LINCOLN — She lived up to the hype and then some.
Fremont native Jessica Shepard — a starting center on the Nebraska women's basketball team — was named Big Ten freshman of the year and first-team All-Big Ten on Monday by coaches and media. Shepard averaged 19.5 points and 8.8 rebounds this season and won Big Ten freshman of the week honors a league-record 10 times. After a 35-point, 20-rebound game at Michigan, Shepard was also named Big Ten player of the week and national player of the week by several online publications.
"Especially coming from Nebraska, anytime you can do something for your state — and kind of stand out like that — it's a big deal," Shepard said on the Big Ten Network. "For me, it's pretty cool to say that."
Shepard is the highest-rated recruit in NU basketball history — men's or women's — and played this season after a long rehabilitation of a torn ACL. She wasn't cleared to return to basketball until a few weeks before Nebraska's season. She didn't miss a game and averaged 29 minutes.
Two other Huskers — guards Natalie Romeo and Rachel Theriot — were also honored by the Big Ten coaches or media.
Romeo was second-team All-Big Ten according to coaches and honorable mention according to the media. Theriot was honorable mention All-Big Ten according to the media. Romeo, a sophomore, averaged 15.6 points and set the school record for 3-pointers in a season and in a game. Romeo also won a sportsmanship award.
Theriot, a senior, led the Big Ten in assists per game (7.3) before her career was ended by chronic foot pain. Theriot underwent surgery for that pain on Monday; she hopes to play pro basketball. Theriot received one honor or another from the Big Ten in each of her four seasons at NU.
The Big Ten player of the year was Minnesota's Rachel Banham, while the Big Ten coach of the year was Indiana's Teri Moren.
Nebraska plays Rutgers in the Big Ten tournament on Thursday.