Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday a.m. and the state/world/galaxy of WAC basketball

Matt James is departing the Fresno Bee and that's a negative all the way around. Newspapers are in a very tough spot but giving subscribers less of a reason to remain on board isn't the answer.


A hearty congratulations goes out to New Mexico State point Hernst Laroche for earning his B.A. in three years -- this while participating in basketball. Talk about a major achievement!

PTW did it in five at three different schools while playing nothing although financial survival might qualify as a life sport.

Brian McInnis writes about "Shaq in the house" and this weekend's visit is a result of a connection between Gib Arnold and a high school coach in New York City.


The Idaho basketball program has announced its various awards:
The Idaho men's basketball team held its annual banquet on Tuesday to celebrate another solid season that ended with an 18-14 record and a second berth in the Postseason Tournament.

Idaho finished third in the Western Athletic Conference, posted a top-25 upset for the second year in a row and defied every preseason prediction with its most wins since 1994.

"As I told the guys at the banquet, I thought we had a great season," Head coach Don Verlin said. "We overachieved, and the team got better after every practice and every game. We had three seniors and every one of them had a great year for us, and most importantly, they're all graduating.

"I've had a chance to look back at this season and I feel great about it, they feel great about it."

Senior guard Jeff Ledbetter broke Idaho's single-season 3-point field goals record and led the Vandals with a 12.8 scoring average. He was honored as a second-team all-WAC selection, as voted by the league's coaches, and was also honored once as a WAC Athlete of the Week.

Ledbetter earned Idaho's Ronald White Award, which has been given every season since 1947 to the team's most outstanding player, as voted by his teammates.

The Oz Thompson Award, which is dedicated to the memory of a member of Idaho's 1923 Pacific Coast Conference championship team, honors the member who best inspires sportsmanship, scholarship and leadership. This year, the award was split between junior Landon Tatum and senior Brandon Wiley.

Tatum was honored a second time on Tuesday with the George Green Award, which has been given since 1989 to the team's most unselfish player and/or leader in assists. Tatum led Idaho with 97 dishes this year, and led the WAC with a 2.20 (97:44) assist-to-turnover ratio.

Senior Shawn Henderson took home the Jay Gano Award, which was first awarded in 1952. The award is named for a former Vandal letterwinner who was killed in action during the Korean War in 1951, and honors the player who is voted most inspirational by his teammates.

The Gus Johnson Award is named for the Vandal legend and Naismith Hall of Fame inductee who averaged 19.3 points and 20.3 rebounds in his one season at Idaho. Sophomore Kyle Barone claimed the award, which was created in 1988 and is given to the team's top rebounder or top defender.

Barone also broke the Western Athletic Conference career conference-only field goal percentage record this year. Through 32 career WAC games, the sophomore center is shooting 63.1 percent from the floor, which breaks the previous record of 62.0, which was set by Utah's Danny Vranes in 1981.

Redshirt freshman Joe Kammerer, who has a 3.49 overall GPA in Digital Media and Broadcasting, earned the team's Kathy Clark Scholar-Athlete Award. The award is named for the former Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator who served 25 years in the Idaho Athletics department and helped build the foundation for women's athletics at the school. The award is given to one player from each team every season.

Verlin said the thing that left him most pleased about the awards, all of which are voted upon by the players, was that they reflected the characteristics that made the team so successful during the season.

"Six awards, six different names," Verlin said. "If there was one thing this team was this year, it was balanced. I think that's what made this team hard to guard. We were very unselfish, we played together well and we trusted each other, and that's what gave this team the chance to succeed."

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