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  • Daniel Hooker

WCU's Woolbright Named a Finalist for the Olson, Henson Awards



Western Carolina men’s basketball senior guard Vonterius Woolbright was today named a finalist for two of the nation’s top player awards announced by CollegeInsider.com. Woolbright is a finalist for both the Lute Olson Award, given to the top NCAA Division I college basketball player, and for the Lou Henson Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top player in mid-major college basketball.

 

The 2023-24 Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year and a first-team All-SoCon selection, Woolbright collected first-team All-District 21 honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) on Tuesday (March 19). He was also an honorable mention on the 2023-24 Associate Press (AP) All-America team to add to his impressive postseason resume.

 

Originally from Albany, Ga., Woolbright earned a conference single-season record nine SoCon Player of the Week honors, eclipsing the previous benchmark set by former Davidson star and SoCon Hall of Famer Stephen Curry back in 2008-09. Woolbright also swept the league’s four monthly awards during the 2023-24. He was additionally a two-time Oscar Robertson Trophy National Player of the Week. He was among 40 national finalists in consideration for the trophy and for All-America plaudits from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).

 

Woolbright averaged a SoCon-best 21.1 points and 12.0 rebounds per game, scoring in double figures in all 32 of WCU’s seasonal games with 27 double-doubles including an NCAA-best five triple-doubles. At the end of the regular season, he ranked 17th in the nation in scoring and was second in overall rebounding, pacing the NCAA with a 9.78 defensive rebound per game average. Woolbright is the first player in the SoCon to finish the regular season averaging over 20 points per game since VMI's Bubba Parham in 2018-19, while also becoming the first Catamount to average over 20 points per game since Kevin Martin (24.9 ppg) back in 2003-04.

 

The recipient of both the annual awards is determined by a 10-member voting committee, which consists of current and former head coaches, as well as two senior staff members of CollegeInsider.com. The 2024 award will be announced in Phoenix, Ariz., site of the men’s Division I Basketball Championship.

 

About the Lute Olson National Player of the Year Award:

The Lute Olson National Player of the Year award is named in honor of Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson, who won 776 games in 34 seasons, 24 of which were spent at the University of Arizona. During that stretch, he led the Wildcats to 11 Pac-10 Conference titles, 23 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, four Final Four appearances, and a National Championship in 1997.

 

Olson is one of just 25 head coaches in NCAA history to win 700 or more games (all divisions) and ranks ninth on the Division I career victories list. He finished with a winning percentage of .731 and is the all-time winningest coach in Arizona history with a 587-190 record (.755). He was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year seven times.

 

Olson also guided Arizona to 20 consecutive 20-win seasons and is one of only three coaches in NCAA history to record 29 or more 20-win seasons. In 2002, Olson was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Coach Olson passed away on August 27, 2020.

 

About the Lou Henson National Player of the Year Award:

The Lou Henson National Player of the Year award honors the former Illinois and New Mexico State head coach who won 775 games in 41 seasons. Coach Henson is the winningest coach in Illinois basketball history with 423 victories. During his 21 seasons (1975-1996), Henson led the Fighting Illini to 16 postseason appearances, including 12 NCAA tournaments and a Final Four appearance in 1989.

 

Henson, also the all-time winningest coach in New Mexico State history with 289 victories, is one of only 11 coaches to take two different schools to the NCAA Final Four. His teams have made 19 NCAA appearances and four NIT appearances. Coach Henson passed away on July 25, 2020.

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