Eisnhardt garner honors
WALLA WALLA - It isn't often that the Northwest Conference Player of the Year in men's basketball comes from a team other than the regular season champion. And it isn't very often that a player joining a roster at the semester break gets enough attention to command any sort of all-conference recognition.
But there are exceptions to every rule, and Whitman College standouts David Michaels and Ben Eisenhardt stand tall as the latest exhibits A and B.
Michaels, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, is the 2012 NWC Player of the Year, while Eisenhardt, a 6-foot-10 sophomore transfer, received Honorable Mention recognition despite missing Whitman's first seven games, two of which were NWC counters.
The Player of the Year award goes to the player who gets the most all-conference votes from league coaches at season's end.
All-NWC First-Team, Second-Team and Honorable Mention recognition were announced Tuesday afternoon.
Michaels is the first Whitman athlete to be named Player of the Year since Scott Brady was so honored in 1989. The award was first given in 1987, when Whitman's Brian Richard shared the award with a Linfield player.
Michaels also picked up a second conference award Tuesday. For the fourth time this season, he was named NWC Student Athlete of the Week for men's basketball, as chosen by conference sports information directors.
Michaels exploded to the top of the NWC heap this winter, taking the ball to the hoop with a combination of agility, speed and strength rarely seen at this level while also stepping back to drill 3-pointers with unnerving regularity.
Michaels was the NWC's second-leading scorer for the entire season, averaging 19.6 points while shooting 55.3 percent from the floor, 46.1 percent from the 3-point line and 78.2 percent from the free throw line.
He was more deadly in head-to-head competition against conference foes. In NWC games only, he averaged an NWC-best 21.9 points while shooting 56.9 percent from the floor, 52 percent from the 3-point arc and 78.4 percent from the free throw stripe.
Michaels also led Whitman in rebounds (6.7 boards in NWC games, 6.2 overall), steals and blocked shots.
"Being named Player of the Year is an extraordinary honor for any student athlete," Whitman coach Eric Bridgeland said. "David is being recognized by his peers for what he's done this conference season, on the floor; what his peers aren't privy to is his unmatched leadership of his teammates and program behind the scenes.
"David Michaels earned this award. He is, without question, one of the hardest working young men, on and off the court, that I have ever seen at any level. David, truly, has left his ‘mark' on Whitman and the Northwest Conference. I have never been more proud of any young man that I've had the opportunity to be around, than David Michaels."
Eisenhardt, a graduate of Bainbridge (Wash.) High School who played his first college season at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, became eligible in mid-December and quickly worked himself into the regular rotation.
He played in 14 NWC games, coming off the bench in most cases, and was Whitman's second-leading scorer, averaging 9.4 points and 3.9 rebounds in 17.4 minutes on the floor. He shot 47.2 percent from the floor and 78.9 percent from the free throw line.
"For anyone to join a program mid-year and get recognized for their contributions to their team is special in itself," Bridgeland said. "Quite an accomplishment.
"Ben is an prototypical student athlete with a business-like approach, who cares deeply for his teammates. Whitman and the Northwest Conference have only received a taste of what this young man is capable of. Our program is very happy for Ben and excited for his future."