April 18, 2012
Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar, the two talented starting guards for the 2011-12 University of Montana Grizzly basketball team, shared the annual Carl E. Dragstedt Award (Most Valuable Player), which was presented to them last night (Tuesday, April 17) at the team's annual awards dinner at the Depot Restaurant.
Cherry and forward Art Steward were co-recipients of the John Eaheart Memorial Award (Outstanding Defensive Player) for the 25-7 Grizzlies, who won the Big Sky Conference's regular-season championship with a school-record ledger of 15-1. Sixth-year head coach Wayne Tinkle's Griz hosted and won the league's 2012 post-season tourney, to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in school history.
Other players recognized were Derek Selvig and Mathias Ward, who shared UM's Allan Nielsen Award (Best Represents Grizzly Basketball), while Jordan Wood was the recipient of the Naseby Rhinehart Award (Most Inspirational Player).
"Most years players stand out pretty easily, of who the MVP is, but with a team of this magnitude - and we were a team, and it's up to the players of course to vote -- and this is as deep a competition as we've had," Tinkle said. "There are several co-award winners, but that does not cheapen anything because of the quality of our award winners. It just goes to show what a team this was this past season."
Cherry, a 6-foot-1 junior guard from West Oakland, Calif., was named the Big Sky's "Defensive Player of the Year," and was a unanimous first team all-league pick. This past season he led the Griz in scoring, averaging a team-high 15.8 points a game, which ranked him fourth in the league.
Cherry, who has been the John Eaheart Memorial Award winner the past three seasons in a row, was ranked sixth in the nation in steals this past season, averaging a league-leading 2.6 per game. He was also ranked in the league in assists (tied for seventh, 3.3 pg), assist/turnover ratio (ninth, 1.2), free throw percentage (10th, 78.1%), and three-pointers made per game (tied for 10th, 1.6 pg). He has a school-record 223 career steals.
Cherry was also named to the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Defensive All-America team; to Lou Henson's Mid-Major All-America team; and to the the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) All-District VIII basketball team. He was also named to the conference's all-tournament team.
UM's other first team All-Big Sky selection, Jamar, a 6-5 sophomore, was Montana's second leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 13.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He was ranked fifth in the league in assists (3.7 apg) and three-point percentage (44.1%), ninth in scoring, and 11th in rebounds.
Jamar, from Venice, Calif., was voted the conference post-season tournament MVP, as he averaged 20.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in wins over Eastern Washington (74-66) and Weber State (85-66).
"It's nice knowing that they (Cherry and Jamar) are coming back, and there are some other players coming with them who played some vital roles," Tinkle said. "We lost an awful lot with those four seniors (UM's other graduating senior is guard Shawn Stockton, who played 100 career games), both on the court and off the court."
A 6-4 senior forward from Casper, Wyoming, Steward was an honorable mention all-conference pick. Last season he averaged 9.5 points and 4.6 rebounds a game. He shot 60.9% (70-of-115) from the field in Big Sky games, which ranked him second in the league. Steward received the Naseby Rhinehart Award last season.
Selvig, a versatile 7-0 senior forward from Glendive, Mont., was a honorable mention all-league selection and among the league leaders in several categories. He was ranked first (tie) in the Big Sky in blocked shots (1.3 pg), sixth in three-point percentage (43.7%), seventh in rebounding (6.1 pg), and ninth (tie) in assists (3.0 pg).
"You don't win 25 games and set some of the school records like this team did without having contributions from a lot of guys in a lot of different ways," Tinkle said. "I think that is what is really reflected in our award winners from this past season."
A 6-7 junior forward from Gig Harbor, Wash., Ward was the Grizzlies' third leading scorer, averaging 10.9 points a game. He was an honorable mention all-conference pick and also named to the league's all-tournament team. Ward was ranked fifth in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (53.8%), eighth in free throw percentage (78.4%), and 17th in scoring.
A 6-3 senior forward from Cedar City, Utah, Wood was a two-year letterman who played in 25 games this past year and was an outstanding defender. Wood also received the Allan Nielsen Award last season.
"Moving forward we are really going to challenge some of our guys to step up in the areas of leadership and maturity," Tinkle continued. "It was a heck of a year, and these award winners are very, very deserving. The neat thing is that the guys are not resting on what we've done this year. Our returners are chomping at the bit to get after it again."
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