The progress of freshman Jerica James made an impression on former Mississippi State women's basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis and her staff.
Fanning-Otis noticed that James was getting better with her play on the court.
It was noticeable enough that Fanning-Otis reserved the Most Improved Player Award for James and handed it to her Thursday night during the 2012 Lady Bulldogs Awards Banquet at the Hunter Henry Center.
James was very honored to be considered for such an award and vows that she will be committed to performing even better for incoming coach Vic Schaefer.
"It starts soon," James said. "He's got me doing a little extra things to stay in shape."
In her last official business as coach, Fanning-Otis introduced her staff, team and announced the awards.
There were times where she became emotional while considering everyone who made her career special at MSU.
"This is a time of reflection and recognition," Fanning-Otis said. "It's also a challenge to the team that's coming up. It's about being ready for the transition."
At the end of the banquet, Fanning-Otis passed the whistle to Schaefer in a vote of confidence for the new leadership.
"I've known (Schaefer) a bunch of years and there's so much good stuff inside of him," Fanning-Otis said. "I wish you the best and welcome to the Bulldog family."
Schaefer introduced his newly assembled staff and was thankful to be a part of the ceremony recognizing Fanning-Otis and the players.
He also looked toward the future.
"For the seniors, this signals an end to a chapter," Schaefer said. "For the players returning, my staff and I challenge you to be the best you can possibly be."
James has already grown to respect Schaefer and said it seems Fanning-Otis is passing the whistle to a great man for the job.
"As she passed the whistle, I knew she was making a great decision," James said. "We've just met him and only been working out for a couple of weeks, but I notice he wants us to work hard and he wants to work hard for us. For her to pass the whistle, it was a great moment. I'm glad he's willing to work with us just as she did. There's a lot in him that reminds me of her."
Along with the Most Improved Award for James, senior Diamber Johnson took home the Free-Throw Percentage Award, the Most Assists Award, the Highest Power Rating Award and the Newsom Award. Brittany Young received the Lady Bulldog Academic Award and the Sonny Mullins Community Service Award, Martha Alwal got the Best Rebounder Award, Porsha Porter received the Best Defensive Player Award and Candace Foster got the Coaches Award.