There is no denying that Jacob Wiley took the league by storm.
After a league season to remember, the senior graduate transfer from Newport, Wash., was rewarded with Big Sky Conference Most Valuable Player honors as chosen by the league's head coaches, the conference office announced on Monday (March 6).
Wiley was a unanimous first team All-Big Sky selection after an 18-game league season in which he was tops in the Big Sky in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots. In addition, junior Bogdan Bliznyuk was selected to the All-Big Sky second team after earning the league's Freshman of the Year honor two seasons ago.
He is EWU's third player in 30 years in the Big Sky to earn MVP honors, joining Alvin Snow (2004) and Rodney Stuckey (2006). After graduating in 2012 from Newport High School, Wiley started his career at Montana and played two seasons at Lewis-Clark State before transferring for his senior season at EWU.
He enters this week's Big Sky Conference Tournament averaging 20.0 points per game overall to rank 38th in NCAA Division I and sixth in the Big Sky, and has made 63.9 percent of his shots to rank seventh in the nation and second in the league. He leads the league in rebounding (9.2) and blocked shots (2.8). In league-only statistics, he averaged 24.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots while making 65.9 percent of field goal attempts and 81.7 of his free throws. He also averaged 2.6 assists and 0.6 steals in 18 league games.
"We are very happy for Jake -- what a great honor and well-deserved," said Eastern head coach Jim Hayford. "He is a tremendous worker and very deserving of this recognition. As a staff this is our first conference MVP in the six years we've been a part of this program, and I am really proud of the work done by our assistant coaches with Jake. He was very committed to his improvement and our staff did a great job working with him."
Bliznyuk is from Lutsk, Ukraine, and graduated in 2014 from Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, Wash. He is averaging 26.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists in his last five games entering the Big Sky Conference Tournament.
He ranks in the top 10 in four different statistical categories in the league, ranking fifth in points (20.1 per game), eighth in rebounds (6.5), sixth in assists (4.0) and 10th in free throw percentage (.814). Southern Utah's Randy Onwuasor is the only other league player to rank in the top 10 in each of those four categories. Bliznyuk ranks 37th nationally in scoring and 165th in assists.
"We're also very happy that Bogdan received all-conference recognition on the second team," Hayford added. "Our conference does not have as many players on the first team as some other conferences, so to be among the top vote-getters on the second team is very good. In most conferences he would be on the first team."
Wiley's 20.0 scoring average is currently 10th in EWU single season history, and he is just the seventh Eagle to score 600 points in a single season (he is currently eighth with 620). Bliznyuk's scoring average (20.06) is currently ninth in EWU single season history, and recently he became the eighth Eagle to score 600 points in a single season (he is currently seventh with 622).
Wiley is also averaging 2.77 blocked shots (first in the league and eighth nationally), with a school-record total of 86 to break the previous record of 69 set by Venky Jois in 2015. He's also ranked third all-time in the league, just seven from second (93, Slim Millien, Idaho State, 2005-06) and nine from the record (95, Brian Qvale, Montana, 2010-11). Wiley has made 83.1 percent from the free throw line (eighth in the league and 105th nationally). In addition, he is averaging 9.2 rebounds on the season (first in the league and 40th nationally) and 2.3 assists per game.
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