Senior center Rafael Araujo was named Co-Player of the Year along with Air Force's Nick Welch. A Wooden Award Midseason Top 30 selection, Araujo leads BYU in scoring, rebounds, steals and blocks. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
BYU's Rafael Araujo Named Co-Player of the Year and Mike Hall Selected Defensive Player of the Year
COLORADO SPRINGS -- The Mountain West Conference announced its 2003-04 men's basketball awards today. The league's eight men's head coaches along with a selected media panel picked the all-conference teams, as well as the coach, player, freshman and defensive awards.
Rafael Araujo of BYU and Nick Welch of Air Force were selected as Co-Players of the Year, marking the first time in the five-year history of the league two players share the top individual honor. Air Force head coach Joe Scott captured Coach of the Year honors, while BYU's Mike Hall was named Defensive Player of the Year, and Freshman of the Year honors went to Andrew Bogut of Utah.
Regular-season champion Air Force, along with second-place BYU and fourth-place UNLV led the league with three all-conference selections each. Utah also had multiple players chosen with two, while Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State and Wyoming each had one. For the first time, the conference did not have any consensus first-team selections or individual awards winners. All eight institutions were represented on the three all-conference teams for the second straight season. Four players were repeat all-conference selections. Second-team honoree Mark Bigelow of BYU was a third-team pick last year, while first-teamer Nick Jacobson of Utah was a two-time third-team selection prior to this season. Air Force's Tim Keller and Colorado State's Matt Nelson are repeat third-team selections from 2002-03.
Joe Scott led Air Force to its first winning season since 1978 and is currently 22-5 overall. The Falcons 12-2 league mark helped captured just the second-ever outright MWC regular-season title. Prior to this year, Air Force had never finished higher than sixth place in the conference standings. Scott's Falcons became the only team among the top 10 conferences in the country to be picked last at the beginning of the year and finish first. Air Force was propelled to the by winning all 13 home games and tying a school record with eight road victories. Scott becomes the second Falcon to garner MWC Coach of the Year honors after Reggie Minton shared the award with former UNLV coach Bill Bayno in 1999-2000.
Araujo is ranked among the top five players in five MWC statistical categories and rates in the top-10 in seven. The senior center from Sao Paulo, Brazil, is an NABC District 13 First Team selection and leads the league in steals (1.93), is fifth in scoring (16.2) and tied for third in rebounds (9.3). In all games, Araujo ranks second in the league in scoring at 18.4 points per clip and is tied for second in rebounding (10.0 rpg). He earned player of the week honors three times during the season and also earned national honors from The Sporting News and Collegeinsider.com. As the Cougars leader in scoring, rebounds, steals and blocks, Araujo led the team in scoring in seven conference games and in rebounds nine times. He recorded four double-doubles in league play and 14 overall. A Wooden Award Midseason Top 30 selection, Araujo became the second Cougar to capture MWC Player of the Year honors. Mekeli Wesley won the award in 2000-01.
Welch, a sophomore center from Fort Worth, Texas, led the Falcons to the regular-season title and is listed among the top 10 in eight categories in conference play, including third in three-point percentage (.458 percent), steals (1.43 spg) and field-goal percentage (.557 percent). He is also fifth in assists (3.57 apg) and ninth in scoring (13.6 ppg). Welch leads the team in scoring and rebounding in conference only contests (13.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg), while averaging 11.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in all games. Welch has posted double-figures in scoring 15 of the last 16 contests, including 13 straight. He is the first Falcon in school history to be named conference player of the year.
Hall, who transferred from Dixie State college last year, ranked second in the league in steals with 25 (1.79 per game). The junior guard led BYU in steals in six games and had the most blocks on four occasions. Throughout the year, Hall received assignments to defend every position but point guard while helping the Cougars to a 10-4 league record. In BYU's win over Utah that secured the No. 2 seed for the Cougars, Hall defended one of the league's top shooters in Nick Jacobson. He forced Jacobson into six turnovers and a 5-for-14 shooting night, including 3-of-10 from behind the arc. Hall played solid defense against UNLV's Demetrius Hunter in BYU's win in Provo on Feb. 7, holding the senior guard to five points and one rebound. He cemented the victory by blocking Hunter's attempt at a game-winning trey with just 2.7 seconds remaining and then securing the rebound. After being fouled, he hit both free throws to finish with 16 points and give BYU the 64-61 triumph. His top performance of the year came against New Mexico's versatile power forward Danny Granger in Provo. Granger had dropped 27, including the game-winner, on the Cougars in the first meeting and came into the game averaging 20.8 points and 9.0 rebounds. The defensive switch proved fruitful as Hall held the Lobos' star to just nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and three rebounds. Hall is the second straight Cougar to capture defensive player of the year honors after Travis Hansen shared the award with UNLV's Marcus Banks last year.
