After a one-year absence, Gonzaga is back in its customary position of dominating the annual West Coast Conference men’s basketball awards.
Senior guard Matt Bouldin was named the WCC player of the year, forward Elias Harris was selected newcomer of the year and Mark Few was chosen coach of the year.
Saint Mary’s center Omar Samhan was voted defensive player of the year.
Gonzaga won the conference by four games last season, but didn’t win any of the league’s four individual awards for the first time since 1999. GU players had won or shared the player of the year award eight years in a row before Santa Clara center John Bryant was honored in 2009. Samhan, who averaged 21.5 points and 11.1 rebounds in leading the Gaels to second place, was Bouldin’s primary competition.
“I definitely thought about it (losing out again to a talented center), but I’m just really excited I got it,” Bouldin said. “I think I’m most happy because of the season we had. I’m glad the coaches saw that as well.”
That last point wasn’t a given. During early season practices, Bouldin, seeing the abundance of youth on the team, recalled phoning his dad and saying, “this might be a long year.”
But the Bulldogs captured the Maui Invitational in November and won their 10th straight WCC championship.
“We went to Matt all year for big play after big play,” Few said. “There were numerous games where the rest of the team wasn’t playing that well and he’s had to step up and carry us for long stretches. He’s carried quite a burden this year, similar to the burden Blake (Stepp, WCC player of the year in 2003 and 2004) carried.”
Bouldin and Harris were joined by junior guard Steven Gray on the All-WCC first-team. Bouldin, a three-time first-team selection, is averaging 16 points and 4.1 assists, both career highs. Harris made 55.3 percent of his field goals, including 45.2 percent on 3-pointers, en route to 15.1 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds. Gray, who was honorable mention last season, is averaging 13.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
“Steve does so much, knocking down 3s and he’s one of our best defenders,” Bouldin said. “Elias rebounds the ball as well as anybody in the conference. He gets his own buckets and we needed someone to come in and create like that.”
Few has won or shared the coaching award eight times.
“Mark loses the guys he had (from last season), it’s a heck of a job he’s done,” San Francisco coach Rex Walters said.
First-team selections included San Francisco’s Dior Lowhorn, Portland’s T.J. Campbell and Robin Smeulders, Saint Mary’s Mickey McConnell and Samhan, and Loyola Marymount’s Vernon Teel and Drew Viney.
Harris was joined on the All-Freshman team by Saint Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova, LMU’s Ashley Hamilton, San Diego’s Chris Manresa and Santa Clara’s Robert Smith. Dellavedova was honorable mention along with Santa Clara’s Marc Trasolini, San Diego’s Brandon Johnson, Portland’s Luke Sikma and Jared Stohl, and Pepperdine’s Keion Bell and Mychel Thompson.