EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Following the best season under his watch as the UTEP women’s basketball coach, Kevin Baker took home Conference USA co-Coach of the Year honors on Tuesday.
Baker shared the award with Middle Tennessee’s Rick Insell, after leading the Miners to a 19-10 regular season and fourth place finish. Middle Tennessee won the regular season conference championship.
After being selected eighth in the preseason poll, Baker has the Miners three wins away from an NCAA Tournament berth and will likely make the WNIT regardless. This is the fifth time that a UTEP coach has taken home Coach of the Year honors, with Baker joining Keitha Adams (2008, 2012, 2016) and Sandra Rushing (1998).
Baker’s contract stipulates that he receive an incentive bonus of one month’s salary for winning Conference USA Coach of the Year. At $249,000 per year, Baker’s bonus will balance out to $20,750.
After leading UTEP to its best season in his tenure with the Miners, it’s possible that larger schools could come calling for Baker. Sources told KTSM that Baker has been identified as a potential candidate by multiple search firms commissioned by other universities to find a new coach. However, that does not mean Baker will get hired, or that he will leave UTEP. He’ll certainly be focused on finishing the 2022-23 season first.
Two of his players were honored by the conference as well. Jazion Jackson picked up All-Conference USA 1st Team honors after leading the team with 12.2 points per game to go along with 5.8 rebounds on average during the regular season. Jackson ranks third in C-USA with 62 steals, leads the team with 43 triples and is second with 71 assists.
Elina Arike was selected as the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, the first UTEP player to ever receive that award. She was also selected to the All-Conference USA 2nd Team and to the league’s All-Defensive team.
Arike blocked 14 shots this season, the most in a single campaign to this point in her career as a third-year player. She also has 22 steals as part of an aggressive defensive attack that ranks third in C-USA in scoring defense. Arike averages 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while hitting 48.9 percent of her attempts from the floor.
UTEP begins action in the C-USA Championships as the No. 4 seed with a quarterfinal matchup against No. 5 LA Tech slated for Thursday at 10:30 a.m. MT/11:30 a.m. CT inside the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco.