Whether it was scoring, rebounding or blocking shots – not to mention passing the ball and playing defense – Venky Jois made quite an impression on the Big Sky Conference in the 2012-13 men’s basketball season.
As a result, the 6-foot-7 true freshman from Boronia, Australia, was selected by the league’s coaches Monday (March 11) as the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year. He was also the lone EWU player on the All-Conference team, earning honorable mention.
"It’s a great honor -- I loved competing this year for Eastern," said Jois. "There are a few really talented freshmen playing in the Big Sky, so it’s definitely a big achievement for me."
Despite a mid-season ankle injury that kept him out of three league games and limited him in several others, he became the fifth Eagle – all in the last 12 seasons -- to win the BSC Freshman of the Year award, joining Marc Axton (2002), Matt Nelson (2004), Rodney Stuckey (2006) and Glen Dean (2010) as recipients.
"Venky had an outstanding season and is very deserving of this honor," said second year head coach Jim Hayford, whose team finished the season 10-21 overall and 7-13 in the league. "He will work very hard to lead our young team to new heights in future years."
Jois epitomized the continued development of EWU’s young players, including six freshmen/sophomores who each started at least three games with a collective total of 97 starts this season. Eastern does lose four seniors from this year’s team, including last year’s Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year, Collin Chiverton.
"Recruiting is hard work and our staff deserves recognition for this accomplishment as well," said Hayford. "The last two seasons we have had the newcomer of the year and the freshman of the year. I want to thank my assistants for their hard work on the recruiting trail."
Jois finished second in the league and ranks 46th in NCAA Division I in rebounding (9.0), and is 33rd in the nation and tops in the Big Sky in blocked shots (2.4 per game). With 66 blocked shots for the season, he originally broke the school record of 51 set by Paul Butorac in 2006, but was passed by teammate Martin Seiferth (68). Jois already ranks seventh on EWU’s career list.
Jois was also 15th in the league in scoring (12.3) and 12th in field goal percentage (.488). In addition, he averaged 2.4 assists per game and led the team with 24 steals in the 28 games he played.
"I still think my teammates and I have only scratched the surface, and are going to get a lot better over the off-season," Jois added. "I'm just looking forward to next year."
Jois finished the season with nine double-doubles to lead the Big Sky and rank 69th in NCAA Division I, but none since before he suffered his ankle injury on Dec. 31 against Montana State. He last double-double came when he had 20 points and 13 rebounds versus Portland State on Jan. 28.
Before he was injured in the game against MSU, Jois had a career-high seven assists and equaled his career high with 14 rebounds in the 72-68 victory over the Bobcats, and he also had eight points and three blocked shots. Jois, however, missed the last 3:15 with an ankle injury, and then sat out the next three games before playing a total of 49 minutes in the next two.
Against Northern Colorado on Jan. 19, Jois equaled the school record of seven blocked shots set earlier this season by Seiferth, but that record was broken on Feb. 23 when Seiferth had eight. Jois had his best game as an Eagle with 22 points and 13 rebounds on 10-of-14 shooting against Cal State Fullerton in EWU’s 79-75 win on Nov. 30 to earn Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors.
In January, he was selected to the Collegehoopsdaily.com All-Big Sky Conference team from the first half of the season, and was also the school’s Scholar-Athlete of the Month for January. Earlier in the season, he was selected to the All-Tournament Team for his performances in the 2012 College Basketball Experience (CBE) Hall of Fame Classic in Santa Clara, Calif. He had a pair of double-doubles with 19 points and 11 rebounds in EWU’s 75-70 win over South Carolina Upstate and 16 points and 11 boards one game earlier in an 86-83 loss to Utah Valley.
Jois came to Eastern after winning a pair of MVP awards in Australia. He was the Bob Staunton 2012 U-20 National Championship MVP, after leading the Victoria State Team to the championship and an unbeaten record. Saint Mary’s College and NBA standout Patty Mills won the Bob Staunton MVP Award in 2006 and 2007. In addition, Jois was the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) Youth Player of the Year in 2011, an award given to the top under-23 player and previously won by college and NBA standouts Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut.