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Kemp, Armon Johnson lead Pack honors

Kemp, Armon Johnson lead Pack honors

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

Nevada’s basketball team didn’t dominate the postseason honors, but the Wolf Pack came out of the voting just fine.

As expected, Marcelus Kemp was a Western Athletic Conference first-team selection and Armon Johnson was named Freshman of the Year.

Utah State’s Jaycee Carroll was named the Player of the Year, while Boise State’s Greg Graham, whose team was picked to finish fifth, was named the Coach of the Year after guiding the Broncos to 22 wins.

Kemp averaged 20.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, while Johnson, who started all 30 games, averaged 11 points (14 in conference play), 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He follows in the footsteps of Ramon Sessions, who won the same honor back in the 2004-05 season.

Sophomore JaVale McGee, who averaged 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds, was named to the second team. Reserve point guard Lyndale Burleson was named to the all-defense team as was McGee, who led the conference in blocked shots.

Nevada coach Mark Fox was pleased with the accolades thrown toward his players.

“When the league’s coaches show an appreciation for our players, it is a very high compliment,” Fox said. “These young men have worked very hard to represent our university and our team. In an environment that is all about ‘we,’ I am glad they can and have been recognized individually by the WAC’s coaches.

“Marcelus has had a wonderful year, and his play deserved to be rewarded. His decision to return to school has allowed him to earn a degree, lead a team to a championship and again be honored by the conference’s coaches.”

Johnson stepped into a big role from the outset, and though he had some rough games, he did a solid job at the point.

“Armon had a great freshman campaign,” Fox said. “I am very proud of how he has grown because I was very hard on him at times. He’d be the first to thank the guys around him – and that is why he’s been such a good lead guard.”

McGee has put up some big numbers of late at the offensive end, and on Saturday, recorded his seventh double-double of the season with 23 points and 14 rebounds in the win over Fresno State. He has yet to scratch the surface, however.

“JaVale really improved from his freshman to his sophomore year, and I am happy it’s been recognized,” Fox said. “Some talented players don’t listen, but he does, and his honors are a credit to his hard work and commitment to improve.”

Burleson joined the team after the first semester, and his defense and ballhandling have been critical to Nevada’s success.

“Lyndale has continued to bring great defense to our team, and I am very happy the league recognized him,” Fox said. “His defense has been a big part of our team.”

Besides Carroll and Kemp, the rest of the first team included Boise State’s Reggie Larry, New Mexico State’s Justin Hawkins and Fresno State’s Kevin Bell. Carroll, Kemp and Hawkins were all-conference a year ago.

The All-WAC second-teamers this year were Matt Nelson, Boise State; Matt Gibson, Hawaii; Jordan Brooks, Idaho; McGee, Nevada and Gary Wilkinson of Utah State.

Brooks is the first Vandal to earn All-WAC honors since Idaho joined the league during the 2005-06 season.

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On the women’s side, Nevada’s Dellena Criner and Cherlanda Franklin were each named to All-WAC teams.

The 5-foot-7 Criner was named the Defensive Player of the Year, the first year the award has been offered. She also was a first-team selection after averaging 16 points a game.

Franklin, a junior forward, also was named to the WAC defensive team, marking the first time in her career she has been named to an All-WAC team. Franklin recorded a team and WAC-leading 77 steals this season in 29 games.

Fresno State’s Tierre Wilson was named the WAC Player of the Year.

Third-year head coach Adrian Wiggins earns Fresno State’s first-ever WAC Coach of the Year honors. Wiggins led the Bulldogs to a 14-2 record through WAC play, earning his team a share of this year’s WAC regular season championship. The title marks the first conference championship in Fresno State’s 43-year history.

Fresno State’s Jaleesa Ross was named the WAC’s Newcomer of the Year. She drained 79 3-pointers this season.

Besides Criner and Wilson, Boise State’s Tasha Harris, Tech’s JoKierra Sneed and New Mexico State’s Sherell Neal all made the first team.

The All-WAC second teamers were Anikia Jawara of New Mexico State, Idaho’s Katie Madison, Ross, Hawaii’s Tanya Smith and Jessica Thompson, Boise State.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281