By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- The Willamette University men's basketball team has received the Team Academic Excellence Award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) for the 2015-16 season. In addition, Bridger Harlington (Sr., W, Lake Tapps, WA/Auburn Riverside HS) and Hayden Russell (Jr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) have been named to the NABC Honors Court for their academic success.
In order to receive the Team Academic Excellent Award a 3.0 team cumulative grade point average was required on a 4.0 scale. Each team's GPA included all players who competed during the season. A total of 120 college teams from all three NCAA divisions and both NAIA divisions qualified for the award. Willamette was one of four Northwest Conference teams to earn recognition.
"This is a tremendous accomplishment for our team to receive," Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane said. "We recruit our players expecting greatness on and off the court and this group accomplished that in the classroom."
Qualifications for the NABC Honors Court included a 3.2 cumulative grade point average or higher at the end of the 2015-16 academic year. An athlete also was required to be a varsity player who recently finished his junior or senior season. Each recipient was at his current college or university for at least one full year.
"Bridger was a captain for two years and Hayden is a newly elected co-captain. That designation comes with the responsibility of leading at all times ... and this designation for both of them shows they did just that," Ioane said.
Willamette finished the 2015-16 season with an 8-17 overall record, including 5-11 in the Northwest Conference The Bearcats battled eventual NWC champion Whitworth University into overtime on Jan. 15 before losing 81-77. WU defeated archrival Linfield College, 70-68, on Jan. 9, and ended the season by rallying from a 17-point halftime deficit to outlast Lewis & Clark College, 74-69, on Feb. 19
NABC Honors Court
Bridger Harlington (Sr., Wing) led the Bearcats with 41 successful three-point shots during the season. He averaged 9.0 points per game and recorded 26 steals in 24 games played, while making 23 starts. He shot 36.0% from 3-point range. During his career, he scored 563 points and achieved 53 steals. He made 96 three-point baskets and shot 35.7% on 3-point attempts. He scored a career-best 22 points at Whittier College (Calif.) on Dec. 29, 2015, including a career-high six 3-pointers. He finished his career with 79 games played and 43 starts.
Hayden Russell (Jr., Wing) saw action in all 25 games in 2015-16 and contributed 4.7 points per game. He hit 25 three-point shots and connected on 82.4% of his free throw attempts (28 of 34). He registered a career-high 13 points in Willamette's victory over Linfield on Jan. 9. He made a trio of 3-pointers against the Wildcats, and also sank three 3-pointers versus University of La Verne (Calif.) on Nov. 21, 2014. Russell has played in 74 games during his career.