MEN'S BASKETBALL: Gary Wilkinson was named the 2008-09 Western Athletic Conference Stan Bates Award winner it was announced by the league office Monday. Wilkinson is the first Utah State student-athlete to earn the distinguished honor.
Named in honor of former WAC Commissioner Stan Bates, the annual award is given to the WAC's top male and female scholar-athletes and recognizes the recipients=B9 athletic and academic accomplishments. The awards carry a $2,000 postgraduate scholarship.
Hawaii track and field athlete Annett Wichmann was this year's female recipient.
Wilkinson, from South Jordan, earned his degree in sociology last May graduating Summa Cum Laude. He is a two-time academic all-WAC honoree and was Utah State's Sociology Outstanding Student of the Year, the highest honor obtained by a sociology student during the academic year.
During the 2008-09 academic year, Wilkinson volunteered for Youth Firesides in which he spoke to local youths about various topics. He also mentored incoming freshmen athletes to help them make the transition to college.
WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: The Aggies were picked to finish third in the WAC's preseason poll according to the league's coaches as the Aggies received 45 votes. Hawaii, which has won 13 straight WAC titles, was once again selected as the conference favorite.
The third-place prediction for Utah State is its highest in its five years in the WAC as USU's previous high was a fifth-place prediction in both 2005 and 2008.
Hawaii garnered eight of the nine possible first-place votes and 64 points, while New Mexico State received the other first-place vote and was picked to finish second in the conference. Idaho was picked fourth in the preseason poll with 41 points, followed by Nevada (37), San Jose State (29), Fresno State (28), Boise State (12) and Louisiana Tech (11).
"We are pleased with where our team is picked to finish in the WAC this season, but we understand that it is just a preseason poll and our goal is to finish in the top three of the WAC at the end of the year," said fourth-year head coach Grayson DuBose. "Being picked so high says a lot about the talent-level and experience we return, and we our honored to receive that kind of respect from our conference opponents."
Utah State returns six starters and seven letterwinners from last year's team that went 11-17 on the season and finished in fourth-place in the WAC with a 9-7 league record. Last year's team was picked to finish fifth in the conference according to the league's coaches.
Among those returning for Utah State is a trio of second-team all-WAC performers from a year ago in junior middle blocker Katie Astle, junior setter Chelsea Fowles and junior libero Christine Morrill, while sophomore opposite side hitter Emily Kortsen was named to the league's all-freshman team in 2008. USU also returns junior middle blocker Danielle Taylor who earned second-team all-WAC honors in 2006 before redshirting during the 2007 season.
Utah State opens the 2009 season on Aug. 28 against Weber State in a tournament hosted by the Wildcats. USU's first home match of the season will be against in-state rival Brigham Young on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
2009 WAC Volleyball Coaches' Preseason Poll
1. Hawaii (8) 64
2. New Mexico State (1) 57
3. Utah State 45
4. Idaho 41
5. Nevada 37
6. San Jose State 29
7. Fresno State 28
8. Boise State 12
9. Louisiana Tech 11