When asked about the leading candidates for Pacific-10 Conference player of the year Tuesday, UCLA coach Ben Howland tossed out a new name: Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
“I would say that Isaiah Thomas and Bryan-Amaning are both candidates from Washington, and Derrick Williams from Arizona,” Howland said. “So, it will be one of those three guys ... if I had to vote at the midpoint.”
Almost every coach this season has portrayed the honor as a three-player race. The players had inevitably been Thomas, Williams and Washington State guard Klay Thompson.
However, Howland is one of several coaches who generally casts his vote for the best player on the best team.
“(Thompson) is having a great year,” Howland said. “Typically, when I vote for player of the year I almost always vote for the team that’s in first place. And there’s two teams tied there right now at 7-2.”
Those teams are UW and Arizona, while Thompson’s Cougars are 5-4.
With Howland’s suggestion that two Huskies are under consideration, UW coach/diplomat Lorenzo Romar was asked if he has any doubt about the most valuable player on his team.
“I could name you actually several guys on our team that, if you take them away from the games that we’ve played, then our record would be different,” he said. “Now, who brings the most value? Obviously, (Thomas and Bryan-Amaning) have been players of the week. They’ve had double-doubles. Justin Holiday has had double-doubles. I think we certainly have some guys on our team who can make a case for themselves.”
Thomas, a junior guard from Tacoma, leads the Huskies in scoring (17.1 ppg) and assists (5.8 apg).
Bryan-Amaning, a senior forward from England, leads in rebounds (7.9 rpg) and blocks (1.5 bpg) and is second in scoring (15.7 ppg).
“It’s nice to get some recognition, obviously, from the coaches in the league,” Bryan-Amaning said. “They go up against us and know us individually, more so than anybody else, I guess.”
Thomas admits he would like to win the award. But he had no problem with the recognition for his teammate.
“That is good,” Thomas said. “He’s on my team, so I’m happy with that. But it’s the midpoint. There’s no awards, there are no championships given on January 30th. We’ve got a long way to go.”
RUSHING THE COURT
Washington State coach Ken Bone had placed an open letter in the student newspaper before the Washington game asking Cougars fans to keep it classy.
He was asked Tuesday if they did.
“They did give us a lot of energy,” he said. “It was a great crowd. The thing about Pullman is when we have 10,000-11,000 people in the stands, most of that is students, so it does get very loud in there. ... (But) there were other things that were on my mind, and it wasn’t ‘Hey, I wonder what they’re cheering about?’ So, I’m not sure if they crossed the line or not.”
The Huskies didn’t voice any complaints with the fans ... until they rushed the court after the Cougars’ 87-80 win.
“I feel like it’s early,” junior Darnell Gant said. “That game doesn’t mean that you’re going to the NCAA tournament. I felt like it was just a rivalry game. Maybe if you flap your jersey or whatever, that’s OK, that’s doable. But to do all that, I had a personal problem with that.”
UW freshman guard C.J. Wilcox, who missed the WSU game after suffering a concussion, is expected to return to practice and to be available Thursday at Oregon State. ... After conflicting reports, UW has confirmed that the OSU game will be shown live at 6 p.m. Thursday on FSN.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports