WICHITA, Kan. – Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet was named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year for the second time, and teammate Markis McDuffie was tabbed MVC Freshman of the Year, the league announced Tuesday afternoon.
VanVleet is just the ninth player in MVC history to win multiple Larry Bird Trophies, joining an elite group of players that also includes Bird, himself. Xavier McDaniel is the only other Shocker to do it (1984 & ’85).
Now a three-time All-Valley first team selection, VanVleet previously won Bird Trophy as a sophomore when he led WSU to college basketball’s first-ever 35-0 start on his way to third team All-America honors.
This year, a preseason hamstring injury hobbled and eventually sidelined him through the end of November, but as his health has improved, VanVleet’s performance has trended steadily upward.
VanVleet’s signature efficiency continues. His 3.53 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks high among the national leaders for the third year-in-a-row, and he’s climbed all the way to fifth on the MVC’s all-time assists chart (617). He leads the league in assists (5.8) and free throw percentage (.821) and ranks second in three-point accuracy (.424) and third in steals (1.7).
Earlier Tuesday, VanVleet was also named to the MVC’s All-Defensive Team for the third time. With an MVC Tournament title this weekend, VanVleet (117 career wins) would match Tekele Cotton’s conference record.
McDuffie’s selection as Freshman of the Year ends a long WSU drought. He’s the first Shocker since Randy Burns (2002) and the fourth overall to win the award, joining Jason Perez (1997) and Joe Griffin (1987). The league began honoring its top freshman in 1986.
That’s good company. Perez (1,839 career points) and Burns (1,599) rank sixth and eighth respectively on WSU’s all-time scoring list.
The 6-8, McDuffie is by far the league’s youngest freshman (just shy of 18 years, 6 months) but is already one of its most athletic players.
During the regular season, McDuffie averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game off the bench. On defense, he tag-teamed with sophomore Zach Brown on tough defensive assignments against some of the league’s premier scorers.
Statistics guru Ken Pomeroy ranks McDuffie as the MVC’s fourth-most efficient offensive player (among those utilized on at least 20-percent of possessions), trailing only MVC first teamers VanVleet, Baker and Egidijus Mockevicius.
The MVC hands out additional accolades over the next two days. All-Bench and Most Improved Teams are due out Wednesday with Scholar-Athlete and Coach of the Year honors to follow on Thursday.