Ila Lane of UCSB basketball
Ila Lane was a force in her first college basketball season. She averaged double figures in points and rebounds. (Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table graphic)

The UCSB women’s basketball team experienced a turn-around season. The Gauchos went 9-7 in the Big West and 14-15 overall after a 5-11, 8-22 campaign in 2018-19.

A big reason for the team’s improvement was the play of newcomer Ila Lane.

The 6-foot-4 freshman proved to be a game changer. She averaged a double-double of 15.3 points and 13 rebounds per game — the only player in the Big West to accomplish the feat — and recorded 19 double-doubles during the season, which led all freshman in the country and ranked fourth overall.

She was named the Big West Freshman of the Year and was selected as a honorable mention choice on the Associated Press All-American Team.

The Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table is honoring Lane as its College Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lane and the other athletes of the year for college and high schools in the fall and winter seasons are being honored in a virtual format. The Round Table is presenting the award winners through its social media platforms of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and on the Sports Page.

Athlete of year awards for the spring season are not being awarded because the season was cut short by the coronavirus outbreak.

Lane’s solid play helped the Gauchos receive a No. 2 seed for the Big West Tournament. Unfortunately, the tournament was never played as the pandemic forced the cancellation of the college winter sports postseason and the entire spring season.

“Ila had an outstanding freshman year and we are so proud of her,” said UCSB coach Bonnie Henrickson.

She became the fourth Gaucho in program history to be named to an AP All-American team and the first freshman to receive the honor. The other Gauchos All-Americans include Erin Buescher (1999, 2000), Lindsay Taylor (2003), and Kristen Mann (2004, 2005). They all went on to play in the WNBA.

Lane joined Buescher, Taylor, Mann and Jordan Franey as recipients of the Freshman of the Year award in the Big West. Franey was the last Gaucho to win the honor in 2007.

Lane made conference history in her rookie season by grabbing the eighth most rebounds and posting the fifth-best average in a single season.

She had three 20-point, 20-rebound performances in conference play.

“Ila’s consistency, dependability and work ethic are a few of the many things that were impressive about her and are what fueled her performance this year,” said Henrickson. “She had a dramatic impact on our ability to be successful. Defenses began to change to slow her down once we got into conference play. She handled this with tremendous poise and even greater intensity as she continued to impact the game on both ends of the floor throughout the season.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.