KZ Okpala honored with Hank Luisetti MVP Award at Stanford men’s basketball banquet

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By: Ana Kieu

KZ Okpala captured the Hank Luisetti Most Valuable Player Award, as the Stanford Cardinal men’s basketball team celebrated the 2018-19 season at its awards banquet at Bing Concert Hall Monday.

The Cardinal highlighted the accomplishments of Josh Sharma and recognized the overall achievements of a roster that featured 11 of 15 student-athletes in their first or second year. Anne & Tony Joseph Director of Men’s Basketball Jerod Haase thanked both Sharma and senior manager Ryan Cole for their outstanding efforts throughout their respective Cardinal careers. Haase also expressed his enthusiasm for a promising future with an experienced roster back on The Farm for 2019-20.

Okpala, a First Team All-Pac-12 selection, First Team USBWA All-District pick and a Second Team NABC All-District selection this past season, took home the Hank Luisetti MVP Award. He averaged a team-best 16.8 PPG to go along with 5.7 RPG and a SPG. He finished fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring with the second-most 20-point games (15) in the conference. He also ranked 16th in the conference in rebounding and 12th in defensive rebounding (4.5 DRPG). During the Pac-12 regular season, he finished fifth in the conference in scoring (17.5 PPG).

Sharma and Oscar da Silva were each the recipient of the Howie Dallmar Coach’s Award.

Sharma was recognized following a standout senior season on The Farm. He was a candidate for the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player Award and established a school record for field goal percentage in a season. His mark of .673 was not only a program record, it was the eighth-best field goal percentage in a season in Pac-12 history. He completed his standout career eighth on Stanford’s field goal percentage list, shooting .563 for his career. He was an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection, after finishing the year as the conference’s field goal percentage leader and ranking in the top-10 in the league in offensive rebounds (3rd, 2.6 ORPG), blocks (7th, 1.4 BPG) and rebounds (9th, 7.1 RPG). He averaged 11.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG during Pac-12 play, posting double-doubles in five of his final seven games. He averaged 14.7 PPG and 11.1 RPG over those final seven contests. He was selected to play in the NABC College All-Star Game at the Final Four, which featured the top seniors in the nation.

da Silva was recognized for the second consecutive season. He was the lone Cardinal to start all 31 games. He averaged 9.5 PPG and 6.0 RPG. He averaged 28.3 MPG and finished second on the team in blocks with 40 on the season. He finished the season ranked eighth in the Pac-12 in blocks (1.3 BPG) and 13th in rebounding. He registered four 20-point games on the year, posting a career-best 23 points against both San Jose State and Oregon State. He recorded three double-doubles for the season.

Rodney Herenton was the recipient of the Peter Sauer Most Inspirational Award. Named in honor of the late Peter Sauer, who was the inspirational leader and captain of the 1998 Final Four Team, the award recognizes an individual who embodies the same qualities as Sauer did — enthusiasm, leadership and courage, which serves as an inspiration to the team. He has been a constant voice of encouragement and inspiration as a true representative of the Invested, Tough and Selfless pillars. He played in six games, highlighted by four points in four minutes of action in the win over Washington State in February. He has represented the program globally, earning a selection to the prestigious Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic Engagement Program. He traveled to India, where he served as a mentor and teacher for English, math and athletics to children. Commanding the utmost respect of his teammates, he has exemplified the exceptional character and charisma that helps define the Peter Sauer Most Inspirational Award.

Bryce Wills captured the Roy Young Toughness Award, recognizing the individual who was a leader in floor burns for the season. Originally created at Kansas in honor of Haase, the floor burns stat was adopted by Stanford when Haase was hired as head coach. Floor burns recognizes individuals for diving for loose balls, taking charges and making the extra effort to help their team win. He collected 48 floor burns and was recognized for giving the extra effort on both ends of the floor, highlighted by scoring performances down the stretch to win games and blocks on the defensive end to help seal victories. He became a regular starter as a freshman. He averaged 7.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 2.2 APG from the guard spot, scoring in double figures in seven Pac-12 games. He also recorded multiple steals in five games, including four in the win over Middle Tennessee in the Battle 4 Atlantis. He scored four of his 11 points in the final 14 seconds, including the go-ahead basket in the 79-76 come-from-behind win over USC in February.

The banquet concluded with speeches by Sharma and Cole, who both shared their gratitude to everyone involved in the team.

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