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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 7, 2005

UH's Gibson named to WAC all-rookie team

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

"Little Matt" Gibson's rookie season with the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team was rewarded yesterday.

Gibson was one of five players named to the Western Athletic Conference All-Newcomer Team. He was the only Rainbow Warrior to receive recognition in the WAC postseason awards.

"That's about right," Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said of the WAC honors. "We didn't have anybody else who deserved anything."

Gibson, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard, leads the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game. He is also second on the team in assists with 2.8 per game, and first in steals with 1.4 per game.

He scored a career-high 26 points in Hawai'i's 66-59 victory over Fresno State on Saturday.

Gibson was recruited to Hawai'i as a shooting guard out of Three Rivers Community College (Mo.), but eventually became the starter at point guard this season.

"He's made a lot of adjustments," Wallace said. "And lately he's been able to find his shots and get his points. He still makes his share of mistakes, but you have to look at it like he's a freshman. When you look at it that way, he's had a good year."

For the first time since the 1998-99 season, the 'Bows did not have a player selected to the All-WAC first or second teams.

The players selected to the All-WAC first team were Nick Fazekas of Nevada, Michael Harris of Rice, Paul Millsap of Louisiana Tech, and Texas-El Paso teammates Omar Thomas and Filiberto Rivera.

Fazekas, a 6-11 sophomore forward, was named the WAC Player of the Year. He leads the conference in scoring with 21.8 points per game, and is third in rebounding with 10.7 per game.

The selections were made by the 10 head coaches in the WAC, and Wallace said he voted for Fazekas.

"Without question, he's the Player of the Year," Wallace said. "They're the WAC champions, they went undefeated on the road, and he was the guy leading them in scoring and rebounding every night."

Nevada, which went 16-2 to win the WAC regular-season title, swept the top honors.

First-year head coach Mark Fox was named the Don Haskins Coach of the Year, and point guard Ramon Sessions was selected the Freshman of the Year.

The All-WAC second team had Bryan Hopkins of Southern Methodist, Kevinn Pinkney of Nevada, Jason McKreith of Rice, Marquin Chandler of San Jose State and Mustafa Al-Sayyad of Fresno State.

Hawai'i's leading candidate for All-WAC honors was junior forward Julian Sensley. He is averaging 12.0 points per game and leads the team with 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

However, Wallace said he was not surprised that Sensley did not receive recognition.

"He had that stretch where he was hurt and wasn't really doing too much, and that brought his numbers down," Wallace said. "Plus, there were a lot of good players in the league this year."

In any case, Wallace said he is not a fan of individual awards and he did not intend to share the results of the All-WAC Team with his players.

"They can see it for themselves and it probably means something for the players who get on there," Wallace said. "But as coaches, you don't need that stuff. It can become a distraction where some guy thinks he's too good because he's all-league. In some ways, it's good for us not to get anybody on there. Now all the guys will be hungry wanting to prove something."

Also for the first time since the 1998-99 season, Hawai'i did not have a player receive the WAC Player of the Week award this season. Rice's McKreith won the final weekly award of the season yesterday.

Hawai'i was the only team in the WAC not to receive a Player of the Week award this season.

"We didn't have anybody put good back-to-back games together," Wallace said. "You can look at it how ever you want, but that's all individual stuff and we can't be concerned about that."

UH seeks three-peat against San Jose State

Hawai'i departed Honolulu yesterday morning for the WAC Tournament in Reno, Nev.

The 'Bows will play San Jose State in a "play-in" game of the tournament tomorrow at 4 p.m. (Hawai'i time). The winner of that game advances to play No. 2 seed UTEP in the quarterfinals on Thursday; the loser is eliminated.

Hawai'i is 15-12 overall and the No. 7 seed in the tournament with a 7-11 WAC record. San Jose State is 6-22 overall and the No. 10 seed with a 3-15 conference record.

Hawai'i has already defeated the Spartans twice this season: 71-45 in Honolulu, and 84-73 at San Jose, Calif.

"Everybody is going to say that it's hard to beat a team three times in one year," Wallace said. "But we've had good games against San Jose this year. The game we played at their place was probably our best game as a team this year. We moved the ball well, shot it, and played solid defense."

However, it is worth noting that no team seeded lower than fifth has ever won the WAC Tournament.

The 'Bows snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Fresno State in the regular-season finale on Saturday. San Jose State is on a 10-game losing streak.

"All it takes is one win and you forget about all the losses," Wallace said after the Fresno State win. "That's why this one was so important for us."

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8101.