Skyline Sports All-Big Sky Conference awards
On the eve of the opening of the second Big Sky Tournament in Reno, Skyline Sports gives our selections for all the Big Sky Conference’s major awards. Click on most players’ names for features about their current seasons.
Most Valuable Player — Jake Wiley, Eastern Washington, senior — All five players on the Skyline Sports All-Big Sky first team had MVP arguments. Quinton Hooker’s 29-point performance in his home finale to give UND its first ever Big Sky title caused for much contemplation. But Wiley’s ability to help Eastern Washington finish three games clear of last season’s record despite the loss of Venky Jois, the school’s all-time leading scorer, put Wiley over the top.
The graduate transfer who began his career at Montana before spending two NAIA All-America seasons at Lewis & Clark State tore the league apart in his final season. Wiley averaged 24.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in league play. He shot a ridiculous 66.8 percent from the floor, converting 167 of his 250 field goal tries in Big Sky games. Wiley even shot 81.8 percent at the free throw line (102-for-125) and led the league with 2.5 blocks per conference contest. Take away Wiley’s two 10-point games against Montana and a nine-point outing against Idaho and his numbers are even more eye-popping: he averaged 29.3 points per game.
For the season, Wiley averaged 20.2 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 64.4 percent from the floor and 83.1 percent from the free throw line blocking a league-best 2.8 shots per game.
Coach of the Year — Brian Jones, North Dakota — Eastern Washington’s Jim Hayford might’ve been the pick had EWU won at NAU to help Eastern share the title for the second time in three seasons. Brian Fish might’ve been the pick if Montana State won at Weber State to finish third despite a roster featuring one senior. But Jones helped his team close the deal, beating Portland State to move to 14 Big Sky wins and an outright league title.
Two seasons ago, North Dakota was among the league’s worst teams. Two years later, a core built around Hooker and fellow Minneapolis native Geno Crandall have UND gunning for its first NCAA Tournament berth.
Defensive Player of the Year — Michael Oguine, Montana, sophomore — The hyperactive, hyper-athletic sophomore has been recognized as one of the league’s best on-ball perimeter defenders since his breakout freshman year. This season, Montana asked him to do more than just guard the opponents’ best player; Oguine was also tasked with leading the undersized Griz on the glass.
The 6-foot-2 jumping jack lived up to the task, grabbing 7.0 rebounds per game in league play, ninth in the Big Sky. He also continued his lockdown defense, especially in crucial moments. On New Year’s Eve, Weber State’s Jeremy Senglin buried a 3-pointer in Oguine’s face to lift WSU to an 84-81 win over Montana in Missoula. Two months later with Montana’s season hanging in the brink, Senglin had a chance with five seconds left and his team down by two to boost Weber to another crucial win. Instead, Oguine engaged the explosive Wildcat scorer, tied him up and forced a jump ball. Montana won, 78-74, helping the Griz finish with two straight wins and six victories in its last eight to enter the tournament as the No. 5 seed. The sealing play was a microcosmic example of Oguine’s defensive prowess.
Newcomer of the Year — Randy Onwuasor, Southern Utah, junior — After sitting out last season, Onwuasor has been dominant in his first season in the league. The former Texas Tech power guard is averaging 22.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, including 23.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in conference play. Onwuasor has also shot 54 more free throws than anyone in the league and shoots 82.7 percent from the stripe.
Top Reserve — Deontae North, Portland State, junior — The versatile junior college transfer moved in and out of a reserve role, coming off the bench in 21 of PSU’s games, including 11 in conference play. He provided the most consistent scoring of any sixth man in the league, putting up 14.8 points per contest in league play to edge out Montana State senior Quinton Everett for the honor.
Freshman of the Year — Harald Frey, Montana State — Although sophomore teammate Tyler Hall has a more prolific freshman year to earn this award last season — Hall averaged 20 points per contest in his first Big Sky season — but he was challenged by Oguine and North Dakota’s Geno Crandall among others.
