The Scout sports section ran seven polls on its @ScoutSportsDesk Twitter account to determine which Bradley teams, coaches and student-athletes the public thought deserved each illustrious BESPY for the 2019-20 academic year. Each of the polls received an average of 197 votes.
Team of the Year
The telling stats: 23-11 (11-7 in MVC). 15-2 at home, 4-8 away, 4-1 neutral.
The men’s basketball team won Arch Madness in back-to-back years for the first time in program history. It was an up-and-down season plagued by injuries, but the Braves caught fire at the right time, cruising to an NCAA Tournament bid with unexpected matchups in St. Louis. The team scored 71.7 PPG while shooting 44.1 percent from the field, 37.2 percent from 3-point distance and 73.7 at the charity stripe. As a team, it averaged 38.5 rebounds, 13.4 assists, 4.8 steals and 4.1 blocks per contest. The team only allowed 65.9 points per game to opponents and held them to 39.4 from the field, 31.6 behind the arc and 75.2 at the free-throw line.
Coach of the Year
Brian Wardle – Men’s basketball
The telling stats: Rallied to win MVC Tournament as 4-seed, finished tied for third in the MVC, beat Kansas State at Thanksgiving tournament in Florida.
Fifth-year head coach Brian Wardle repeats as BESPY coach of the year. His team has seen steady improvement and showed up all its doubters in St. Louis for the second season in a row. Although the team struggled to stay healthy throughout the season with key players missing time, Wardle managed to retain a consistent mentality in gameplay and practices. When the team was healthy, it was hard to beat, highlighted by a 13-point victory over K-State shooting 56 percent from 3-point distance and outrebounding the Wildcats by seven. He has built a solid foundation in the Peoria community throughout five years which has led to setting home attendance records and leading the Valley.
Male Athlete of the Year
Darrell Brown – Men’s basketball
The telling stats: 32 starts, 34.8 minutes per game, FG 35.8%, 3PT 32.7%, FT 80.0%, 15.5 PPG, 4.7 AST/G.
Brown led the men’s basketball team to an MVC tourney championship in his senior season and earned Arch Madness Most Outstanding Player. The undersized point guard increased his assist average by 1.5 over the season. He was named to the second-team All-MVC following the regular season and proved he was first-team worthy the following weekend leading his team to a second straight NCAA automatic bid by averaging 21.7 points at Arch Madness. He earned NABC First-Team All-District honors following the championship. Brown will graduate ranked fifth all-time in scoring at BU and hopes his No. 5 jersey is retired.
Female Athlete of the Year
Kealia Wysocki – Softball
The telling stats: All 22 games played, .433 average, 3 HR, 18 RBI, .465 OBP.
The senior catcher/designated player was a vocal leader for the 14-9 softball team. She was a rock in the middle of the lineup. During Wysocki’s career, the team has increased its winning percentage from .396 to .609. She led the team in batting average and runs batted and had a team-high nine multi-hit games. Wysocki boasted career-highs in batting average, on-base percentage and fielding percentage in the shortened season that saw no home games.
Newcomer of the Year
Carson Husmann – Baseball
The telling stats: Seven of 10 games played, .263 average, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .684 SLG.
Husmann, a freshman, seemed to have been well on his way to win the starting spot in right field. He led the Northwest Indiana region with 14 home runs in his senior year of high school. With 19 at-bats, he had the second-highest slugging percentage for the Braves. He will be a mainstay in the lineup for years to come.
Role Player of the Year
Ja’Shon Henry – Men’s basketball
The telling stats: 9.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, FG 51.4%, FT 75.0%, 24.0 minutes per game.
When preseason All-MVC selection Elijah Childs missed 12 games with a hand injury in the middle of the 2019-20 men’s basketball campaign, it was Henry who stepped up to fill the shoes. The first man off the bench for the coaching staff played big minutes in all of Bradley’s games and came up with some key buckets, including the dagger in the Braves’ MVC tournament quarterfinal win over Southern Illinois.
Most Improved Player
Tatum Koenig – Women’s basketball
The telling stats (compared to 2018-19): 28 starts (+13), 32.0 minutes per game (+8.5), FG 49.7%, 3PT 42.7%, 7.6 PPG (+2.6), 3.7 APG (+1.5), 3.5 RPG (+1.6).
At the tail end of the 2018-19 season, Koenig had claimed the starting point guard position. She took it in stride during her sophomore campaign, leading the third-seeded women’s basketball team in assists and 3-point percentage. Head coach Andrea Gorski often described her as a bulldog for her relentless play, and she led the charge in-home wins over Drake and UNI, the always strong Iowa contingent of the MVC.