A disappointing final stretch of the Western Athletic Conference season for Hawaii couldn’t undo an all-conference year for center Vander Joaquim.
The 6-foot-10 junior from Luanda, Angola, became the first UH player in six years to earn All-WAC first-team recognition, per the league’s postseason awards announced on Sunday.
Joaquim was also named to the league’s all-defensive team. Senior guard Zane Johnson was named as an All-WAC honorable mention for the second straight year.
That was the extent of the awards for UH (15-15, 6-8 WAC), which tied for fifth place but opens up the WAC tournament in Las Vegas as the sixth seed against third-seeded Idaho (18-12, 9-5) on Thursday.
The announcement came the morning after the ‘Bows took their fifth straight loss, a stunning, last-second 61-60 defeat to Utah State on senior night. Associate head coach Benjy Taylor called Joaquim to relay the recognition.
"This award gives me more confidence," Joaquim said. "I think I just gotta keep working hard. We’ll try to take this (USU) loss as motivation."
Going into the tournament, his overall averages of 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and a .559 field-goal percentage lead UH.
"I’d like to thank my teammates," he said. "I just appreciate my teammates, and the coaches. They helped me. I didn’t get it without my teammates."
He was the league’s leader in points, rebounds, blocks and field-goal percentage in WAC games for a significant portion of the season, and was rewarded with the nod as the league’s best big man.
Nevada point guard Deonte Burton was named WAC Player of the Year for leading the Wolf Pack to the regular-season championship with a 13-1 record. Pack coach David Carter was named the Don Haskins Coach of the Year. Nevada forward Olek Czyz, New Mexico State forward Wendell McKines and Utah State guard Preston Medlin rounded out the first team.
Joaquim is the first ‘Bow to earn first-team honors since Julian Sensley in the 2005-06 season.
His stellar year and attention from the Angolan national team last summer had some wondering whether he’d elect to return to Manoa for his senior season.
No need to worry on that front.
"I’m going to try to get my degree," Joaquim said. "That’s very important to me. For my family. … Maybe two more semesters and I’m pretty much done."