This season, Frey’s consistency makes him the runaway winner of the award. The southpaw from Oslo, Norway averaged 12.5 points and 3.3 assists per game, numbers that moved to 13.8 points and 2.6 assists in league play. But it’s Frey’s shooting as the second option to Hall that sets him apart. He shot 49.4 percent from the floor and 45.7 percent from beyond the arc. He made 42 of his 48 free throw attempts in conference play and shot 83.3 percent from the stripe overall.
FIRST TEAM ALL-BIG SKY
Jake Wiley, Eastern Washington, senior
Quinton Hooker, North Dakota, senior — The preseason MVP might be the post-season as well. Wiley’s stats were so dominant and his ability to replace a program pillar so important, it was hard to pass him up. But Hooker is certainly deserving for capping his career in style.
The former Mr. Minnesota was the steadiest and, at times, the most clutch guard in a league packed full of star ball handlers. Hooker averaged 20 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in league play. He shot 49.2 percent from the floor, 46.3 percent from beyond the arc and 91.3 percent from the free throw line in leading UND to its first Big Sky title.
Tyler Hall, Montana State, sophomore — Many wondered what Hall would do for an encore after his spectacular debut season, particularly without All-Big Sky guard Marcus Colbert to draw attention. Hall answered the bell in resounding fashion with one of the all-time shooting seasons in league history.
Hall shot 49.8 percent from the floor and 44 percent from the arc in league play in averaging 22.6 points per game. Hall hit 113 3-pointers, tied with Senglin for the second-most in the entire country. Hall shot 62 less 3s than Marcus Keene of Central Michigan, who made 116 triples and leads the country in scoring. Hall shot 43.3 percent the 3-point line, 18th in the country but second to only Senglin for players with more than 250 attempts. Hall finished eighth in the country in scoring in leading MSU to 11 league wins.
Jeremy Senglin, Weber State, senior — Senglin’s efficiency surpassed everyone in the league, including Hall and is among the best in the country. Senglin made 113 3s like Hall but it took him eight less attempts. He hit 47.6 percent of his shots from the floor, including 44.5 percent of his attempts from deep in averaging 20.7 points per game. The reigning Big Sky Tournament MVP made 70 pointers and shot 44 percent from the arc during league play.
Victor Sanders, Idaho, junior — Sanders went from a second-team All-Big Sky player who could carry the Vandals for stretches offensively to one of the dominant scorers in the league. Sanders finished second to Wiley in scoring in league games at 24.4 points per game.
Sanders had some of hits biggest games against the league’s best teams, scoring 32 and 24 against EWU, 28 in a win at Montana, 40 in a win over Portland State and 31 in a win over Sac State as Idaho posted a 12-6 lead record. Sanders shot 46 percent from beyond the arc in league play and 48 percent from the floor overall in Big Sky games. He shot 84.4 percent from the stripe, including 86.3 percent in league play and his 101 free throws in Big Sky games was one les than Wiley for the league lead.
SECOND TEAM ALL-BIG SKY
Geno Crandall, North Dakota, sophomore — Premier defender took the next step offensively, averaging 17 points and 4.8 assists per game in league play.
Randy Onwuasor, Southern Utah, junior
Bogdan Bliznyuk, Eastern Washington, junior — The 6-foot-6 former Freshman of the Year moved to point forward and provided EWU a unique offensive threat, averaging 18.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists.
Ahmaad Rorie, Montana, sophomore — The former Ogden transfer led Montana in scoring in nine of 18 Big Sky games, putting up 18.9 points per league contest on 46 percent shooting and he led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Jordyn Martin, Northern Arizona, senior — Martin, the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year two years ago, bounced back from a season-ending injury last year to pace NAU’s bruising style. He averaged 14.8 points and 9.1 rebounds in league play.
THIRD TEAM ALL-BIG SKY
Justin Strings, Sacramento State, junior
Harald Frey, Montana State, freshman
De’Sean Parsons, Portland State, senior
Jordan Davis, Northern Colorado, sophomore
Michael Oguine, Montana, sophomore
HONORABLE MENTION ALL-BIG SKY
Nick Hornsby, Sacramento State, senior
Marcus Graves, Sacramento State, junior
Caelan Robinson, Portland State, senior
Ako Kaluna, Northern Arizona, senior