Cleveland, Ohio (March 8) -- Three players and one head coach were honored as recipients of the Mid-American Conference's 2000 individual award winners.
Bowling Green's Anthony Stacey, a 6-4 senior forward from Elyria, Ohio, was voted MAC Player of the Year in balloting by the MAC News Media Association. Stacey led the Falcons to the 2000 MAC Championship with a league best 14-4 record and a 22-7 overall mark. It was BG's first outright league title since 1983, although the 1997 team was co-champions with Miami.
Stacey battled injuries throughout the year but still managed to average 17.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. More importantly, he provided leadership on the floor, as evidenced by his game-winning shot with 1.1 seconds left in a late season game at Akron that boosted the Falcons into title contention. In addition to finishing seventh in the league in scoring and 17th in rebounding, Stacey was seventh in field goal percentage (46.1%), fifth in free throw percentage (77.6%) and fifth in steals (1.86 per game). He also became the school's all-time scoring leader with 1,927 points. Stacey joins previous BG winners Antonio Daniels (1997) and Jim Penix (1970) as MAC Player of the Year.
Miami's Rob Mestas, a 5-10 guard from Minneapolis, Minn., was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year by league coaches. Mestas led a RedHawk defense that was the league's most stubborn, allowing a low of 62.9 points per game. During Mestas' four years as a starter or regular (1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000), the RedHawks had the MAC's top rated defensive team. When he was red-shirted in 1997-98, Miami did not lead the MAC in scoring defense.
Mestas played in all 30 games and averaged 39.8 minutes per contest. He had a team-high 43 steals, an average of 1.43 per game, and helped shutdown opponents' outside shooting game. Miami held its opponents to a league-low 31.7% from three-point range. Mestas also averaged 9.3 points and a MAC third-best 5.5 assists per game. Mestas is the first Miami player in the four years of the award to capture MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
MAC Freshman of the Year, as voted by the MNMA, is Ball State's Theron Smith. Smith, a 6-8 forward from Auburndale, Fla., helped the Cardinals to a West Division co-championship with Toledo and a MAC Tournament #2 seeding. Smith carried his stellar play over into the MAC Tournament, helping the Cardinals to a championship and an NCAA Tournament berth.
Smith averaged 12.4 points, 25th in the MAC, and 7.7 rebounds, fifth best in the league. He appeared in all 30 of Ball State's game, 22 of those as a starter. Smith's 32.1 minutes per game was second on the squad. Smith joins Bonzi Wells (1995) as the only other BSU player to win MAC Freshman of the Year honors.
Kent's Gary Waters was honored as the First Energy MAC Coach of the Year in voting by the MNMA. Waters became the third coach in MAC history to win back-to-back Coach of the Year honors. Waters guided the Golden Flashes to an overall mark of 21-7 and a league second-best 13-5 record. In addition to a MAC East Division second-place finish one game behind Bowling Green, Waters' squad posted an 8-1 non-conference record. Kent won the UTEP Tournament in December, which included a comeback from a 16-0 deficit in the title game to the host Miners. Kent featured a balanced squad with no player averaging more than 13.3 points per game, but seven players averaging at least 15 minutes a contest. The Golden Flashes won 20 games for the second year in a row and posted a school-record 44 wins the past two seasons.
Top three vote getters (63 ballots) : Player of the Year: Stacey 23, T.J. Lux, Northern Illinois, 15, Tamar Slay, Marshall, 9. Freshman of the Year: Smith 52, Brandon Hunter Ohio, 10, Taylor Bro, Western Michigan, 1. Coach of the Year: Waters 28, Dan Dakich, Bowling Green, 22, Stan Joplin, Toledo, 6. Defensive Player of the Year: (point totals, 3-2-1): Mestas 22, Lonnie Jones, Ball State 10; Jimmal Ball, Akron 9.