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Locally: Former Gonzaga standout Zykera Rice earns several honors in first professional season overseas

UPDATED: Sun., March 29, 2020

Gonzaga's Zykera Rice warms up prior to the second half of a first-round game of the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Little Rock in March 2019 in Corvallis, Ore. (Amanda Loman / AP)
Gonzaga's Zykera Rice warms up prior to the second half of a first-round game of the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Little Rock in March 2019 in Corvallis, Ore. (Amanda Loman / AP)
From staff and news services

Impressive.

In a word, that describes the rookie professional basketball season of Zykera Rice.

The former Gonzaga women’s standout was selected to the All-Finnish League first team, the five-player All-Imports Team and was named the league’s Forward of the Year following the 2019-20 season, Eurobasket announced.

Sporting the trademark blue hair she made famous while leading Gonzaga in scoring and rebounding during the 2018-19 season, Rice led Kotka Peli-Karhut in the Finnish Korisliiga with 20.7 ppg, shooting 54.5% inside the arc and 46.7% from 3-point range. She added a team-high 9.6 rpg and 1.8 assists. She finished fourth in the league in scoring and ninth in rebounding.

The power forward highlighted her first season with the league’s second-place team with a game-high 28 points, nine rebounds and two assists in a 106-69 victory on Feb. 29 that earned her the league’s Interperformances Player of the Week award for the next-to-last round of the regular season.

The Tacoma native led the team known as PeKa to a 20-5 record, one game out of first place.

College scene

For the third straight year, Washington State’s Borislava Hristova has been named the top Bulgarian female basketball player playing abroad by the Bulgarian Basketball Federation.

Hristova, who just completed a record-breaking four-year career for the Cougars, was a near unanimous selection, her name appearing on all but one ballot.

Known as “Bobi Buckets” because of her scoring exploits, Hristova earned a school-record fourth All-Pac-12 honor in 2019-20 after scoring a team-leading 570 points (18.4 ppg). She leaves WSU as the school’s all-time leading scorer, male or female, with 2,269 career points. She scored 20 points or more in 13 of WSU’s 31 games.

Christine Denny, a junior point guard at Carroll College from Liberty High School, was named to the 2019-20 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball All-America 10-woman second team.

The All-Frontier Conference first-team selection, honorable mention on the NAIA Division I All-America team as a sophomore, was No. 2 on the Fighting Saints in scoring (12.4 ppg) and assists (2.6) and led the team in rebounding (6.4). She shot 43% from the field and 77% from the foul line.

Trystan Bradley, a Lewis-Clark State junior from Lewiston, received honorable mention on the 2019-20 NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball All-America team after being named first-team All-Frontier Conference.

The 6-foot-8 forward started all 32 games for the Warriors and led them in points (417), field goals (168) and blocked shots (38). His shooting percentage (55.4) and blocked shots were both third in the conference.

• Denny and Bradley are among eight players from area schools who are at least sophomores with 3.0 GPAs named to Frontier Conference All-Academic teams in men’s and women’s basketball.

Men: Carroll College; Shamrock Campbell, so., Ferris. Lewis-Clark State; Conner Moffat, sr., Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls/Everett CC; Braeden Wilson, so., Lewiston; and Bradley.

Women: Carroll: Molly McDermott, so., Gonzaga Prep; Sienna Swannack, so., Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls; and Denny. Montana Western: Gracey Meyer, so, Moscow.

Ben College, the Northwest Conference scoring champion and Player of the Year, collected another individual honor following his senior basketball season at Whitworth when he was named to the five-man D3hoops.com All-America fourth team.

College, who averaged 22.9 ppg that ranked 23rd in Division III, was named a third-team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and was first team All-West Region by both the NABC and D3hoops.com. An Academic All-American, he’s also on the Top 25 watch list for the national Bevo Francis Award and was a Jostens Trophy finalist but wasn’t selected.

• Senior Mason Peatling, the Big Sky Conference Most Valuable Player, received the same award from Eastern Washington coaches when the Eagles’ men’s basketball team passed out awards.

Sophomore Kim Aiken Jr. was named the Eagles’ best defender and he, Peatling and junior Jacob Davison were recognized as the Eagles’ co-captains for the 2019-20 season.

Other special awards went to sophomore Tanner Groves (Shadle Park), most inspirational; junior Jack Perry, most improved; and true freshman Ellis Magnuson, top newcomer.

• Four players from Community Colleges of Spokane and four from North Idaho College who are sophomores with 3.25 GPAs or better received Academic Excellence Awards from the Northwest Athletic Conference for men’s and women’s basketball.

