Beitzel's MVP pick heads 2011 All-Big Sky teams
OGDEN, Utah -- The best player on the Big Sky Conference's best men's basketball team has received his due reward.
Senior Devon Beitzel, one of the top scorers in the country this year who led the Big Sky in scoring for a Northern Colorado squad (19-10, 13-3 Big Sky) that won its first league championship since 1989, was honored Thursday as the Bears' first-ever Big Sky Most Valuable Player.
He joined Montana's Brian Qvale and Northern Arizona's Cameron Jones as unanimous First Team selections, while Weber State's Kyle Bullinger, Scott Bamforth and Montana's Will Cherry rounded out the First Team.
Beitzel also joined former Bears Jabril Banks (2008-09) and Will Figures (2009-10), who were also All-Big Sky First Team selections as seniors.
Qvale, the conference's all-time shot blocker, was picked as the 2011 Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, Bamforth was honored as the Newcomer of the Year and Byron Fulton was tabbed as the Freshman of the Year by the league's nine coaches, who selected the individual award winners and the all-conference teams. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players.
Beitzel, who also Thursday was honored as the Big Sky Conference's final Player of the Week for the 2010-11 season (his sixth career weekly award), tied a career high with 32 points last night against Sacramento State, leading the Bears to the top of the Big Sky and cementing what many have seen coming for much of the past couple months.
He put in a school NCAA Division I-record 610 points this season and ranks 16th in the country in scoring average at 21 points per game. He was also the Big Sky's top free throw shooter this season (91 percent), while making a league-most 74 3-pointers.
A two-time Academic All-American and one of 10 finalists for this year's Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, Beitzel figures to be the marquee player for the marquee Bears during the semifinals and final of next week's Banner Health North Colorado Medical Center Big Sky Championship at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion.
"Devon was everything for us on a team that won the league," Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill said. "Obviously he's in a group of really good players, but his numbers speak for themselves."
Kingman set career highs this season in scoring average (10.7 points) and rebounds per game (4.3) and three times scored a career-high 21 points, including at then No. 16 Illinois. He was chosen as Northern Colorado's "Most Improved Player" following his junior season and was honored on Feb. 28 with his first conference Player of the Week Award.
Kingman is just the fifth Northern Colorado player in five seasons to earn a spot on either the All-Big First or Second Teams. He's the second All-Big Sky Second Team pick, joining Beitzel who landed there last season.
Kaba was one of nine players who received honorable mention Thursday. He, like Kingman and Beitzel, set career highs in scoring (9.4 points per game) and rebounding (4.8 per) while starting in 25 of the Bears 29 games this year.
His last-second block Monday night against Idaho State's Broderick Gilchrest in Pocatello, Idaho, secured Northern Colorado of its first Big Sky Conference regular-season title, and his play down the stretch this year (11 points per game; 45 percent shooting from three-point) helped the Bears win their final five games.
INDIVIDUAL AWARD WINNERS
Most Valuable Player: Devon Beitzel, Northern Colorado
Defensive Player of the Year: Brian Qvale, Montana
Freshman of the Year: Byron Fulton, Weber State
Newcomer of the Year: Scott Bamforth, Weber State
Scott Bamforth, Weber State, G, 6-2, SO
*Devon Beitzel, Northern Colorado, G, 6-1, SR
Kyle Bullinger, Weber State, F, 6-6, JR
Will Cherry, Montana, G, SO, 6-1
*#Cameron Jones, Northern Arizona, G, 6-4, SR
*Brian Qvale, Montana, C, 6-11, SR
Glen Dean, Eastern Washington, G, 5-10, SO
Bobby Howard, Montana State, F, 6-7, SR
Neal Kingman, Northern Colorado, F, 6-7, SR
Charles Odum, Portland State, G, 6-0, JR
Gabe Rogers, Northern Arizona, G, 6-2, SO
Deividas Busma, Idaho State, C, 7-0, SR
John Dickson, Sacramento State, F, 6-6, SO
Broderick Gilchrest, Idaho State, G, 6-0, SR
Lindsey Hughey, Weber State, G, 6-3, SR
Shane Johannsen, Northern Arizona, F, 6-7, SR
Chris Kaba, Northern Colorado, F, 6-8, SR
Trevor Morris, Weber State, C, 6-9, SR
Erik Rush, Montana State, G, 6-5, SR
Derek Selvig, Montana, F, 7-0, JR