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Locally: Washington State’s Charlisse Leger-Walker earns another Pac-12 honor

Washington State's Charlisse Leger-Walker drives to the basket against Idaho in December, 2020, in Pullman.  (Courtesy of WSU Athletics)
Washington State's Charlisse Leger-Walker drives to the basket against Idaho in December, 2020, in Pullman. (Courtesy of WSU Athletics)
From staff and news services

Charlisse Leger-Walker continues to make a name for herself in Pac-12 women’s basketball.

For the second straight week and third time in four weeks, Washington State’s rookie guard from New Zealand was named Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Week on Jan. 4 after she averaged 19.5 points, 6.5 assists and 6.0 steals in road wins over Utah and Colorado.

It was the Cougars’ first Pac-12 road sweep since the 2013-14 season.

Leger-Walker started the week on Jan. 1 – Happy New Year! – with 23 points at Utah that included a career-best five 3-pointers, and added a career-best four steals. Two nights later, she had her first career double-double, 16 points and 10 assists at Colorado, and added six rebounds and a new career-best six steals.

The third WSU freshman to earn the honor three times, tying the school record, and the fourth to win it on back-to-back weeks, Leger-Walker entered last week as the Pac-12 leader in scoring (19.0 ppg) and steals (3.29 spg).

College scene

The Idaho men were selected third, the Vandals women sixth, and the Eastern Washington men and women both eighth in Big Sky Conference indoor track and field coaches’ preseason polls.

Idaho’s men, who finished fourth in the conference championships last year, return two-time Big Sky shot put champion and conference record-holder Zach Short, a senior who was a second-team NCAA All-American in 2019.

The Vandals women, fifth last year, return sophomore distance standout Kelsey Swenson, the Big Sky Freshman of the Year after top-five finishes in both the 3,000 and 5,000.

Northern Arizona’s men and women, the defending champions, were voted to the top spots. The men were a unanimous choice with Montana State second and the women prevailed in a poll that also saw Sacramento State and Weber State receive first-place votes.

• Gonzaga student-athletes earned a record 217 academic honors and combined to post a department-record 3.54 GPA, with a semester-record 42 athletes posting perfect 4.0s, for the fall 2020 semester.

The 217 earning university honors are roughly 65 percent of GU student-athletes. The combined 3.54 GPA marks the 10th consecutive semester student-athletes combined to post over a 3.30, and the second consecutive above 3.50.

Men’s tennis posted the department’s highest team GPA (3.88). Volleyball was second (3.74). Volleyball, women’s tennis (3.72), women’s golf (3.72), women’s rowing (3.63) and baseball (3.51) set program GPA records.

Women’s rowing had 36 team members earn their way onto honors lists, the highest team total, including a department-high 20 on the President’s list. Women’s cross country and track followed with 29 on honors lists.

• University of Idaho athletes posted the highest GPA in department history, recording a cumulative grade-point average of 3.37, during a semester that did not include pass/fail classes.

In total, 253 student-athletes boasted a GPA of at least 3.0 and 74 recorded a perfect 4.0. Nearly half of Idaho’s student-athletes (151) made their respective Dean’s Lists.

Every program finished above a 3.0 GPA, led by women’s tennis at 3.84. Men’s basketball recorded its highest team GPA (3.15) since data began being tracked in 2000 and men’s tennis also posted a record GPA at 3.60. Football topped 3.0 the second straight semester at 3.02.

• The Eastern Washington and Idaho women were selected third and fourth, respectively, in the Big Sky Conference women’s tennis coaches’ preseason polls while Idaho is sixth and Eastern ninth in the men’s coaches’ preseason poll.

For a third straight year, defending champion Northern Arizona was selected to win the women’s title while Montana and defending champion Northern Arizona tied for the top spot in the men’s poll.

Basketball

Former Idaho women’s standout Mikayla Ferenz added to the family atmosphere on the women’s bench of the Whitman Blues when she was named an assistant coach last week.

Ferenz’s mother, Michelle, has been the head coach since 2001, compiling more than 300 career wins, and her father, Chris, is also an assistant.

Ferenz, who left Idaho after the 2019 season as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year and all-time leading scorer (2,466 points), joined the Blues when per professional season in the Luxombourg Total League was paused.

Playing for BC Muscle Pikes, she was averaging 16.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

The release announcing her hiring by Whitman said she plans to return to her professional team when the season resumes in early spring.

“I am so happy and excited for Mikayla to have the chance to coach with her parents,” said Idaho women’s head coach Jon Newlee.

Letters of intent

Gonzaga women’s tennis: Frederikke Svarre, Denmark/Penn State, graduate transfer.

Community Colleges of Spokane baseball: Marcus Manzardo, Lake City, IF.

Volleyball

Lindsey Russell, a two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American who briefly joined the Gonzaga program in the fall out of Community Colleges of Spokane, has transferred to Eastern Washington and is immediately eligible to play for the Eagles, Eastern coach Leslie Flores-Cloud announced.

A 6-foot-1 setter who is a junior, Russell joined triplet sisters McKenna and Allison in successful careers at Mead High School and CCS. At Eastern, she will rejoin McKenna, who transferred right out of CCS.

Lindsey was a first-team AVCA Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges All-American as a sophomore in 2019 as well as NWAC Player of the Year after being a second-team All-American as a freshman. She led CCS to two NWAC championships and a 76-2 record after helping Mead capture two State 4A second-place finishes.

“Lindsey is a fantastic setter,” said Flores-Cloud, the Eagles’ third-year head coach. “She is aggressive and knows how to win and will add depth and versatility to our roster.”

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