The clear favourite for the West Coast Conference Player of the Year title has been made official, with Saint Mary's senior Australian centre Jock Landale picking up the much-anticipated award.
In what is expected to be the first of may post-season awards for the 6'11 Victorian, he is just the seventh Gael in school history to earn the honour. It is also the same award previously accepted by fellow Australian and Saint Mary's alumni Matthew Dellavedova. Landale was joined by compatriot and team-mate Emmett Naar on the All-WCC First Team.
Landale has been a man-mountain throughout the 2017-18 season, leading the conference in points (21.5), rebounds (10.2), field-goal percentage (64.2), defensive rebounds (7.5) and double-doubles (17). He has been the primary focus on offense, and the centrepiece behind number 20 ranked Saint Mary’s tying their school record for most league wins in a single season(27-4, 16-2 WCC) while setting a new school record for winning 19 straight games.
The Melburnian is in the top-20 among Division I national leaders in scoring (19th), field goal percentage (8th), rebounding (18th) and double-doubles (9th/17). As one of the best centres in college basketball, Landale is the active leader in the NCAA for field-goals made (262) and in the Ken Pomeroy Player of the Year rankings ahead of Trae Young. He is also a finalist for the John Wooden, Citizen Naismith Trophy, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar awards such has his dominance been this season. Of all the award shortlists, Landale is the only true centre, joining two other quality big men in Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Texas star Mohamed Bamba -- both whom are projected to be NBA Draft lottery selections.
Landale has gone about compiling one of the best seasons delivered by an Australian in college basketball, exceeding the efforts of Cameron Bairstow's senior year at New Mexico, and comparing favourably with Andrew Bogut's sophomore year with Utah -- both went on to be drafted to the NBA.
As a traditional centre, some argue that Landale’s game is unlikely to translate to the modern NBA, yet the Melburnian is the best post player in college basketball right now–and he can shoot the three-ball, it's just that the Saint Mary’s offensive structure rarely allows him to do so. On the right team and in the right situation, there is a place for Landale in the NBA. But right now, Landale is on track to deliver what could be argued, the best season by any Australian in college basketball ever.
Emmett Naar has been quietly going about his business in running one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball in the shadows of Landale's presence. However the senior point guard's performances and influence on Saint Mary's success should not be underestimated.
The floor general has been a model of consistency and efficiency for the Gaels, averaging 10.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game while shooting at 49% from the field. Naar received the second All-WCC First Team honour of his career. The New South Welshman led the conference in assists per game (8.1) and is currently second in the country in total assists (252), just behind Trae Young. The on court leader registered 10 double-digit assists games this season and is now second in all-time assists in WCC history behind San Francisco legend Orlando Smart (904). He also eclipsed Matthew Dellavedova's school record for assists, no mean feat given that Dellavedova was a starter throughout all four years in his time at Saint Mary's.
While both Landale and Naar picked up much-deserved conference recognition, their focus will be solely placed on the WCC Tournament in which they enter as the number two seeds, with a victory securing a guaranteed ticket to the NCAA Tournament and a chance to go dancing for one last time as a Gael.