March 5, 2009

Banks earns Bears' first Big Sky First-Team honor

BIG SKY RELEASE: 2008-09 postseason honors

OGDEN, Utah -- Northern Colorado senior Jabril Banks was the only Big Sky Conference player this year to rank in the top 10 in the league in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage.

So, it comes as no surprise that he has been honored as a member of this year's Big Sky All-Conference First Team. The conference's individual awards and first-, second- and honorable mention teams were selected by the nine coaches Thursday morning and announced by the league office Thursday afternoon.

League coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players.

Banks, a senior from Denver, Colo., who came to the Bears following two standout seasons at Indian Hills Community College, was joined as a postseason honoree Thursday by teammates Devon Beitzel and Will Figures, who were honorable mention selections.

The news came to Tad Boyle and his men's basketball program as they were preparing to play at Idaho State on Saturday night, March 7, in  their first Big Sky Conference Men's Basketball Championship.

Banks averaged 12.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per conference game this year for Tad Boyle's program, while shooting at a 65 percent clip. He is the first Northern Colorado player to be honored as a member of the All-Big Sky Tirst Team.

"Jabril is just one of those guys who kind of did it all for us this year," Boyle said. "He never really put up jaw-dropping numbers, but he was definitely a guy other teams had to account for when coming up with a game-plan against us.

"He was our clear go-to guy, and was obviously one of the best players in the league."

Banks scored in double figures in 23 of the Bears' 31 regular-season games this year, with his season high of 23 coming at home in mid-January against Eastern Washington. He also had four double-digit rebounding efforts, including getting 11 twice against Montana and Idaho State.

Beitzel and Figures also received notice after finishing the season as two of the best shooters in the league.

Figures might have been the Bears' most consistent player this season. He finished just behind Banks in season scoring average (12.0), but he was Northern Colorado's top scorer in its 16 conference games, averaging 13.7 points per game, which was eighth in the league.

He scored 20 or more points six times this season, including four out of five games between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15.

Beitzel, a sophomore from Lafayette, Colo., finished the regular season averaging 11.9 points per game, and he scored 32 points -- a career high and a Northern Colorado NCAA Division I record -- in the Bears' home victory against Northern Arizona on Dec. 29.

That Dec. 29 game ended for Beitzel one of the hottest four-game stretches in Bears history. Between Northern Colorado's game against San Jose State on Dec. 20 and ending with the win against the Lumberjacks, Beitzel averaged 26 points per game while shooting 65 percent from the field and 58 percent from three.

Beitzel was also honored in early February as a member of the 2009 CoSIDA District 7 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District team. He finished fall semester 2008 with a 3.85 GPA in business finance.

Weber State senior Kellen McCoy was selected as the league's Most Valuable Player, while teammate Damian Lillard was tabbed the Freshman of the Year. Wildcat senior Daviin Davis was named the Defensive Player of the Year.

Montana’s Anthony Johnson, a junior college transfer and the conference’s leading scorer, was named the Newcomer of the Year.