Kerusch, Pettigrew named to Sun Belt first team; Brown, McNear honored on women’s side

Kerusch, Pettigrew named to Sun Belt first team; Brown, McNear honored on women's side

The Toppers stressed in the preseason that they weren’t concerned with any awards that were handed out before the season started.

But now that the regular season is over, they’ve earned some prestigious hardware.

Senior forwards Sergio Kerusch and Steffphon Pettigrew have been named to the All-Sun Belt Conference First Team, the league announced Thursday.

“Any time you have guys that are respected around the league and receive certain accolades, it says a lot about them, and it says a lot about their teammates,” Head Coach Ken McDonald said. “I’m happy for that and excited for them.”

Kerusch was tabbed as the league’s Preseason Player of the Year last October, but the postseason award was given to Arkansas-Little Rock senior guard Soloman Bozeman on Thursday.

Bozeman was one of the other members of the conference’s first team, along with Florida Atlantic’s Raymond Taylor and North Texas’ Tristan Thompson.

FAU’s Mike Jarvis was named Coach of the Year.

No other players from WKU were named to the second or third teams, with the most glaring absence being senior forward Juan Pattillo.

Pattillo averaged 12.4 points and 8.6 rebounds in his one year as a Topper.

“I hope he uses this as motivation come tournament time,” McDonald said. “He probably doesn’t get enough credit for being the defender that he is. From a production standpoint, he had a lot of double-doubles. Hopefully he uses this and goes on a tear come tournament time.”

Kerusch led WKU in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 16.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. Pettigrew averaged 16.1 points and 6.6 rebounds.

McDonald said he was disappointed that neither was named Player of the Year, but Pettigrew said he’d rather focus on the upcoming tournament instead of awards.

WKU plays Louisiana-Monroe in the first round of the Sun Belt tournament at 6:45 p.m. Saturday in Hot Springs, Ark.

“It’s a great honor for me and (Kerusch),” Pettigrew said. “It shows how hard we worked this year. I’m glad to hear it, but you can’t let this carry on going into the Sun Belt. Sometimes people see this, and it gets to them a little bit.

“We’ve got to just look at it and hopefully look at it after we win the Sun Belt.”

McNear, Brown selected

This season may not be what the Lady Toppers had in mind, but seniors Arnika Brown and Amy McNear still found the spotlight.

Brown was named to the women’s All-Sun Belt Conference First Team on Thursday, and McNear was named to the third team.

It was Brown’s third straight year being named to the first team and McNear’s second all-conference selection.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said the awards are testaments to the hard work that Brown and McNear have put in throughout their entire careers at WKU.

“It’s a great honor for two individuals who I think are well deserved,” Cowles said. “I’m very, very proud of both of them. It’s a nice honor for our program.”

Brown and McNear’s selections mark the ninth straight year that two Lady Toppers have been selected to the all-conference teams.

Brown said it felt good to get recognition, but personal awards don’t mean a whole lot to her.

“I haven’t really thought much about it, honestly,” she said. “My mindset is really on the tournament coming up.”

The Lady Toppers play North Texas at noon on Saturday in the first round of the Sun Belt tournament.

McNear also shrugged off her personal achievements, saying what happens down the road is more important.

“It feels good. I’m proud of myself,” she said. “But I’m not really concerned about my efforts. This is a team thing right now.”

While Brown and McNear appear indifferent about their awards, Cowles said she has reason to believe that these may not be the last awards the two earn.

“Who knows? We could see their basketball careers continue after this,” she said.

UALR senior forward Chastity Reed received the women’s Player of the Year award. Joe Foley from UALR was named Coach of the Year.