National honors came Monday following the conclusion of a “transition year’’ that resulted in the Augustana men’s basketball team earning a runner-up finish in the NCAA Division III Final Four.
Coach Grey Giovanine was named the national co-coach of the year and guard Chrishawn Orange was selected as fourth-team all-American by D3hoops.com.
Orange, a sophomore from Algonquin, Illinois, was the only underclassman among the 25 players named to four five-player all-American teams and a fifth group of five players awarded honorable mention.
“Nobody in the nation had a better postseason than he did,’’ Giovanine said. “With what he accomplished throughout the season, Chrishawn has established himself as one of the premier players in the country. That happened because of how he worked with Nolan Ebel and how Micah Martin developed, those types of things. It’s all connected.’’
Earlier honored as a unanimous first-team selection in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin, Orange led the Vikings with a scoring average of 14.2 points per game while shooting 51.2 percent from the field, 42.3 percent from 3-point range and 78.2 percent at the line.
Including his play in the CCIW tourney, Orange shot 55 percent from the field and 55.6 from 3-point range while averaging 15.3 points during Augustana’s eight postseason games. He also hit game-winning baskets in the final seconds of the Vikings’ first two NCAA tourney games.
Giovanine shared national coach of the year honors with Eric Bridgeland of Whitman, whose team finished 31-1.
“Anytime you receive coach of the year honors, it’s a reflection on the work of the team and staff,’’ Giovanine said, singling out the work of assistant coaches Tom Jessee, Dallas Duwa and Mark Roth and the program's support staff. “It’s humbling, and it’s because of them and what we all were able to accomplish this season.’’
Augustana finished 24-9 season with a 79-78 loss to Babson in the national championship game on Saturday, the second time in three seasons that the Giovanine-coached Vikings have reached the title game.
This season, Augustana reached that success after replacing eight seniors including the top six scorers from a 29-2 team during the 2015-16 season.
With underclassmen filling nine of the 10 spots in this year’s rotation, the Vikings dealt with some in-season growth spurts. One came after a 3-3 stretch in December, the second after going 3-4 during the final weeks of regular season.
The Vikings shared the CCIW regular-season title – the program’s eighth championship in Giovanine’s 18 seasons – before embarking on its run to the Final Four.
“Those things don’t happen without the cumulative effort of a lot of people. The support we receive from the college at every level, it has helped us accomplish what we’ve accomplished,’’ Giovanine said.
“Everybody on our campus has played a part in this and that’s what makes it so special. To be singled out as the national coach of the year is a reflection on the work of a lot of people at Augustana College. I don’t take that for granted.’’
The work continues.
Giovanine said the Vikings’ coaching staff met several times during the team’s 13-hour bus ride home Sunday from Salem, Virginia, to finalize the future.
Everything from offseason training plans to fine tuning recruiting plans were discussed as Augustana begins working toward the 2017-18 season.
Those discussions included the potential return of the Vikings’ fifth-leading scorer, Pierson Wofford, to the roster after a school-mandated departure from the roster 19 games into the season.
“He’s our number one recruit right now,’’ Giovanine said.