Men: Christian Guess, NIC; Tanner McCliment-Call (Post Falls), Jaelon Stith (Medical Lake) and Garrett White (North Idaho Christian), all CCS.

Women: Shae Anderson, CCS; Alex Carlton, Jordyn Higgins and Anna Schrade, all NIC.

• Senior Justin Janke (North Central) and junior Samantha King-Shaw from track and field were named the Washington State Academic Services Student-Athletes of the Month for March while seniors Owen Leonard from baseball and Melisa Ates from tennis received the same honor for February.

Janke, an apparel design major with a 3.26 GPA, is a PAC counselor helping out his peers. He qualified for the NCAA West Regionals in cross country and followed it with a busy indoor track schedule. King-Shaw, who won the 3,000 at the Idaho Open indoor meet, has a 3.88 GPA and has collected several academic honors during her Cougars career.

Leonard, a relief pitcher who transferred from Everett CC in 2018, is a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was awarded the Pac-12 Leadership Award. Ates, a native of Turkey, had a 21-6 singles record as a junior, is active on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and works with Circles of Caring helping at-risk adults on the Palouse.

Hockey

Western Hockey League scoring champion Adam Beckman of the Spokane Chiefs, who has scored 80 goals in his two seasons in Spokane, has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild, the NHL team announced.

The 18-year-old forward from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who is eligible to return to the Chiefs next season, was selected by Minnesota in the third round (75th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Beckman led the WHL with 48 goals and 107 points and his 59 assists were fourth in the abbreviated 2019-20 season. His season was highlighted by an 18-game point streak that included a franchise-record 10-game goal-scoring streak in which he had 16 goals. He was the Chiefs’ Rookie of the Year in 2018-19 when he scored 32 goals.

• Rookie Reed Jacobson, a 17-year-old forward from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, recognized by the WHL in its January Academic Spotlight, was named the Chiefs’ 2019-20 Scholastic Player of the Year.

Jacobson took courses in anatomy, chemistry, pre-calculus, calculus and English at Ferris High School. During the first semester he averaged more than a 99% on his combined grades. On the ice, he had four goals and seven assists in 50 games and a +9 rating.

• The Chiefs went to the Midwest last week to select a couple of 2005-born defensemen in the WHL U.S. Prospects Draft.

With the 13th pick in the first round, Spokane tabbed Anthony McIntosh-Asgard from Minot, North Dakota, and picked Liam Hupka from Eden Prairie, Minn., with the 32nd overall selection in the second round.

McIntosh-Asgard is an offensive-minded, 5-11, 165-pound, left-handed shot who had 22 goals and 42 assists in 49 games at the U-14 level last season. The 5-10, 130-pound Hupka is a physical, shut-down defenseman who had one goal and five assists in 21 games at U-14.

• The Chiefs announced that all tickets for the team’s canceled final two home games of the 2019-20 season, scheduled for March 13 and 14, will be honored for any available ticket to a home game during the 2020-21 regular season regardless of the price level of the original ticket.

Letters of intent

Gonzaga volleyball: Jody Smith, MB, Redondo Beach, California.

Idaho women’s soccer: Jadyn Hanks, F, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Carroll College men’s track & field: Elias Hill, jumps/sprints, Lake City.

Soccer

Jeremy Payne, who led Eastern University of St. Davids, Pennsylvania, to a 42-17-5 record the past three seasons, has been named the new men’s soccer head coach at Whitworth University, director of athletics Tim Demant announced.

Payne is a graduate of Messiah College (Pa.), where he was the NSCAA Division III Player of the Year in 2012 and 2014. A three-time NSCAA first-team All-American (2012-14), he was also D3Soccer.com Forward of the Year in 2014 and Midfielder of the Year in 2012 and 2013 and helped the Falcons win back-to-back NCAA Division III men’s soccer crowns in 2012 and ’13.

Following graduation from Messiah, Payne became a graduate assistant at Eastern in 2015 and held that position for two seasons before being promoted to head coach in 2017. His 2018 team went 18-3-2, won the conference regular season and tournament titles and reached the round of 16 in the NCAA Division III tournament.

Payne also spent time in 2019 as an assistant coach with West Chester (Pa.) United SC of the USL II and NPSL.

Miscellany

Ashley Hart, director of Seattle operations for the Washington State University Cougar Athletic Fund, has been selected one of 13 recipients nationwide to the 2020 National Association of Athletic Development Directors Bobby Purcell Mentor program.

In its sixth year, the program focuses on broadening learning opportunities for NAADD membership fundraisers.

Hart joined the Cougar Athletic Fund in May 2019 and is responsible for development and engagement efforts in the greater Seattle area.

Prior to WSU, the Seattle native served as the associate director of development at the University of Arizona.

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