The 2015/16 NCAA Division I season was powered by the Aussie big men, led by the projected 2016 number one NBA Draft pick Ben Simmons.
Lafayette’s Dan Trist was anointed Australian Player of the Year last season, who is now making his mark as a professional for Oviedo in Spain. My pre-season predictions had Ben Simmons earning the same accolade this season. By the half-way mark of the year, Simmons remained the benchmark as the best performed Aussie to that point.
Now I take the plunge and hand out my season-ending All-Australian awards to close out the 2015/16 season, a year that will be remembered as the one and only NCAA season played by Simmons.
Bonus: Each player’s season stats are all listed for you in the one spot (scroll down)!
Player of the Year
Ben SIMMONS | LSU
Ben Simmons put together one of the best individual seasons by an Australian player in Division I hoops, and he did it as a freshman.
Simmons led all freshman with 11.8 rebounds per game and was third in scoring at 19.2 points per outing. He also ranked 5th nationally among all players with 23 double-doubles and shot an impressive 56% from the field. He was the first Southeastern Conference player since assists became an official NCAA stat in 1969 to finish in the top five in points, rebounds and assists (4.8).
The 6’10 Simmons was simply dominant. He led all major conference players and all freshman with 23 double-doubles, while also posting 6 of the SEC’s eight 20-10-5 games this season. The highlight was when Simmons broke out for 43 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals and 3 blocks in a 119-108 win over North Florida. His 43 point outburst was the most for a Tigers player since Shaquille O’Neal did the same in 1991.
The list of awards and recognition that Simmons has garnered is exhaustive:
- 2015-16 Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Year (USBWA)
- 2015-16 Sporting News National Freshman of the Year
- 2015-16 USA Today National Freshman of the Year
- 2015-16 SEC Freshman of the Year
- 2015-16 First Team All-SEC
- 2015-16 All-SEC Freshman Team
- First Team USBWA All-American
- Second Team All-American by ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News
- Third Team All-American by USA Today
- 2015 Australia Institute of Sport Emerging Athlete of the Year
- Julius Erving Award Finalist
- Oscar Robertson Trophy Finalist
- Naismith Trophy Midseason Finalist
- AAU Sullivan Award Semifinalist
- Three-time SEC Freshman of the Week
- One-time SEC Player of the Week
Simmons is the fourth LSU player to win Freshman of the Year honor since the award was started in 2001, with the other three being Brandon Bass (2004), Glen Davis (2005) and Tyrus Thomas (20o6). The Australian forward is also first LSU player since O’Neal in 1992 to be named a first-team USBWA All-America.
In March, Simmons declared for the 2016 NBA draft and in doing so gave up his final three years of college eligibility. After withdrawing from school, Simmons commenced preparing for the draft in Phoenix, Arizona, and is set to sign with American sports agency Klutch Sports.
There is no doubt that Simmons was the best Australian player this past season. And if you listen to Magic Johnson, Simmons is the best all-round prospect since LeBron James.
Most Improved Player
Matt DONLAN | Youngstown State
Who expected Matt Donlan to be this good this season? Certainly not me, and especially not since playing just 2.3 minutes per game for 0.3 points in 7 games in the 2013/14 season with South Dakota State before transferring. He edged out Felix Von Hofe (Eastern Washington) and Mike Rowley (Albany) and for the Most improved Player award.
— Jamie Hall (@JayMe_Hall) April 7, 2016
Donlan shot the lights out for Youngstown State in what was an otherwise difficult season for a side that finished with a 11-21 overall record, and just 6-12 in the Horizon League. However Donlan’s star burst through, with the 6’7 swingman shooting a scintillating 46.3% from the three-point line, setting the school record and good for 4th best in the nation. In averaging 13.1 points per game, he also connected on 84% from the charity stripe and made 46.3% from the field inside the arc, with 4.5 rebounds per game thrown in.
The sharpshooter from Melbourne scored in double figures 24 times, made a three-pointer in 30 of 32 games, and landed multiple treys in 22 games. He connected on 6/10 for 22 points in a loss to Detroit, and posted a career-high 25 points (4/7 3PT) in a win against Green Bay. His ability to shoot from range made him a very dangerous player for the Penguins this past season.
With one more year of college eligibility remaining, it will be interesting to see how Donlan can further build upon the success he has enjoyed next season.
Defensive Player of the Year
Venky JOIS | Eastern Washington
Venky Jois of Eastern Washington three-peats as The Pick and Roll Defensive Player of the Year.
