March 4, 2013
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. – Coming of the most successful regular season in 28 years, the Army men’s basketball program was rewarded with a slew of Patriot League awards Monday morning. In a vote of the league’s head coaches, Zach Spiker was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year, while Kyle Wilson was the unanimous choice as the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. In addition, senior Ella Ellis was a unanimous first-team All-Patriot League choice, while Wilson and Kyle Toth were both named to the conference’s all-rookie team.
Since playing its first season in a conference in 1980, Spiker is just the third Army coach to capture a conference coach of the year honor (Les Wothke, MAAC, 1985; Pat Harris, Patriot League, 2002). Using a starting lineup that consisted of at least two freshmen in all 29 games and three rookies in the last 23 outings, Spiker guided the Black Knights to its best regular season in 28 years with a 15-14 record. Army won a program record eight Patriot League games, and enters the postseason as the No. 4 seed which matches its highest finish since the conference’s formation in 1990-91. A win in the Patriot League quarterfinals would clinch the Black Knights’ first winning season since 1984-85.
The Black Knights reached program milestones with five straight Patriot League victories and four consecutive Patriot League road victories. Spiker became the first Army coach since Mike Krzyzewski to win back-to-back “Star” games versus arch-rival Navy, and scored the program’s first Star game victory in Annapolis since 1992. Spiker also presided over the Army’s first regular-season sweeps of American and Holy Cross. He is one of only four Army coaches to win at least 50 games (52) in their first four seasons. Other members of that club include George Hunter, Bob Knight and Krzyzewski.
Wilson is the sixth Black Knight to capture their conference’s top rookie honor. The Mission Viejo, Calif., native is Army’s third Patriot League Rookie of the Year and the first since Alex Morris in 1993. Wilson ranked ninth overall in the league and led the conference’s freshmen in scoring at 13.0 points per game. His 377 points are the third most by a plebe in Army history. Wilson also ranks among the Patriot League’s top 10 in field goal percentage (10th, .467) and three-point field goal percentage (5th, .422). He was named Patriot League Rookie of the Week five times, the most by an Army player since 1990-91.
Ellis enters his final postseason run as one of the most decorated and productive players in Army history. Also a first-team pick as a junior, Ellis is Army’s first two-time All-Patriot League First Team performer since Mark Lueking earned three certificates from 1994-96. The Houston native was the conference’s second-leading scorer overall at 18.0 points per game and in league play at 18.6 points per game. He finished the regular season ranked second in the conference with 2.4 three-pointers per contest and was among the league’s top 10 with a 41.1 percent accuracy rate from three-point range. His 69 triples rank ninth on the Black Knights’ single-season ledger, while his 521 points represent the 19th 500-point season in Academy history. Ellis is the sixth Black Knight to record multiple 500-point campaigns.
Ellis completed his final regular season ranked fifth in Army history with 1,558 points and fifth in the West Point annals with 190 three-pointers. He is the first Army player since 1985 to have multiple seasons with more than 400 points, 100 rebounds and 50 assists. An information technology major who will enter the Air Defense Artillery branch of the U.S. Army, Ellis finished the regular season with three 30-point games in the last four outings. He is the first Army player since Lueking in 1995-96 to post consecutive 30-point efforts.
Wilson was also a unanimous choice for the Patriot League All-Rookie Team. He was joined on the five-person squad by Toth who enters Wednesday’s tournament as the Black Knights’ fourth-leading scorer at 8.4 points per game. Toth has 52 three-pointers during his plebe season, the second-most ever by an Army rookie. He has started the last 23 games, scoring in double figures 10 times during that span. He ranked 12th overall and third among Patriot League rookies with a .382 three-point field goal percentage during the regular season and led all conference freshmen with 1.9 three-pointers made per contest.
The Black Knights’ two Patriot League All-Rookie selections mark only the third time in school history, and the first time since 1993, that Army has had multiple members of the squad. Army boasts four all-rookie team picks in the last three seasons.
Army hosts fifth-seeded American in the Patriot League quarterfinals Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The Black Knights took both regular season meetings against the Eagles for the first time in school history.