Tuesday, October 23, 2012
PORTLAND, Ore. – With four players on the coaches’ pre-season all-conference team, its probably not a surprise Seattle Pacific is the favorite to win the 2012-13 Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball title this winter.
The Falcons, who won titles outright in 2005-06 and 2009-10 and shared the title in 2001-02 and 2006-07, received eight of the 10 first-place votes in the coaches’ annual pre-season poll in outpointing defending national champion Western Washington 97-90. The Vikings earned the other two first-place votes.
Among the players back for the Falcons are guard David Downs and center Andy Poling, who both earned first team GNAC honors last season.
Downs (6-2, Jr., Kirkland, WA – Bellevue Christian) is the GNAC’s top returning scorer from a year ago when he ranked eighth in the conference averaging 15.6 points per game, while Poling (6-11, Sr., Portland, OR – Westview), who finished ninth in scoring (15.4 ppg), is the leading returning rebounder, He ranked sixth last season with a 7.4 average.
Joining the Downs and Poling on the pre-season all-conference team are two teammates - forwards Jobi Wall and Patrick Simon. Simon is a transfer from Washington State.
Wall (6-6, Sr., Arvada, CO – Faith Christian) scored 11.1 points per game and also averaged 5.7 rebounds last season. Simon (6-8, Jr., Ephrata, WA) played in 26 games for the Cougars averaging 2.6 points and 1.1 rebounds.
Downs finished a narrow second to Western Washington guard John Allen in the pre-season GNAC Player of the Year balloting.
Allen (6-1, Sr., Brier, WA – Mountlake Terrace), who averaged 14.6 points per game and led the GNAC in free throw percentage (89.5) in leading the Vikings to a 31-5 record and a national title, was a second team all-conference selection last season.
Allen is one of three Viking players for first-year coach Tony Dominguez who were voted to the pre-season all-conference team.
Joining Allen on the 15-man squad are guard Richard Woodworth and forward Paul Jones. Downs, Poling, Allen and Woodworth were all unanimous selections.
Woodworth (6-3, Jr., Bellevue, WA – Newport) was an honorable mention all-league selection a year ago averaging 10.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and three assists.
He also earned Elite Eight all-tournament honors averaging 11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in the Vikings’ three tournament victories.
Jones (6-4, Sr., Kent, WA – Kent-Meridian) was a key reserve for the Vikings coming off the bench to score 7.9 points and 4.4 rebounds.
Central Washington, which is picked to finish third this winter, and Alaska Anchorage, which finished fourth in the balloting, each placed two players on the pre-season all-conference team.
Among CWU’s two selections is 6-6 junior guard Mark McLaughlin, who along with Simon is the only newcomer named to the team.
McLaughlin (Bothell, WA – Inglemoor), who finished fourth overall in the balloting, earned NWAACC Western Region MVP honors last winter for Tacoma Community College.
McLaughlin was the NWAACC’s leading scorer averaging 27.5 points per game, including a season-high of 41 points. He also contributed 8.1 rebounds per game.
Also earning pre-season all-conference honors for the Wildcats is guard Jordan Coby (6-1, Sr., Tacoma, WA – Wilson), who averaged 11.1 points per game. He is CWU’s only returner starter.
Guards Travis Thompson (6-1, Jr., Anchorage, AK – Dimond) and Kyle Fossman (6-0, Jr., Haines, AK) are Alaska Anchorage’s representatives on the pre-season all-conference team.
Thompson averaged 11.8 points and led the GNAC in three-point percentage, connecting on 47.6 percent (70 of 147). He also ranked fifth in assists (3.9) and first in assist/turnover ratio (2.7) in earning second team GNAC all-star honors.
Fossman averaged 10.5 points per game and ranked second to Thompson in three-pointers connecting on 46.2 percent (67 of 145) of his attempts.
Rounding out the GNAC’s pre-season all-conference team are Kolton Nelson of Western Oregon, Jonathon Hawkins of Northwest Nazarene, Stefan Tica of Alaska Fairbanks and Roger O’Neill of Saint Martin’s.
Nelson (6-8, Sr., Klamath Falls, OR) is one of two returning starters for the Wolves, who finished sixth in the coaches’ poll in back of Montana State Billings, which won the conference post-season tournament after finishing fifth in the regular-season, but doesn’t return a starter.
Nelson averaged 10.6 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Wolves and also blocked seven shots. He also finished seventh in field goal percentage (54.3) just in back of teammate James Gehring (6-8, Sr., Castle Rock, WA – Lower Columbia) who made 56.7 percent of his shots and is WOU’s other returning starter.
Hawkins (6-3, Sr., Phoenix, AZ - Greenway) averaged 10.7 points and 3.6 assists for the Crusaders in earning honorable mention all-star honors. He is one of two returning starters for NNU, along with guard Keith Moilanen (6-4, Sr., Brush Prairie, WA – Hockinson), who are picked to finish seventh this winter.
