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Grammer School

Covering UNM Lobos and Mountain West Conference hoops and more2014-2015 Schedule/Results | Roster

Midseason awards: Bairstow is best as Mountain West play begins

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There is no denying that part of the Mountain West’s nonconference struggles this season compared to last can be traced to a loss of individual talent from teams across the league.

University of New Mexico senior forward Cameron Bairstow, shown dunking in a loss to New Mexico State, appears to be a front-runner for Mountain West Conference player of the year. ( Greg Sorber / Journal)

University of New Mexico senior forward Cameron Bairstow, shown dunking in a loss to New Mexico State, appears to be a front-runner for Mountain West Conference player of the year. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

The MWC had a record four players selected in the 2013 NBA Draft, doubling the previous high that was done four times. At least a dozen players who were playing in the league one year ago are now pursuing professional basketball.

So while it’s clear the overall talent level in the league took a hit, numerous individuals are stringing together very good seasons.

Here is a look at my midseason player awards with a look back at my preseason picks, including some swings and misses (all stat reference for games played through Tuesday):

Player of the Year

PF Cameron Bairstow, Sr., New Mexico

Reason: While his emergence has surprised many, others saw it coming since late last season when he was named to the All-MWC tournament team and later dominated the summer’s World University Games for his native Australia.

Now, it’s simple. Bairstow has worked his way into arguably the best player in the league. He ranks in the top 10 in the league in the following stats: scoring (20.1 points per game), rebounding (7.2), shooting (54.7 percent) and free-throw shooting (80.6).

He owes a lot of his success this season to teammates – especially Alex Kirk, who still draws as many or more double-teams than does Bairstow. But without fouling, nobody has been able to guard the 6-foot-9 Aussie – not even No. 16 Kansas with several future NBA players in the front court.

Bairstow averages 8.2 free throw attempts per game, second only to the 9.4 attempts per game by teammate Kendall Williams, last year’s MW Player of the Year, and ahead of the 7.9 attempts per game of NBA prospect Deonte Burton of Nevada.

Throw in the fact that Bairstow is now passing out of his frequent double-teams with efficiency (2.3 assists per game).

What I wrote in October

Preseason Player of the Year: G Kendall Williams, Sr., UNM. Kirk or Williams could win this. I went with Williams for two reasons: UNM’s more up-tempo offense, and I think Bairstow’s continued emergence could take some post production from Kirk. Ask me tomorrow, and I may tell you Kirk is the way to go.

Newcomer of the Year

F Roscoe Smith, Jr., UNLV

Reason: A starter on Connecticut’s 2011 national championship team, Smith leads the nation in rebounding, has had two 20-plus rebound games this season, averages a double-double (13.1 points, 13.2 rebounds per game) and is shooting 57.9 percent from the field.

What I wrote in October

Preseason Newcomer of the Year: F Josh Davis, Sr., SDSU. Davis averaged a double-double for Tulane last year and steps into a position where he’ll be a big part from Day One for his team. He’s the right pick here for now, but UNM’s Deshawn Delaney (Vincennes University in Indiana), Fresno State’s Cezar Guerrero (Oklahoma State), UNLV’s Roscoe Smith (Connecticut) and Wyoming’s Charles Hankerson Jr. (Alabama) all have a shot.

Freshman of the Year

G Rashad Muhammad, San Jose State

Reason: A far better shooter than his older brother Shabazz Muhammad, the current Minnesota Timberwolves and former UCLA Bruins player, Rashad Muhammad started just one game entering league play, but was sixth in the league in scoring at 17.3 points per game, ranked fourth in 3-point shooting (44.7 percent), second in 3-pointers made (3.2 per game) and fourth in free-throw shooting (83.3 percent). His total of eight assists over 12 nonconference games, however, is far more like his older brother.

What I wrote in October

Preseason Freshman of the Year: G Dakarai Allen, Fr., SDSU. Some guesswork here as UNLV’s Kendall Smith and Christian Wood and UNM’s Cullen Neal all have a shot. Allen has a chance to play a big role because of what SDSU lost from last year.

Midseason All-MWC

FIRST TEAM
G Kendall Williams, Sr., New Mexico
G Xavier Thames, Sr., San Diego State
G/F Anthony Drmic, Jr., Boise State
F Cameron Bairstow, Sr., New Mexico
F Roscoe Smith, Jr., UNLV

SECOND TEAM
G Deonte Burton, Sr., Nevada
G Preston Medlin, Sr., Utah State
F J.J. Avila, Jr., Colorado State
F Larry Nance, Jr., Wyoming
C Alex Kirk, Jr., New Mexico

THIRD TEAM
G Derrick Marks, Jr., Boise State
G Cezar Guerro, So., Fresno State
G Daniel Bejarano, Jr., Colorado State
G/F Spencer Butterfield, Sr., Utah State
F Khem Birch, Jr., UNLV

My picks in October

(Preseason ballots included only first team)
G Kendall Williams, Sr., New Mexico
G Derrick Marks, Jr., Boise State
G/F Anthony Drmic, Jr., Boise State
F Cameron Bairstow, Sr., New Mexico
C Alex Kirk, Jr., New Mexico

To view my preseason All-MWC ballot, CLICK HERE.
To view the actual preseason All-MWC awards, CLICK HERE.

LOBO LINKS: Geoff Grammer’s blog | Schedule/Results | Roster

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