COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - University of Utah sophomore center David Foster was voted the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year, the league office announced Monday. Foster becomes Utah's second consecutive MWC Defensive Player of the Year winner, following former Ute center Luke Nevill.
"We are extremely proud of David and this award," said Utah head coach Jim Boylen. "David's toughness, competitiveness and willingness to protect the basket have been a big key for the defensive success of our team. His unselfish attitude and work ethic made him a perfect replacement for Luke in our defensive system. The fact that he is only a sophomore is very exciting for the future of our young and developing team."
Ranking No. 5 nationally with 4.0 blocks per game, Foster set a new Utah single-season blocks record with 113 rejections, despite missing two full games and the second half of two others. That total is also the second-highest ever by an MWC player and the most by an MWC sophomore. Foster set a new Utah individual single-game blocks record with 10 at Weber State, which also tied the previous school record for blocks in a game by the team.
Foster's ability to protect the paint has made a direct impact on Utah's overall record, as the Utes lost both games he missed and both games he left prematurely, due to injury. He is also a key to Utah's MWC-leading 3-point field goal defense of 28.3% in league games, 30.1% overall, as he allows Utah's guards to defend the perimeter away from the basket. The Utes also boast an overall field goal percentage defense of just 40.9%, fourth-best in the MWC and less than one full percentage point from first place.
In addition to Foster's Defensive Player of the Year award, he was also named to the MWC All-Defensive team. Other Utes honored by the league were junior guard Carlon Brown, who received a third-team All-MWC nod, while senior guard Luka Drca and freshman guard Marshall Henderson earned Honorable Mention All-MWC honors. Brown and Drca were both honorable mention choices last year as well.
Brown is Utah's leading scorer at 12.6 points per game overall, ranking seventh in the conference, to go with 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He scored double digits in 21 games this year, going over 20 points five times, including a career-high 31 at Wyoming. Brown took on a new role this year, giving Utah more firepower off the bench, and excelled to become one of the league's top sixth-men.
Drca led the Utes with 95 assists this season, averaging 3.2 per game, and nearly logging his third consecutive season with 100 or more assists. He is also the team's third-leading scorer overall at 10.0 points per game to go with 3.9 rebounds per contest. Drca ranks ninth all-time at Utah with 360 career assists.
Henderson is the Utes' second-leading scorer overall at 12.0 points per game and their leading scorer in conference play at 13.6 ppg. A prolific 3-point shooter, Henderson set new school and conference records for 3-pointers made and attempted by a freshman (64-of-191), and tied for No. 10 all-time at Utah for 3-pointers made in a single season. He scored over 20 points five times for the Utes, including a career-high 24 at TCU. Henderson is also one of Utah's top free throw shooters at 82.4% (61-of-74).
Utah becomes just the second school in the 11-year history of the MWC to earn back-to-back outright Defensive Player of the Year awards.
The sixth-seeded Utes take on No. 3 seed UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas at 8:30 p.m. PT Wednesday in the MWC Tournament quarterfinals.