Tica (6-7, Jr., Belgrade, Serbia) averaged 14.5 points and made 67 of 174 three-pointers, while O’Neill (6-5, Sr., Edmonds, WA – Meadowdale) netted 13 points and 4.2 rebounds for the Saints. Their two squads finished in a tie for eighth in the coaches’ poll.
Simon Fraser finished 10th in the balloting. The Clan, however, did add three transfers including two from Division I programs – forward David Gebru (6-9, Jr., Seattle, WA) from Western Illinois and forward Milos Milosevic (6-7, Sr., Montenegro) from Valparaiso.
Gebru played in 30 games at Western Illinois, averaging 2.2 points, while Milosevic played in 17 games at Valparaiso in the 2009-10 season, netting 1.1 points per game.
SFU also added guard Elijah Matthews (6-1, Jr., Washington, DC) from Pfeifer. Matthews averaged 9.3 points and 3.4 rebounds and connected on 52 of 135 points at the Division II school.
EIGHT D-I TRANSFERS ON GNAC ROSTERS
A total of eight new transfers with Division I experience will play this winter for GNAC teams.
In addition to Simon, Gebru and Milosevic, former Division I players new to the GNAC this winter include Tre Johnson (Montana State) at Central Washington, Jarrell Crayton (Boise State) at Montana State Billings, Kenny Jones (UCLA) at Northwest Nazarene, Seattle Pacific’s Shawn Reid (Montana State) and Western Oregon’s Mirza Sabic (Kennesaw State).
Johnson (6-7, Jr., Reno, NV) played 56 games in two seasons at Montana State. Last year he averaged 8.8 points and six rebounds.
Crayton (6-7, Sr., Bellevue, NE) played in 22 games at Boise State, averaging 1 ½ points per game, while Jones (6-2, Sr., Los Angeles, CA – St. Bernard) scored eight points in eight games at UCLA.
Reid (6-4, Jr., Post Falls, ID) brings the most productive numbers from a Division I program. He averaged 10.6 points and 3.3 rebounds at Montana State.
Sabic (6-5, Sr., Surprise, AZ) scored 3.6 points and 1.3 rebounds last season at Kennesaw State.
D-2 TRANSFERS NEW TO CONFERENCE
In addition to Matthews at Simon Fraser, three other newcomers who previously played at Division II schools are on GNAC rosters this winter.
Alaska Fairbanks forward Zach Ngawaka (6-5, Sr., Keysborough, Australia) played last season at BYU-Hawaii averaging 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds.
The Nanooks also added forward Mike Stepovich (6-7, Sr., Fairbanks, AK) from Division III Post where he averaged 3.6 points and 2.7 rebounds.
Guard Brian Ridgeway (6-2, Sr., Casper, WY – Kelly Walsh) played at Nebraska Kearney averaging 3.3 points during the 2009-10 season, while guard Omar McDade (6-3, Sr., Logan, UT) played at Fort Hays State last season, scoring 7.3 points and contributing 3.5 rebounds. They’ll both play this winter for Montana State Billings.
ALL-STARS FROM THE NWAACC
Eight former NWAACC all-stars in addition to CWU’s McLaughlin are on GNAC rosters this winter.
Alaska Fairbanks guard Pat Voeut (5-11, Jr., Bellingham, WA) was a first team Northern Region selection at Whatcom CC.
Guard Chris Holmes (6-3, Jr., Seattle, WA – Franklin) was the 2011 Western Region MVP at Tacoma CC before redshirting last season at Central Washington.
The Wildcats also added forward Nate Walker (6-5, Jr., Tacoma, WA – Foss), a first team all-star last season at Tacoma CC.
Saint Martin’s guard Evan Coulter (5-10, Jr., Mt. Vernon, WA) was a Northern Region first team selection at Whatcom CC and Simon Fraser’s Taylor Dunn (6-4, Jr., Vancouver, WA), who began his career at CWU, was a first team Southern Region all-star at Clackamas CC.
Western Washington added two JC all-stars in center Austin Bragg (6-8, Jr., Longview, WA – Mark Morris) from Clark CC and Anye Turner (6-7, So., Tumwater, WA – Black Hills) from South Puget Sound.
Turner, who averaged 15.3 points and 11.9 rebounds at SPSCC, was selected the Western Region Defensive Player of the Year and Bragg, who averaged 15 points and 10.2 rebounds at Clark, was also voted to the Western Region all-defensive team.
Western Oregon guard Drew Johnson (5-10, Jr., Gresham, OR – Barlow) also earned Southern Region all-defensive honors at Mt. Hood.
A NEW START
As a conference, GNAC teams are relatively young this year with just a total of 22 starters (2.2 per team) back from a year ago.
Seattle Pacific has the most with four. Three schools – Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks and Western Washington – each have three.
None of last year’s top seven scorers return and just two of the top 10 – SPU’s David Downs (8th) and Andy Poling (9th). Poling (6th) is the only rebounder from last year’s Top 10 back.
Among the Top 20, six of last year’s top scorers and seven of the top rebounders are back.