Onu, Thomas, Bears collect MSC honors




PORTSMOUTH — Throughout the 2020-21 season, the Shawnee State University men’s basketball team has wasted no time setting new program standards across the board.

On Friday morning, the Bears continued that trend.

Star big man E.J. Onu became the first player in Shawnee State men’s basketball program history to win a conference Player of the Year honor, and won the Randy Vernon Defensive Player of the Year award for the third time in four seasons — while DeLano Thomas earned the program’s first-ever conference Coach of the Year to head the charge.

In addition, James Jones joined Onu on the First-Team all-MSC list, while Miles Thomas and Amier Gilmore added in one Second-Team all-MSC and one Honorable Mention all-MSC honoree apiece.

Onu wins first MSC Player of the Year;

wins third MSC DPOY honor

Capping off what will surely be a future Shawnee State Hall of Fame career in style, the awarding of the Mid-South Conference Player of the Year to Onu cemented one of the best four-year careers in program history.

With averages of 12.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game over his four-year career, Onu stepped up in a larger manner in all facets as needed to help fuel the success of the No. 6-ranked team in the country.

Through 25 games, Onu has essentially obliterated all of his averages — notching 17.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and four blocks during the 2020-21 season, all while shooting astronomical percentages from the field as evidenced by his 60.7-percent shooting and his 47.3-percent mark from distance.

Onu has also posted 1,457 points and 793 rebounds for his career, which are numbers good enough for fourth and fifth all-time in program history — despite the last two seasons being shortened, at least in some manner, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His 478 career blocks, which are 330 career blocks more than any other individual in program history, led Onu to a conference-record third Defensive Player of the Year award.

The 6-11 big has proven himself as one of the country’s best defensive talents, regardless of association.

Jones earns conference honors

for second straight season

Following a 2019-20 campaign where Jones earned Honorable Mention all-Frontier Conference accolades with Montana Western, the senior wing bumped up his honors to the First Team variety with Shawnee State — joining Onu on the First-Team list in doing so.

Jones — who averaged 16.2 points, four assists and 3.7 rebounds during the 2019-20 season at Montana Western — bumped up his averages significantly during the 2020-21 season, averaging 19.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 45.7-percent shooting and an 81.7-percent clip from the free-throw line.

Miles Thomas, Gilmore part

of group that oozes unselfishness

As guys who could easily be No. 1 options for other programs, Miles Thomas’ and Amier Gilmore’s sacrifice were critical components to Shawnee State’s success throughout the 2020-21 season, which was evident in their honors.

Thomas — who averaged 11.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game during the season while shooting 41.6-percent from three-point range — earned Second-Team honors while Gilmore — who posted marks of 9.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and a steal per game on a 58.8-percent mark from the floor — obtained Honorable Mention.

Thomas wins MSC

Coach of the Year honors

Having developed Shawnee State into a top-flight contender in less than four full seasons, Thomas took home Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year honors — behind an incredible turnaround that has seen SSU go 44-13 over its last 57 games.

Thomas — who holds a 72-46 record for his career as a collegiate head coach — not only has Shawnee State maintaining its highest-ever ranking in the national polls, but has the Bears ranked inside the national top-five in both the NAIA RPI and Massey Ratings.

Fellow members of the coaching and support staff include Lindal Yarbrough, Jack Trainer, Zack Kelly, D’Andre Price and Justin Patrick.

For more information on SSU Bears Athletics, visit www.ssubears.com or visit the Twitter and Facebook pages at https://twitter.com/SSUBears and https://www.facebook.com/SSUBears. For more information on how to join the SSU Bear Club or for sponsorship of specific SSU players or events, visit https://givetossu.com/bear-club and https://givetossu.com/sponsorthebears.