DENVER – Fresh off a history-making run through Western Athletic Conference (WAC) regular season play, the rv/— NM State men’s basketball team found itself on the receiving end of a multitude of honors as the league announced its major award winners and All-Conference Teams Tuesday morning.
For the third-straight season, Chris Jans took home the title of Don Haskins Coach of the Year while senior forward Ivan Aurrecoechea and sophomore guard Jabari Rice earned spots on the All-WAC First Team. Senior guard Trevelin Queen was placed on the All-WAC Second Team and appearing on the WAC’s All-Defensive Team was senior guard Terrell Brown. Finally, junior guard Evan Gilyard II played his way onto the WAC’s All-Newcomer Team.
Chris Jans | Don Haskins Coach of the Year
With injuries threatening to derail the Aggies’ season before it got started, Jans made sure to get the most out of his healthy personal and, as a result, went on to make WAC history. In his third season in charge in Las Cruces, Jans has directed the Aggies to 19 consecutive wins since Dec. 18, 2019 – the second-longest active winning streak in the nation and the third-longest in program history. With a win over California Baptist last Thursday night, NM State became the first team in WAC history to go a perfect 16-0 in league play. Jans is now just the third coach in the history of the league to be named the Don Haskins Coach of the Year for three consecutive seasons, joining Mark Fox (Nevada, 2005-07) and Stew Morrill (Utah State, 2009-11).
For his part, Jans is now the third head coach in the history of the league – joining Billy Tubbs (TCU in 1997-98) and Rick Majerus (Utah in 1998-99) to post a perfect run in regular season WAC play. With an 84-82 victory over Utah Valley on Feb. 15, Jans reached the 100-win mark for his NCAA Division I head coaching career. Needing just 129 games to get to that mark, Jans is the 27th-fastest head coach in the history of NCAA Division I men’s basketball to reach 100 wins. Currently, NM State has won 31-straight WAC regular season games (a league record) and 34 consecutive games against WAC foes which is the longest active streak of wins against conference opponents in the nation. Thanks to last Thursday night’s win, NM State hit the 25-win mark for the third-straight season. That made Jans one of just six active NCAA Division I head coaches who have won 25+ games in each of their first three seasons at an institution.
Ivan Aurrecoechea | All-WAC First Team
One of the anchors of the Aggies’ defense, Aurrecoechea proved he could score with the best of them in order to become one of the best bigs in the league through his final season in an Aggie uniform. Putting in 11.4 points and grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game, the Madrid, Spain, native ranked as the team’s third-leading scorer in the regular season, but it was in WAC play where he moved to he forefront of the Aggies’ game plan.
After Queen went down with a knee injury in mid-January, Aurrecoechea helped shoulder the load for the Aggies with Queen’s absence. Through the five-game stretch without Queen, Aurrecoechea matched his career-high by putting in 23 points on two occasions – to help his team remain unbeaten in league action. In WAC play he averaged 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and came up with each of his three 20+ point outings. Aurrecoechea led the league in field goal percentage (.579) and ranked among the top five in the WAC in terms of offensive rebounding (2.0 per game, fifth).
Jabari Rice | All-WAC First Team
Rice produced one of the best transitions from a freshman to sophomore season of any player in the nation. After netting just 3.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game as a redshirt freshman one season ago, the Houston, Texas, product turned into one of the Aggies’ stars in his second season of competition. This year Rice started 19 of the 30 games he played in and averaged 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game through NM State’s regular season schedule.
In WAC action, Rice put forth splendid shooting splits of .438/.400/.852 en route to 12.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. During an eight-game stretch that spanned from Jan. 30 through Feb. 27, the guard put in at least 10 or more points. That run included three of his five performances of 20 or points and was highlighted with a banked-in three-pointer with 0.6 seconds to go that lifted NM State to a wild 84-82 win over Utah Valley on Feb. 15. That triple pushed his point total to 29 – a career high.
Trevelin Queen | All-WAC Second Team
Though he was limited to just 11 of his team’s 16 WAC games due to a torn lateral meniscus suffered in mid-January, Queen was unquestionably one of the league’s best players on both side of the ball when healthy. After bursting onto the scene in last year’s WAC Tournament, Queen became a larger focal point of the Aggies’ lineup in this, his final seasons in a NM State uniform.
Through the regular season, the Glen Burnie, Md., product served as his team’s leading scorer, putting in points at a clip of 13.2 per game. Defensively, his 1.7 steals per game represented the second-highest average in the WAC and helped NM State embark on a 19-game winning streak beginning in the middle of December. Despite playing in just 11 WAC games, Queen still managed to lead his squad in steals (17) through league action while pumping in 11.5 points per game on .524/.447/.850 shooting splits.
Terrell Brown | WAC All-Defensive Team
A linchpin of one of the nation’s best scoring defenses, Brown played in 27 of the Aggies’ 31 games during his final campaign in NM State colors while averaging 25.9 minutes per game – the third-highest average on the team. Making sure to put his fingerprints on the game on more ways than just his three-point shooting – a mark that stood at a team-best 48.6-percent (34-of-70) in league action – Brown locked up more than his fair share of opposing guards through regular season action.
Thanks to Brown’s efforts, the Aggies currently rank fifth in the nation in scoring defense (59.7 opponent points per game) and seventh in the land in rebounding margin (+8.0). Through WAC play, opponents managed to eclipse the 70-point mark just three times this season.
Evan Gilyard II | WAC All-Newcomer
Ever since he became eligible to play on the morning of Dec. 18, 2019, Gilyard II has not experienced a loss in a NM State uniform. In his inaugural season in Las Cruces, N.M., after playing his first two seasons at C-USA program UTEP, Gilyard II shored up the Aggies’ backcourt after injuries to AJ Harris and Clayton Henry.
NM State’s leader in assists per game (2.8), Gilyard averaged 7.5 points and 1.9 rebounds as well through the 19 regular season games he was eligible for. One of six players on the Aggies’ roster who played in all 16 regular season WAC contests, Gilyard II shot .368/.364/.706 in league action and his 46 assists in WAC games were the most by any Aggie. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.86 represents the best in three seasons as a college basketball player.
Tuesday afternoon, the rv/— Aggies set out on a journey to Las Vegas, Nev., where they will begin their quest for a fourth-consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. NM State owns the top seed for the 2020 WAC Tournament and Thursday at 1:00 p.m. MT it will tangle with eighth-seeded Chicago State in the first quarterfinal game of the tournament. ESPN+ and the ESPN app will carry the clash between the Aggies and Cougars.