Fresno State coach Rodney Terry has said for weeks that, though he might be biased, there was no question that Bulldogs guard Marvelle Harris is the best player in the Mountain West Conference. As it turns out, the league’s other coaches agreed.
Harris on Tuesday was honored as the Mountain West Player of the Year after averaging 22.7 points per game in conference play and leading the league in average minutes (38.5), assists (4.5), assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2) and steals (2.6).
He is one of two players in the nation to rank in the top three in their conferences in points, assists, steals and minutes per game and assists to turnovers, along with Oakland guard Kay Felder. And in an 86-85 victory at Utah State that clinched the No. 2 seed at the conference tournament, he became the career leading scorer in Fresno State history with 1,954 points.
“It’s one of those things, you don’t focus on it at the moment,” Harris said after the Bulldogs’ practice at a local YMCA ahead of Thursday’s game in the conference tournament. “There are bigger things to worry about – winning the tournament. We have to focus on advancing. moving forward. It’s a great honor and achievement, but not the most important thing right now.”
Along with Harris, San Diego State coach Steve Fisher was selected as Coach of the Year after leading the Aztecs to a 16-2 record and conference title. The Aztecs’ Skylar Spencer was selected as Defensive Player of the Year after sharing it last season with Wyoming forward Larry Nance Jr.
The Aztecs’ Jeremy Hemsley is the Freshman of the Year, New Mexico guard Elijah Brown the Newcomer of the Year and San Jose State guard Brandon Clarke the Sixth Man honoree.
Harris, a 6-foot-4 guard, also was selected to the All-Defensive team for a second year in a row. He was the only Fresno State player named to any of the all-conference teams.
With Harris playing his best down the stretch, the Bulldogs won eight of their last nine regular-season games, finished 22-9 overall and 13-5 in Mountain West play and own the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament that starts Wednesday at UNLV’S Thomas & Mack Center. He is the third player in school history to be selected Preseason and postseason Player of the Year, following Courtney Alexander (1999-2000) and Melvin Ely (2000-01 and 2001-02).
“I think any time you have a player get an accolade like that to start the season, it’s great exposure for your program and things of that nature, but for him to go out and do it and lead his team, be a great teammate, and do it at a high level every night with a target on your back speaks volumes of the work that he has put in,” Terry said.
“He has learned to deal with game plans. He has learned to trust his teammates. He has learned to let the game come to him. And he has played with a lot of poise and leadership down the stretch and is very deserving of that award.”
Fresno State will play its first game of the tournament in a quarterfinal at 6 p.m. Thursday against UNLV or Air Force, the No. 7 and No. 10 seeds.
The tournament opens Wednesday when Wyoming and Utah State, the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds, play at 11 a.m. The Rebels and Falcons play at 1:30 p.m., followed by No. 6 Colorado State and No. 11 San Jose State at 4 p.m.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT: FRESNO STATE VS. UNLV OR AIR FORCE
- Thursday: 6 p.m. at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas
- Records: Bulldogs 22-9, 13-5 Mountain West; Rebels 17-14, 8-10; Falcons 14-17, 5-13
- TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/KFIG (AM 940)
- Of note: Seventh-seeded UNLV and No. 10 Air Force meet at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in one of three first-round games Wednesday. … Other games are No. 8 Wyoming vs. No. 9 Utah State at 11 a.m. and No. 6 Colorado State vs. No. 11 San Jose State at 4 p.m. … Regular-season champ San Diego State, as the top seed, gets the Wyoming-Utah State winner.
Player of the Year: Marvelle Harris, Sr., G, Fresno State
Defensive Player of the Year: Skylar Spencer, Sr., F, San Diego State
Freshman of the Year: Jeremy Hemsley, G, San Diego State
Newcomer of the Year: Elijah Brown, So., G, New Mexico
Sixth Man of the Year: Brandon Clarke, Fr., G, San Jose State
Coach of the Year: Steve Fisher, San Diego State
First Team: Josh Adams, Sr., G, Wyoming; Elijah Brown, So., G, New Mexico; Marvelle Harris, Sr., G, Fresno State; Trey Kell, So., G, San Diego State; James Webb III, Sr., F, Boise State
Second Team: Marqueze Coleman, Sr., G, Nevada; Patrick McCaw, So., G, UNLV; Antwan Scott, Sr., G, Colorado State; Winston Shepard, Sr., F, San Diego State; Tim Williams, Jr., F, New Mexico
Third Team: Jeremy Hemsley, Fr., G, San Diego State; Jalen Moore, Jr., W, Utah State; Cameron Oliver, Fr., F, Nevada; Chris Smith, Sr., G, Utah State; Mikey Thompson, Sr., G, Boise State
Defensive Team: Marvelle Harris, Sr., G, Fresno State; Patrick McCaw, So., G, UNLV; Cameron Oliver, Fr., F, Nevada; Winston Shepard, Sr., F, San Diego State; Skylar Spencer, Sr., F, San Diego State
Honorable Mention: Hayden Graham, Jr., F, Air Force; Jason McManamen, Jr., G, Wyoming