Northeastern play on Wednesday at noon.

Northwest Missouri State women's basketball had three players honored by the league Wednesday. Senior Jayna Green was named to the all-MIAA Defensive Team for the second time in her career.

Junior Molly Harnett was a second-team all-MIAA pick, while Caely Kesten made the third-team list. Northwest is the No. 2 seed in the MIAA tournament, finishing the year at 22-6 - the program's best record since 2010-11.

Connie Clarke (left). Photo by A.J. Robbins.
Connie Clarke (left). Photo by A.J. Robbins.

Men's accolades

Missouri Western's Taye Fields and JaRon Thames were tabbed as third-team all-MIAA honorees on the men's side Tuesday.

Thames led the Griffons in scoring this year with 15 points per contest. Fields had eight double-doubles this season, averaging 12.4 points and 9.5 boards per game.

Fields was second in the league in total rebounds with 256. He led the league in offensive rebounds at 74.

Northwest Missouri State men's basketball coach Ben McCollum got the Coach of the Year nod for the ninth time in his career, while Northwest's Wes Dreamer was named the MIAA's Men's Player of the Year.

The Bearcats won the MIAA regular season crown for an 11th straight year with a 24-4 record, winning their last 13 games of the regular season.

Sophomore guard Bennett Stirtz got a second-team all-conference nod, while Mitch Mascari and Isaiah Jackson were honorable mention picks.

Missouri Western men's basketball opens MIAA tournament play on Wednesday against No. 8 seed Missouri Southern (13-15). Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. Coverage starts at 5:30 on KFEQ Radio (680, 95.3,, KFEQ app).

Northwest will play the winner of Missouri Western/Missouri Southern on Thursday at 6 p.m. in quarterfinals.

Taye Fields (13). Courtesy photo.
Taye Fields (13). Courtesy photo.

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