MACON, Ga. – Gardner-Webb senior Thomas Sanders was named Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year Tuesday, the first Runnin’ Bulldog player to be so honored.
Sanders (Sugarland, Texas / Homeschool) is averaging 17.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game heading into this week’s General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, and is in the midst of one of the most dominant seasons in recent Gardner-Webb history.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder became the first GWU player in 20 years to average a double-double in points and rebounds for an entire regular season – with Hall of Famer Stan Easterling the last to accomplish that feat (1987-88). Sanders is the first Gardner-Webb player to average more than 11 rebounds per game for a season since NBA standout John Drew pulled down 13 caroms per game in 1973-74.
In conference play, Sanders was even better, pouring in 19.1 points and 12.1 boards per outing. The energetic forward became just the second player in A-Sun history to finish in the league’s top-10 in scoring (2nd), rebounding (1st) and assists (8th) – and set a new league record for season double-doubles (20).
Sanders ranks No. 5 nationally in rebounding average and No. 4 nationally in total rebounds (336). He is 23 rebounds shy of the A-Sun’s single season record, which is held by former Centenary star George Lett (1978-79).
In Gardner-Webb’s season-ending spurt (5-2 in last seven games), Sanders boosted his overall impact even further, averaging 20.4 points, 15.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. The stretch included several signature performances, including a 30-point, 11-rebound effort at Kennesaw State, a 26-point, 16-rebound performance vs. ETSU and a 19-point, 22-rebound game on Senior Night vs. USC Upstate.
The former Otero (Colo.) Junior College standout has recorded a double-double in seven-straight games, and has led GWU in rebounding 30 times in 42 career starts.
He ranks third nationally in double-doubles, with Kansas State phenom Michael Beasley and Washington forward Jon Brockman the only two players nationally with more this season. Sanders is also the nation’s top rebounder under the height of 6’5”, a distinction he has held for much of the 2007-2008 season.
Sanders was also a first-team All-Atlantic Sun Conference selection, marking the first time since center Simon Conn’s selection in 2005-2006 that a Gardner-Webb player had made the circuit’s first team. Sanders is the sixth GWU player overall to earn All-Atlantic Sun Conference honors in men’s basketball.
Gardner-Webb (15-15, 9-7 A-Sun) will play #3 Stetson (16-15, 11-5 A-Sun) at 3:15 pm ET on Thursday, March 7, in the General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Conference quarterfinals. The game will be broadcast live on WGWG-FM (88.3).
Gardner-Webb’s All-Atlantic Sun Choices In Men’s Basketball
Brian Bender, 1st team, 2004-2005
Tim Jennings, 2nd team, 2004-2005 (Defensive Player of the Year)
Simon Conn, 1st team, 2005-2006
Brian Bender, 2nd team, 2005-2006
Chris Gash, 2nd team, 2006-2007
Thomas Sanders, 1st team, 2007-2008 (Player of the Year)