Gonzaga University added to the spoils of its regular-season men’s basketball championship Friday afternoon by sweeping both major awards at the West Coast Conference awards luncheon, held in conjunction with today’s start of the WCC tournament at Toso Pavilion.
In a vote of league coaches, first-year GU coach Dan Monson was named coach of the year and Bulldogs senior forward Bakari Hendrix was honored as player of the year.
Both selections were no-brainers.
Monson, a longtime assistant under Dan Fitzgerald, became the first rookie coach to win a regular-season WCC title, and he has the Bulldogs (21-8) just one victory away from tying the school record for single-season wins.
Hendrix, a 6-foot-8, 235-pounder, led the WCC in scoring with an average of 19.6 points per game and finished in the top five in rebounding (6.7 per game) and field-goal percentage (53.5). He swept all three of the league’s player-of-the-month awards this winter.
Monson spoke about his award Friday afternoon after putting his top-seeded team through its final practice prior to this afternoon’s 2:30 opening-round tournament matchup against No. 8 Loyola Marymount.
“More than anything, it’s a staff award,” he said. “I think our staff did a good job in their first year together.
“But it’s also about the kids. Our staff didn’t score a basket this year, and I wouldn’t have won this if our kids hadn’t gone out and executed what we told them to do in practice each day.”
Hendrix, who transferred to GU from Solano Junior College in Suisun, Calif., missed all but nine games of his sophomore year with a broken ankle. And he tried to quit the team early last season because of his lack of playing time.
He was talked out of leaving by Fitzgerald and went on to earn a spot on the all-conference team last winter. But he called his player-of-the-year selection his “greatest honor.”
“And I think I’ve earned it,” he added. “I’ve been through a lot here. I’ve been about as low as you can get without being buried, so to come out of it with this is great.”
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