Neemias Queta named Mountain West player of the year by media, Defensive POY by coaches

(Eli Lucero, The Herald Journal via AP, Pool)

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LAS VEGAS — Neemias Queta could've left for the NBA draft each of the past two seasons.

But the surefire draft pick following the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament felt like he had some unfinished business. Top of the list, of course, was to win a Mountain West championship and bring the Utah State Aggies back to the tournament. To do so — and with the departure of Utah State legend Sam Merrill — Queta would have to prove he was the best player in the conference.

On Monday, he did.

The Aggies' 7-foot Portuguese center was named Mountain West player of the year and defensive player of the year, as announced by the league's media Monday morning. Queta is Utah State's second player of the year honorees in the past three years, joining Merrill, who won the award two years ago by league media and coaches.

On Tuesday, the coaches revealed Queta as the conference's defensive player of the year. San Diego State's Matt Mitchell was named player of the year by the coaches, Wyoming's Marcus Williams was freshman of the year, Nevada's Grant Sherfield took newcomer of the year honors, and San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher was named coach of the year.

Utah State senior Alphonso Anderson was named Mountain West sixth man of the year by the league's coaches.

Queta was one of five first-team selections by the media and coaches. The junior joined Boise State's Derrick Alston, Nevada's Grant Sherfield, San Diego State's Matt Mitchell and Colorado State's David Roddy on both ballot's first team.

The 245-pound native of Barreiro, Portugal, earned Mountain West freshman and defensive player of the year honors as a newcomer in 2019, then followed up with second-team all-league and all-defensive honors a year later as a sophomore.

But Queta passed on the NBA draft (again) by announcing he was coming back in April, and quickly established himself as one of the best post players in college basketball. Already the owner of Utah State's single-season record for blocked shots with 84, he set the Aggies' career blocks record with 197 stuffs in three years (so far).

Queta also refined his offensive game, increasing his scoring from 13.0 points to 14.7 points per game over the past year, even as the offense ran through him instead of Merrill. He shot 56% from the field in 25 games — all starts — for the Aggies in 2020-21, while also guiding his team on the boards with 9.9 per game.

One of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award, Queta nearly doubled his assist output from 2019, going from 1.9 per game to 2.8 through the end of the regular season. He currently leads the Mountain West with 9.92 rebounds per game, is first with 56.5% shooting, and his 3.0 blocks per game in Mountain West contests is more than double the league's second-leading block specialist (San Diego State's Nathan Mensah at 1.42).

Most importantly for Queta, he did it all while leading Utah State to the No. 2 seed in the Mountain West Tournament. The Aggies will open the tournament in Thursday's quarterfinals against the winner of UNLV and Air Force (7 p.m. MT, CBS Sports Network).

2020-21 All-Mountain West Men's Basketball Team

First Team

Derrick Alston, Jr., Sr., G, Boise State

David Roddy, So., F, Colorado State

Grant Sherfield, So., G, Nevada

Matt Mitchell, Sr., F, San Diego State

Neemias Queta, Jr., C, Utah State

Second Team

Abu Kigab, Sr., F, Boise State

Isaiah Stevens, So., G, Colorado State

Orlando Robinson, So., F, Fresno State

Jordan Schakel, Sr., G, San Diego State

Bryce Hamilton, Jr., G, UNLV

Justin Bean, Jr., F, Utah State

Third Team

A.J Walker, Jr., G, Air Force

Desmond Cambridge Jr., Jr., G, Nevada

Makuach Maluach, Sr., G, New Mexico

David Jenkins, Jr., Jr., G, UNLV

Marcus Williams, Fr., G, Wyoming

Defensive Team

Nathan Mensah, Jr., F, San Diego State

Matt Mitchell, Sr., F, San Diego State

Cheikh Mbacke Diong, Sr., F, UNLV

Marco Anthony, Jr., G, Utah State

Neemias Queta, Jr., C, Utah State

Honorable Mention

Adam Thistlewood, Jr., F, Colorado State

Nathan Mensah, Jr., F, San Diego State

Richard Washington, Sr., G, San José State

Hunter Maldonado, Jr., G, Wyoming

Individual superlatives

Player of the Year: Matt Mitchell, Sr., F, San Diego State

Defensive Player of the Year: Neemias Queta, Jr., C, Utah State

Freshman of the Year: Marcus Williams, G, Wyoming

Newcomer of the Year: Grant Sherfield, So., G, Nevada

Sixth Man of the Year: Alphonso Anderson, Sr., F, Utah State

Coach of the Year: Brian Dutcher, San Diego State

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