Bejarano, Nystrom highlight Mountain West basketball awards

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — There was a heavy Colorado State influence when the Mountain West Conference women’s basketball postseason awards were announced Saturday afternoon.

Second-year head coach Ryun Williams was named the conference’s coach of the year after leading the Rams to the biggest one-season turnaround in program history. After going 11-19 just a season ago, Williams brought in a cast of new players to a team with returning standouts Sam Martin and Caitlin Duffy. The result was a 23-6 regular season, a 15-3 mark in conference play, a Mountain West Conference regular-season championship, and the No.1 seed in this week’s conference tournament in Las Vegas.

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Honored along with Williams were freshman Elin Gustavsson and Ellen Nystrom, juniors AJ Newton and Gritt Ryder as well as Duffy, a sophomore, and Martin, a senior.

Gustavsson, a freshman from Angelholm, Sweden was named to the all-Freshman team along with Nystrom, a native of Lulea, Sweden. Nystrom was also named the Mountain West Co-Freshman of the Year, along with being named to the All-Defensive team and the All-Conference second team.

Along with Nystrom, players Martin, Ryder, and Newton were also named second-team All-Mountain West. With the announcement, Martin became just the third player, along with former Rams Katie Cronin and Becky Hammon to be named to an All-Conference team in all four of her seasons as Ram.

Colorado State begins their pursuit of a Mountain West Conference tournament championship Tuesday at noon against the winner of Monday’s matchup between New Mexico and Utah State.

On the men’s side, juniors Daniel Bejarano and J.J. Avila were named to the All-Mountain West second and third teams, respectively when awards were announced Monday afternoon.

“I don’t think there’s five better players than Daniel Bejarano in the Mountain West,” CSU head coach Larry Eustachy said. “I’ve never been prouder of a guy who didn’t even start last year and developed a new role on this team. He earned it because I’ve never had a guy work harder in the offseason than Daniel did this summer.”

Bejarano, a native of Phoenix, Ariz., was among the top-10 in the Mountain West in nine statistical categories, including second in points per game (18.8) and ninth in rebounds per game (7.7).

“This means a lot, but I really don’t focus on this sort of stuff when I’m out there playing,” Bejarano said. “At the end of the year I’m just focused on this team and getting wins for our team and our university. Of course I would’ve liked to get on the first team but it’s just more motivation for me.”

 Avila, a transfer from the US Naval Academy and a native of McAllen, Texas, ranked eighth in the Mountain West in scoring (14.9) and seventh in rebounding (8.3). He was considered by many to be the consensus pick for Mountain West Newcomer of the Year, an award that eventually ended up in the hands of San Diego State forward Josh Davis.

“It kind of makes sense because of the fact that they finished first in the conference,” Eustachy said. “But this is quite an accomplishment for him after sitting out all of last year and making the third team which means he’s one of the top-15 players in our league. And the great thing for us is that both he and Daniel are back next year.”

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San Diego State guard Xavier Thames was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and was joined on the All-Conference first team by Nevada guard Deonte Burton, Wyoming forward Larry Nance, and New Mexico standouts Kendall Williams and Cameron Bairstow.

The Rams will begin their own pursuit of a Mountain West tournament title Wednesday afternoon when take on Utah State at 3 pm MST.

No more Santo: It was also announced Monday that starting center Gerson Santo would miss the rest of the season with a fractured left hand. Santo, a native of Brazil, was injured early in Saturday’s loss to rival Wyoming on a foul by Cowboy guard Riley Grabau. The Rams only senior scholarship senior, Santo had started all 31 games this season, averaging 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounders per game while also ranking second on the team in blocks (17) and shooting percentage (58.7). Down to eight scholarship players, the Rams will likely start either backup center Marcus Holt or junior forward Dwight Smith in Santo’s absence.

Breakout:

First-Team All-Mountain West

Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico

Deonte Burton, Nevada

Kendall Williams, New Mexico

Xavier Thames, San Diego State

Larry Nance Jr., Wyoming

Second-Team All-Mountain West

Anthony Drmic, Boise State

Ryan Watkins, Boise State

Daniel Bejarano, Colorado State

Tyler Johnson, Fresno State

Khem Birch, UNLV

 Third-Team All-Mountain West

Tre’ Coggins, Air Force

J.J. Avila, Colorado State

Alex Kirk, New Mexico

Josh Davis, San Diego

Bryce Dejean-Jones, UNLV

All-Defensive Team

Alex Kirk, New Mexico

Kendall Williams, New Mexico

Skylar Spencer, San Diego State

Xavier Thames, San Diego State

Khem Birch, UNLV

Larry Nance Jr., Wyoming

Honorable Mention All-Mountain West

Derrick Marks, Jr., G, Boise State

Marvelle Harris, So., G, Fresno State

Cole Huff, So., F, Nevada

Hugh Greenwood, Jr., G, New Mexico

JJ O’Brien, Jr., F, San Diego State

Winston Shepard, So., F, San Diego State

Roscoe Smith, Jr., F, UNLV

Spencer Butterfield, Sr., G/F, Utah State

Jarred Shaw, Sr., C, Utah State

Player of the Year: Xavier Thames, Sr., G, San Diego State

Defensive Player of the Year: Khem Birch, Jr., F, UNLV

Newcomer of the Year: Josh Davis, Sr., F, San Diego State

Freshman of the Year: Paul Watson, Fr., G/F, Fresno State

Sixth Man of the Year: Dwayne Polee II, Jr., F, San Diego State

Coach of the Year: Steve Fisher, San Diego State

Collegian Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @KPopeCollegian.