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The 2023 official #BESPY awards

Graphic by Ethan Nelson.

Returning for the last edition of the year, the BESPYs, The Scout Sports section’s annual version of the ESPYs,  are back with the end of the year awards.

Utilizing eight Twitter polls on the @ScoutSportsDesk account, you picked between teams, coaches and athletes for each award. A total of 693 votes were cast with each poll receiving an average of 86.6 votes to determine the winner. Below are your BESPY winners for the 2022-23 season.

Graphic by Sarah Irwin

Team of the Year Men’s Basketball (75.4%)

Claiming their first regular season conference championship in 27 years, Bradley men’s basketball finished their banner season just over a month ago. With a record of 25-10, the Braves reached the postseason by accepting a bid to the NIT before bowing out to Wisconsin in the first round. Led by junior forward Rienk Mast and senior forward Malevy Leons, the “Flying Dutchmen” wreaked havoc throughout the Valley and leaned on a strong supporting cast to reach new heights. The pinnacle of the season came down to a winner-take-all showdown for the conference crown in Peoria in front of a sellout crowd, the first in over a decade.

Finalists: Men’s Cross Country (8.8%), Women’s Track and Field (8.8%), Women’s Cross Country (7%) 

Honorable Mention: Men’s Track and Field

Graphic by Sarah Irwin.

Coach of the YearBrian Wardle (63.5%)

The guiding light on the sideline, Bradley men’s basketball’s Brian Wardle steered his ship toward calm seas through a larger and more chaotic MVC than in recent years. While the Braves were on the losing end more frequently early on due to injuries, Wardle tightened the group as they rattled off 12 straight victories before falling in the championship game in St. Louis. In his eighth year on the Hilltop, Wardle checked off another box during his extended tenure as Bradley’s leader.

Finalists: Darren Gauson (25.7%), Jeff Roche (5.4%), Halley Morell (5.4%)

Graphic by Sarah Irwin.

Female Athlete of the Year – Caroline Waite (62.8%)

A beacon of hope during a strugglesome women’s basketball season, Caroline Waite gets the nod for this year’s female athlete of the year. In her sophomore season, Waite averaged a team-high 12.9 points per game and brought a slight sense of familiarity on a team with a staff shakeup and head coach Kate Popovec-Goss at the helm. Despite her success, Waite announced that she’d be packing her bags for nearby Illinois State to continue her athletic career. She’ll leave campus with a BESPY.

Finalists: Wilma Nielsen (22.6%), Nicola Jansen (8%), Alex Rouse (6.6%)

Honorable Mention: Lauren DeRolf, Doga Topcicek, Tiana LoStracco, Camryn Schaller

Graphic by Sarah Irwin.

Male Athlete of the YearMalevy Leons (40%)

A cause of fear for opposing basketball teams, senior Malevy Leons was a matchup nightmare for opponents around the MVC this season. Becoming the first Valley player to reach over 50 steals and 50 blocks in a season, Leons used his lanky build to rise about positions one through five and grab the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honors. Additionally, the Netherlands native averaged over 11 points a game and brought down six rebounds a contest to power the Braves forward to a postseason berth.

Finalists: Rienk Mast (29.2%), Ryan Vogel (24.6%), Josh Kirkham (6.2%)

Honorable Mention: Alec Danner, George Watson, Logan Delgado, Connor Langrell

Graphic by Sarah Irwin

Newcomer of the YearDuke Deen (63.6%)

Coming into a new team is never an easy task; however, that wasn’t the case for Bradley point guard Duke Deen who got off the ground right away in his first season on the Hilltop. After transferring from Troy, Deen adjusted to the MVC by earning himself a spot on the All-Newcomer Team. Deen averaged 9.6 points and just under three assists per game. We’ll get one more season to see him donning the Red and White, which might even include more of his dance moves, notably from his celebration when Bradley won the regular season championship. 

Finalists: Alex Rouse (22.7%), Connor Langrell (12.1%), Jacob Norris (1.5%)

Honorable Mention: Ruba Abo Hashesh, Grace Aromando

Graphic by Sarah Irwin

Most Improved Player of the YearCamryn Schaller (56.3%)

With a stark difference between her second and third year on campus, junior softball pitcher Camryn Schaller has been the most improved athlete during the 2022-23 athletic season. Dropping her ERA by more than two points, the junior has been the top option in the circle for head coach Sarah Willis. Leading the team with a 1.56 WHIP, two shutouts and a .258 batting average against her, Schaller has vastly improved in her third year on the Hilltop.

Finalists: Malevy Leons (31.1%), Logan Delgado (9.3%), Zek Montgomery (3.3%)

Honorable Mention: Darius Hannah, Daija Powell, Tiana LoStracco

Graphic by Sarah Irwin.

Freshman of the YearLauren DeRolf (56.1%)

Making her way to the Hilltop from Indiana, Bradley softball’s Lauren DeRolf has been named the Freshman of the Year. Leading the team with a .321 batting average and fifth among qualifying players in OPS (.721), the outfielder has been a force towards the top of the lineup card. With 60 total bases, she’s been able to put herself in position for her teammates to bring her in.

Finalists: Allison Pacocha (15.9%), Kendall Minta (14.6%), Peyton Schieppe (13.4%)

Honorable Mention: Kierston McCoy, Connor Hamm, Reagan Barkema

Graphic by Sarah Irwin.

Role Player of the Year – Ja’Shon Henry (68.9%)

As the only piece remaining from Bradley’s 2019 NCAA Tournament appearance, Henry became the piece of wisdom on a team inexperienced with winning championships. Coming off the bench, the graduate forward showcased Bradley’s depth as he averaged 9.6 points and grabbed over four rebounds a contest. With Henry’s history of concussions, BU had to watch their veteran fall victim again earlier in the season, but this time he came back and never went back down. Henry was a key instrument in winning the MVC regular season championship.

Finalists: Ville Tahvanainen (14.8%), Jacob Norris (11.5%), Silan Demirkol (4.9%)

Honorable Mention: Adam Brian, Noah Edders, Pepe Mellado, Roy Radke, Bailey Sample

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