Men's Basketball: Michaels Named NWC Player of Year; Eisenhardt's Half Season Earns Honorable Mention Kudos
News Release Date:
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- 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."
The NWC got one glimpse of Eisenhardt's potential in mid-January. With Michaels sidelined by injury, Eisenhardt made his first start against Linfield and erupted for 28 points, six rebounds and four assists. He made 10 of 18 field goal attempts, including one of three shots from the 3-point line. He also knocked down seven of eight free throws.
Whitman dismantled Pacific the next night with eight players scoring anywhere from five to 15 points. Eisenhardt chipped in with eight points, five rebounds and three assists. For the weekend, he averaged 18 points, 5.5 points and 3.5 assists while shooting 50 percent (14-28 fg) from the floor.
For this efforts that weekend, Eisenehardt was named NWC Player of the Week.
Michaels returned to the line-up the next week and ripped through the conference on one of the most memorable five-game streaks in program history.
In his next five games, four of them against playoff contenders, he averaged 29 points and six rebounds while making 70 percent of his shots from the floor (42-60 fg), including 68.4 percent of his shots from beyond the arc (13-19 3pt). He also made 82.1 percent (46-56 ft) from the free throw line.
Michaels burned George Fox in one of those games for a career-high 40 points, making 14 of 17 shots from the floor (5-7 3pt), while collecting a career-high seven steals along with six rebounds. He also had 31 and 30 points in two other games, and he had 20 points and seven rebounds as Whitman handed Whitworth its only conference loss of the season.
His super stretch of games earned Michaels a spot in late January on the national Team of the Week chosen by the D3hoops.com website.
Michaels ended his regular season with back-to-back double-doubles against Whitworth (24 points, 12 rebounds) and Willamette (20 points, 11 rebounds) to earn his fourth weekly NWC award.
Michaels, who played his prep ball at Valley High School in Las Vegas, added a final accomplishment in his regular season finale, becoming the 21st player in the history of Whitman basketball to score 1,000 career points. He also surpassed 500 career rebounds in that game.
Michaels, Eisenhardt and their teammates are in Tacoma, Wash., Thursday night for an NWC semifinal playoff game against Puget Sound. If the Missionaries win that game, they will play Saturday night for an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III national championship field.
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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; email@example.com