Monday, March 2, 2009

WCC postseason honors

The West Coast Conference announced its All-Conference teams today.

Having done some color work for Comcast SportsNet this year on WCC games, I had a chance to watch the league's top players throughout the season. For what it's worth, here are my votes (and a few notes) for the postseason awards:


Coach of the Year: Mark Few, whose Gonzaga team went undefeated (14-0) in conference play. Eric Reveno (Portland) and Randy Bennett (St. Mary's) did excellent jobs, as well.

Player of the Year: Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin (pictured here) with John Bryant as the runner-up.

Freshman of Year: Santa Clara guard Kevin Foster. The leading freshman scorer in the WCC, Foster is a big-time shooter who had 31 points (15 off of 3-pointers) against St. Mary's and had half of his team's 62 points.

Toward the end of the year, Foster was playing 38-40 minutes and looked tired in the game against Portland. He has a moter and competes. He's still learning to play the PG position (he had 7 turnovers vs Portland and made a critical baseline out of bounds TO).

In pre-game warmups, he really shot the ball well, but struggled once the Portland game started, hitting just 1-12 from the field.

Foster has lost 15 pounds since the summer and reduced his body fat from 18% to 12% (and is aiming to get down to 6% body fat).

Foster's not the only good freshman guard in the WCC. Jarred DuBois (LMU), Keion Bell (Pepperdine), and Kwame Vaughn (USF) are also excellent young guards. Strong and athletic, Bell is a good slasher and solid offensive rebounder. Vaughn is an athletic slasher and scorer who can score off the bounce and pull-up.

Newcomer of Year: Portland PG T.J. Campbell with Foster (Santa Clara) as a close second. Campbell, who is built like Jameer Nelson, shot over 65% from 3 in the second half of conference play. He does a great job of running Portland's team, always under control and taking shots only when needed.

Defensive Player of Year: Diamon Simpson (St. Mary's)

WCC All-Conference:

PG Patrick Mills (St. Mary's) -- Just a sophomore, Mills is a terrific leader who's been injured for most of the WCC season. He has NBA speed and quickness and has improved his outside jump shot, though he could still improve his range. Mills also must improve his assist-to-turnover ratio and his point guard decision-making skills.

OG Matt Bouldin (Gonzaga) -- Bouldin makes winning plays for his team. A junior, he's well-rounded player and the best player on the WCC's best team. And he's getting better.

F Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga) -- An active, athletic 4-man who has range on his shot. A potential NBA second round pick, he's neither a 5-man nor a 3-man in the pros -- Heytvelt is strictly a PF. He can stretch out the defense on the pick-and-pop.

F Diamon Simpson (St. Mary's) -- An undersized power forward who creates extra possessions for his team, Simpson has a great reaction to the ball. He's an excellent range-rebounder who gets balls out of his area. He's also a strong on-ball defender. Offensively, Simpson has the ability to beat bigger, slower power forwards off the dribble and has improved his mid-range game.

C John Bryant (Santa Clara) -- Bryant puts up big numbers, including 48 career double-doubles. He's a big man with soft hands and a great touch who can dominate at this level. Bryant is the best overall center in the WCC. However, in a Feb. 26 game against Gonzaga, Bryant was totally outplayed by Josh Heytvelt, a marginal NBA prospect. In that game, Bryant was in foul trouble and was ineffective.

Bryant is an NBA project. He needs two years in an NBA setting, working with strength coach and developing in NBA practices. He could drop 10-20 pounds. Because he's graduating two months early, he has time to get ready for Portsmouth, devoting his full attention to basketball.

At this point, I don't feel Bryant is an NBA player. He lacks athleticism, speed, and lateral quickness. He's put up great numbers in a mid-major conference and could be a good a mid-level European league player.

Second Team:

PG Jeremy Pargo (Gonzaga) -- Point with good size who is a potential second-round pick. Pargo, a senior, might be a good D-League player, but he will need to prove himself at that level in order to earn a call-up. He must improve as a shooter, but he gets in the lane. He's also an excellent defender.

G/F Austin Daye (Gonzaga) -- Daye needs to stay in school and improve his strength and gain weight. Further, he's got to get tougher and work on his body language in reaction to an official's call. He has terrific upside with his lenghth and skills.

PF Gyno Pomare (San Diego) -- 4-man who has low- to mid-level Euro League skills. Must learn play hard for the entire game.

F Dior Lowhorn (San Francisco) -- The most versatile player in the WCC and the league's leading scorer. Lowhorn is a tweener at the next level.

C Omar Samhan (St. Mary's) -- Averages almost a double-double. Samhan will be the best back-to-the-basket big man in the league next season and should have a big senior season. He's strong and physical with good hands and solid footwork.

Honorable Mention: Nik Raivio (Portland) and T.J. Campbell (Portland). Raivio is a nice college player who does a great job rebounding from the off-guard spot and has a nice off-the-dribble pull-up jumper.

Top 5 pro prospects:

1. Patty Mills (St. Mary's)
2. Austin Daye (Gonzaga)
3. Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga)
4. John Bryant (Santa Clara)
5. Jeremy Pargo (Gonzaga)

Four players to watch in the future:

1. Andy Poling (Gonzaga)
2. Demetri Goodson (Gonzaga)
3. Tim Williams (St. Mary's)
4. Drew Viney (Loyola Marymount)