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Corey Kispert named WCC player of year, Gonzaga dominates conference awards

Gonzaga dominated during the West Coast Conference regular season and continued to do so when conference honors were announced Tuesday.

The top-ranked Bulldogs won four of the five individual awards and four players earned All-WCC first-team honors.

Gonzaga senior Corey Kispert, likely to have a large collection of hardware by season’s end, was named player of the year. Mark Few won coach of the year and Jalen Suggs was named top newcomer. Andrew Nembhard was voted sixth man of the year, a new WCC award.

Kispert repeated as a first-team selection and was joined by Suggs, Drew Timme and Joel Ayayi. Nembhard was named second team. Suggs and Oumar Ballo made the WCC’s freshman team.

It wouldn’t have been a surprise if the Zags had landed even more honors. Kispert’s closest competition for player of the year likely were Timme and Suggs. Nembhard’s numbers made him a strong candidate for first-team honors.

It’s just the fourth time in conference history that one program has had four first-team selections. Loyola Marymount was the first in 1988, followed by Gonzaga in 1999 (Matt Santangelo, Quentin Hall, Richie Frahm and Jeremy Eaton) and 2019 (Rui Hachimura, Josh Perkins, Brandon Clarke and Zach Norvell Jr.)

Awards and all-conference teams are voted on by the WCC’s 10 coaches. Few, named coach of the year for the 14th time, indicated recently Kispert had his vote.

“I’m always partial to seniors, so I think it’d be pretty easy for me,” said Few, who guided Gonzaga (24-0) to its first undefeated regular season. “I’d go Corey. I just know how valuable he is on and off the floor for us. I would definitely lean that way and I think Drew would understand that, and Jalen, Andrew and Joel would understand that totally.”

Kispert (19.5) and Timme (18.9) rank first and second in the WCC in scoring. They were 1-2 in field-goal percentage with Timme at 65.1 and Kispert at 55.6.

Kispert was tops in free-throw percentage (88.9%), 3-point percentage (46.3) and made 3-pointers (68). Timme ranks third in rebounding (7.1) and leads the team with 11 20-point outings.

Kispert boasts a 119-10 career record in games he’s played – the highest winning percentage by a Division I player with at least 100 appearances in over 25 years.

Suggs paces the WCC in steals (2.0), ranks fourth in assists (4.6) and field-goal percentage (50.5) and 11th in scoring (13.9). His top three scoring games came against Kansas (24), Iowa (27) and vs. BYU in Provo, Utah, (24).

Ayayi averages 11.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists. He’s second in the conference with 68.6% accuracy inside the 3-point arc. Ayayi grabbed 18 rebounds against Iowa and had a triple-double against Portland (12 points, 13 rebounds and 14 assists).

Nembhard, who started five consecutive games prior to Saturday, tops the WCC and ranks 11th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.39). He’s fourth in the conference in assists (4.4) and contributes 9.0 points per game.

GU players have won 15 of the past 22 player of the year awards. Kispert makes it three in a row after Filip Petrusev last season and Hachimura in 2019. Other winners in the past decade include Nigel Williams-Goss in 2017, Kevin Pangos in 2015 and Kelly Olynyk in 2013.

BYU center Matt Haarms was named defensive player of the year.

Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross and Kessler Edwards, BYU’s Alex Barcello, San Francisco’s Jamaree Bouyea, Santa Clara’s Josip Vrankic and LMU’s Eli Scott made the 10-player first team.

USF’s Khalil Shabazz, Logan Johnson of Saint Mary’s, and Haarms and teammate Brandon Averette joined Nembhard on the second team.