There is very little that Jois cannot do on a basketball court, with the dynamic forward able to positively contribute at both ends of the court. Jois averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 blocks, nearly identical to his production as a junior. He led the Big Sky Conference and ranked second across the nation in field goal percentage (67.9%), and was also 5th in the Big Sky in rebounding (8.7), second in blocked shots (1.75) and 10th in scoring (16.4). Throw in 1 steal per game and Jois really did have a great season despite battling an illness early on.
Jois earns this award for his play at the defensive end, with his ability to change and block shots unquestioned. To highlight his on-court success over the past 4 years, Jois has pulled down 1,015 rebounds (3rd in school, 5th in conference history) and racked up 240 blocked shots (school record, 2nd in conference history). He also departs to the Eagles as the school’s career leader in blocked shots per game (2.0).
There is no doubting that Jois was the driving force behind Eastern Washington’s rise to relevance in the Big Sky. With such a well-rounded game, his only weakness is his ability to hit shots from outside. If he can add this to his repertoire, then he really will be a complete player as he looks to embark on his professional career.
Freshman Player of the Year
Ben Simmons | LSU
When your Player of the Year also happens to be a first year player, it was impossible to look past Simmons for this award!
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) April 12, 2016
Simmons received the 2016 Wayman Tisdale Award as the consensus best freshman player across the nation as presented by the United States Basketball Writers Association. The only other LSU recipient of this award was Chris Jackson (aka Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), while other previous winners of the award include Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd and Chris Webber.
Guard | Emmett NAAR | Saint Mary’s
Guard | Matt DONLAN | Youngstown State
Forward | Ben SIMMONS| LSU
Forward | Venky JOIS| Eastern Washington
Forward | Majok DENG | Louisiana Monroe
Australia’s representation in D1 hoops this season was led by the big men. Ben Simmons is the undisputed Player of the Year, yet there was a log-jam of forwards behind him jostling for a place in the first team. Majok Deng (18.6ppg & 7rpg)) and Venky Jois (16.7ppg & 8.9rpg) edged out the unlucky Xavier Cooks who was first one out. However Felix Von Hofe, Dane Pineau, Nick Duncan and George Blagojevic all had great years as well and should be acknowledged.
Emmett Naar was clearly the best point guard this year, while Matt Donlan’s emergence saw him edge out graduates Anthony Drmic – who battled niggling injury – and Peter Hooley. Both Drmic and Hooley’s numbers were down on previous seasons, while Donlan proved to be the deadliest shooer, connecting on a super-impressive 46.3% from downtown while posting 13.1 points per game. Naar also shot the three-ball exceptionally well (44.5%) on his way to 14.3 points per game, yet also dishing out an Aussie-best 6.3 dimes per contest.
Guard | Peter HOOLEY | Albany
Guard | Anthony DRMIC | Boise State
Forward | Felix VON HOFE | Eastern Washington
Forward | Xavier COOKS | Winthrop
Forward| Dane PINEAU | Saint Mary’s
The unluckiest player to miss the second team is Boise State’s Nick Duncan. Cooks was inserted into the team alongside Hooley and Drmic, while Saint Mary’s big man Dane Pineau earned his place thanks to his efficient post play in which he scored 11.2 points at 65.6% from the field to go with 8.1 rebounds per game. The final place came down to Von Hofe, Duncan and Blagojevic.
Von Hofe and Duncan were arguably more consistent than Blagojevic, while Von Hofe’s shooting clip, especially from beyond the arc, was far superior to Duncan’s (41.1% to 35.0%). Von Hofe also had the edge with 12.7 points per game in which he drained 95 triples for the season – ranked 28th across all the nation.
Blagojevic only just missed the second team, providing 9.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game for Hartford. Center Liam Thomas (8.8ppg & 5.2rpg) led all the Aussies with 2.5 blocks per game, while fellow pivot Jock Landale was a model of efficiency in coming off the bench for Saint Mary’s. Landale was good for 8 points on 60.8% shooting in just 14.8 minutes per game. Louisville junior forward Mangok Mathiang’s (6.5ppg & 5.2rpg) season was cut short due to injury, and Albany’s Mike Rowley was good for 8.1 points and 6.4 rebounds pr game.
Do you agree with Damian’s selections? We would love your feedback so please share a comment.
Listen to Damian walk through his award winners and team selections on a special edition of The Pick and Pop podcast!
2015/16 Season Stats
|8||Felix VON HOFE||EWU||32.4||12.7||43.3%||41.1%||76.9%||3.4|
|39||Kye DE LAVEAGA||NAU||8.5||1.6||22.2%||23.5%||85.7%||0.5|