FRANKFORT, Ky. – Six University of Rio Grande basketball players were among those honored by the Mid-South Conference at the league’s annual awards banquet prior to the start of the MSC Tournament, last weekend, during ceremonies at the Kentucky Historical Center.
On the men’s side, senior forward Shaun Gunnell (Columbus, OH) and sophomore guard Jermaine Warmack (Orange, NJ) were both named as second team All-MSC selections and freshman guard Evan Legg (Piketon, OH) was named as the league’s Freshman of the Year.
Senior guard Kaylee Helton (Lucasville, OH) and junior guard Shardae Morrison-Fountain (Columbus, OH) were named to the women’s All-MSC second team, while junior guard Iliana Gonzalez (Arecibo, P.R.) was among those selected to the All-MSC Academic Team.
All-conference awards were determined through balloting of the league’s coaches, while the academic awards were given to those with a sophomore, junior or senior standing and a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.25 on a 4.0 scale.
“We were very team-oriented. We didn’t have a star,” said Rio Grande men’s head coach Ken French. “I was really impressed with how our guys reacted to the announcement – they were genuinely happy for one another. When Evan got introduced as Freshman of the Year, our guys gave him a standing ovation. There were people in the room who didn’t even give the Player of the Year a standing ovation. That, to me, was important.”
Gunnell finished second on the team in both scoring (13.25 ppg) and rebounding (7.34 rpg). His rebounding average was sixth among the league leaders.
He also ranked second in the MSC and 11th in NAIA Division I with 3.56 offensive rebounds per game and was tied for sixth in the conference with seven “double-double” performances”.
Gunnell, who set a single-game career-high by scoring 23 points in a win over Algoma (Canada) and a loss at UVA-Wise, would’ve ranked fourth in the league in overall field goal percentage (.530), but missed by two field goals of meeting the minimum of five field goals made per game to make the league leaders list.
Warmack was the third leading scorer for the RedStorm, averaging 10.9 points per contest. He also led the team in steals (2.1 spg) and ranked second in both assists (2.5 apg) and three-point field goal percentage (.368).
Warmack’s assist average was the league’s fourth-best total and tied for eighth among the MSC’s leaders in 3-Pt. FG Pct.
Legg averaged 4.3 points per game for Rio, a figure that was tops among all freshmen in the league. He scored a career-high 20 points in a season-opening win over Ohio University-Chillicothe and his 11 points – all in the first half – played a pivotal role in the RedStorm’s win over rival Shawnee State in the opening game of the MSC Tournament.
Legg appeared in all 32 of the team’s games and led the squad in three-point percentage (.387). He averaged 13.4 minutes of playing time per contest.
“We’re on the right track, we’re doing the right things, we have the right kids in our program,” French said. “Other than some Scholar Athlete awards, this is the first recognition we’ve had since we joined the league. I’m very, very proud of each of them.”
Helton led the URG women’s team in scoring at 15.6 points per game, while ranking second in assists (1.9 apg), steals (1.9 spg) and rebounds (4.9 rpg). She also surpassed the 1,500-point mark for her career in the team’s regular season finale and became just the ninth women’s play in school history to score 1,500 points and pull down 500 rebounds in a career.
She also topped the team in free throw shooting percentage (.854), ranking sixth in NAIA Division I in the same category.
Morrison-Fountain played well after gaining her eligibility at the semester break, finishing second on the team in scoring at 15.2 ppg. Her 32 points in the regular season finale against Shawnee State – 28 of which came in the first half – represented a single-game high for any Rio player this season.
She led the team in assists (2.8 apg), steals (2.1 spg) and three-point field goal percentage (.395). Her three-point percentage would’ve easily led the MSC, but she failed to meet the league’s minimum of playing in 75 percent of the team’s games to qualify.
Gonzalez, a Sports & Exercise Studies major, sports a 3.60 GPA. She appeared in 28 games, including four starts, and averaged 1.9 points per outing. She also had the team’s single-game high of eight assists in a win over Miami-Middletown on November 26.
“This league has so much talent in it that it’s nice anytime you pick up any kind of awards,” said Rio Grande women’s head coach David Smalley. “Fortunately, they added a second team this season and we were to get a couple of our kids recognized. I think in the three years we’ve been in the league that Kaylee has proven that she was legitimate enough that she could’ve been on the first team. Nik-Nik (Morrison-Fountain) was a big help to us once we finally got her eligibility issue taken care of and Iliana is getting it done in the classroom. They’re all very deserving.”
The Rio Grande men’s team finished 14-18 after suffering a 51-48 loss to top-seeded – and No. 9 ranked – Lindsey Wilson in the MSC quarterfinals, while the women’s team closed their campaign at 17-14 after falling to second-seeded – and No. 7 ranked – Shawnee State in the quarterfinal round of the conference tourney.