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Washington State forward Robert Franks named Pac-12’s Most Improved, earns honorable mention

UPDATED: Mon., March 5, 2018, 11:25 p.m.

Washington State forward Robert Franks drives on Saint Mary’s center Evan Fitzner last November at the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, Calif. (Ringo H.W. Chiu / COURTESY PHOTO)
Washington State forward Robert Franks drives on Saint Mary’s center Evan Fitzner last November at the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, Calif. (Ringo H.W. Chiu / COURTESY PHOTO)

Robert Franks keyed the Washington State Cougars in a few of their best games and he was often the lone bright spot in some of their worst.

On the heels of a turnaround junior season, Franks was named the Most Improved Player in the Pac-12 Conference and earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention when the league handed out its end-of-season awards Monday. The third-year forward was the only WSU player recognized on the all-conference ballot.

Franks became a full-time starter for the Cougars this season, doubling his minutes-per-game average from 16.4 as a sophomore to 32.7 as a junior. The Vancouver, Washington, native nearly tripled his scoring average, from 6.3 points last season to 17.4 this year, and grabbed 6.7 rebounds per game after mustering 3.3 in 2016-17.

Franks had nine games of scoring 20 points or more and he poured in a career-high 34 points in WSU’s 78-53 win over Cal, setting a school record with 10 3-pointers. He improved his 3-point shooting percentage from 31 percent to 40 percent and made 85 percent of his free throws after managing 75 percent as a junior. Additionally, Franks totaled 58 assists this season, compared to 24 last year.

Franks is the second WSU player to earn Most Improved in four years and the third in six years.

Former Cougar Josh Hawkinson was recognized after drastically improving his numbers between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Hawkinson improved his scoring by 13.5 ppg and his rebounding by 9.2 rpg. Brock Motum became the first WSU player to claim the honor, winning it in 2012.

Arizona’s freshman sensation, DeAndre Ayton, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year after leading the conference in rebounding at 11.4 board per game. Ayton’s 19.9 ppg ranks second in the Pac-12. Washington’s Matisse Thybulle was selected as the Defensive Player of the Year, Arizona State’s Remy Martin and Colorado’s Dominique Collier split Sixth Man of the Year, while Stanford’s Dorian Pickens was tabbed Scholar Athlete of the Year.

UW coach Mike Hopkins was named Coach of the Year after leading the Huskies to their first 20-win season since 2011-12. Washington, which finished 9-22 and 2-16 in the Pac-12 last season, went 20-11 and 10-8 in 2017-18.

Filling out the All-Pac-12 First Team were Ayton and Allonzo Trier of Arizona, Jordan McLaughlin and Chimezie Metu of USC, UCLA’s Aaron Holiday, Utah’s Justin Bibbins, Washington’s Noah Dickerson, Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle and Stanford’s Reid Travis.


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