Bogut, a 6-10, forward/center from Melbourne, Australia (Institute of Sports) leads all MWC freshman in rebounding (9.9 rpg) and is second in scoring (12.4 ppg). In conference games only, Bogut ranks first in blocked shots (2.07 bpg), second in rebounding (9.7 rpg), sixth in field goal percentage (.547) and 12th in scoring (13.0 ppg). He has six double-doubles in conference games and 13 on the year. His 13 double-doubles are a MWC freshman record, shattering the old mark of eight held by Air Force's Tom Bellairs in 1999-2000. Bogut's top performances of the year came against Minnesota (19 points, 18 rebounds) and Wyoming (20 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks). He is the only player in the MWC to have posted six games with 15 or more rebounds this season.
Other All-Mountain West Conference First-Team Honorees:
New Mexico junior forward Danny Granger played his first season in Albuquerque after transferring from Bradley. Granger led the MWC in scoring in conference games only with a 19.6 ppg average and was fifth in rebounding at 8.2 rpg. He also ranks second in blocks (1.64) and 12th steals (1.14) per game. Granger was twice named MWC Player of the Week and is shooting 50.6 percent from the field and 75.7 percent from the foul line. In all games, he leads the league with a 19.8 scoring average and is fifth in rebounds (9.0). Granger has six double-doubles in 20 games this season, including two in conference play.
Senior guard Nick Jacobson of Utah is a MWC first-team selection this season after being named to the third-team each of the last two years. In MWC games only, Jacobson ranks second in scoring (18.4 ppg), second in free throw percentage (.855) and ninth in three-point percentage (.412). He has scored in double figures in 12 of 13 Mountain West Conference games, including six 20-point contests. Overall, Jacobson is averaging 16.3 points and connecting on 44 percent of his three-point shots.
UNLV forward Odartey Blankson leads the MWC in rebounding (10.3) and is ranked fourth in scoring at 17.4 points per clip in conference play. The junior transfer from Marquette has scored in double figures in 11 conference games and has recorded four contests of 20 points or more, including a career-high 28 at New Mexico. Blankson has posted an MWC record 18 double-doubles on the year, eclipsing the old mark of 15 set by former Runnin' Rebel Kaspars Kambala in 1999-2000. The 18 double-dips also rank second in the country behind Connecticut's Emeka Okafor. Blankson's eight double-doubles in conference play also broke the old record of seven held by Kambala during the 1999-2000 campaign.
2003-04 All-Mountain West Conference Men's Basketball Team
(selected by head coaches & selected media panel)
Co-Player of the Year -- Rafael Araujo, BYU and Nick Welch, Air Force
Freshmen of the Year -- Andrew Bogut, Utah
Defensive Player of the Year -- Mike Hall, BYU
Coach of the Year -- Joe Scott, Air Force
First-Team All-Mountain West
Nick Welch, Air Force, 6-8, 215, So., C, Fort Worth, Texas (USAFA Prep School)
Rafael Araujo, BYU, 6-11, 280, Sr., C, Sao Paulo, Brazil (Ariz. Western College)
Danny Granger, New Mexico, 6-8, 225, Jr., F, Metairie, La. (Bradley)
Odartey Blankson, UNLV, 6-7, 220, Jr., F, Chicago, Ill. (Marquette)
Nick Jacobson, Utah, 6-4, 206, Sr., Fargo, N.D. (Roseville HS, Minn.)
Second-Team All-Mountain West
A.J. Kuhle, Air Force, 6-5, 189, Sr., G, Concord, Calif. (De La Salle HS)
Mark Bigelow, BYU, 6-7, 200, Sr., F, Olympia, Wash. (Olympia HS)
Aerick Sanders, San Diego State, 6-9, 203, Sr., F/C, Carson, Calif. (Gardena Serra HS)
Andrew Bogut, Utah, 6-10, 233, Fr., F/C, Melbourne, Australia (Institute of Sports)
Jay Straight, Wyoming, 5-11, 178, Jr., G, Chicago, Ill. (Dunbar HS)
Third-Team All-Mountain West
Tim Keller, Air Force, 6-3, 185, Jr., G, Austin, Texas (USAFA Prep)
Mike Hall, BYU, 6-3, 205, Jr., G, San Bernardino, Calif., (Dixie State College)
Matt Nelson, Colorado State, 7-0, 255, Jr., C, Morton Grove, Ill. (Niles North)
Jerel Blassingame, UNLV, 5-10, 170, Jr., G, Brooklyn, N.Y. (LA City College)
J.K. Edwards, UNLV, 6-8, 250, Sr., C, Clemmons, N.C., (Indian Hills JC)
Honorable Mention: Air Force -- Joel Gerlach (Sr., F), Antoine Hood (So., G); BYU -- None; Colorado State -- Dwight Boatner (Fr., G), Matt Williams (Jr., F); New Mexico -- David Chiotti (So., F), Troy DeVries (Jr. G), Javin Tindall (Sr., G); San Diego State -- Brandon Heath (Fr., G), Marcus Slaughter (Fr. F), Wesley Stokes (Jr., G); UNLV -- Romel Beck (Jr., F); Utah -- Tim Frost (Sr., C); Wyoming -Alex Dunn (Jr. F), Joe Ries (Sr., F).