(Editor's note: University of Montana athletics release)
MISSOULA -- Montana senior point guard McKenzie Johnston has been voted first-team all-Big Sky Conference by the league’s coaches.
The all-Big Sky teams and individual awards were announced on Monday morning as a prelude to the conference tournament, which starts Monday afternoon and concludes on Friday in Boise.
Johnston was one of just five players to make first team, along with Montana State’s Fallyn Freije, Idaho’s Gina Marxen, Northern Arizona’s Kiahrica Rasheed and Southern Utah’s Rebecca Cardenas.
Johnston becomes Montana’s first first-team selection since Kellie Rubel in 2014-15.
“It’s huge for her to be in the class that I believe she belongs in,” said fourth-year Lady Griz coach Shannon Schweyen. “I think she’s been one of the top players in this league.”
The do-it-all point guard, who was honorable mention All-Big Sky as a sophomore, leads Montana in scoring (13.1/g) and assists (5.0/g), and ranks second in rebounding (5.3/g).
“She’s a point guard who can impact the game in so many ways other than just play-making,” said Schweyen. “She’s a great rebounding guard, one of the best I’ve been around, and she is a great scorer in the post. She does a lot of things a point guard doesn’t necessarily do.”
But she’s a point guard first. She ranks 37th nationally in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.15).
Buoyed by Johnston’s team-best .461 shooting percentage and her distributing, Montana is on pace to have its best team shooting percentage in more than a decade.
Johnston takes 4,188 minutes played, an average of 35.2 per game for her career, into this week’s tournament in Boise. She’s made 111 career starts. She ranks eighth in program history in scoring (1,380), fifth in assists (509).
She was recruited by former coach Robin Selvig and was a redshirt on his final team. She’s been Schweyen’s point guard the last four years, since the start of Schweyen’s head coaching career.
“I’ve had people tell me she’s their favorite guard in the league,” said Schweyen. “I think people appreciate kids who are blue-collar workers, and that’s McKenzie. ... We’ve been through a lot together, some tough things and tough times. Through it all she’s been an incredibly steady leader.”
Freije, the top player on a Montana State team that went 19-1 in league, was voted the MVP. The Bobcats also had the Freshman of the Year in Darian White and the Top Reserve in Tori Martell.
Rebecca Cardenas, of Southern Utah, was named the Defensive Player of the Year. Northern Arizona sophomore Nina Radford, a transfer from UC Santa Barbara, was voted the Newcomer of the Year.
2019-20 All-Big Sky Conference Teams and Honors
Most Valuable Player: Fallyn Freije, Montana State
Defensive Player of the Year: Rebecca Cardenas, Southern Utah
Newcomer of the Year: Nina Radford, Northern Arizona
Freshman of the Year: Darian White, Montana State
Top Reserve: Tori Martell, Montana State
Rebecca Cardenas (SUU)
Fallyn Freije (MSU)
Kiahrica Rasheed (NAU)
Gina Marxen (UI)
McKenzie Johnston (UM)
Jacey Bailey (NAU)
Callie Bourne (ISU)
Kennedy Nicholas (SAC)
Dora Goles (ISU)
Oliana Squires (MSU)
Beyonce Bea (UI)
Lizzy Klinker (UI)
Kylie Jiminez (PSU)
Alexis Chapman (UNC)
Desirae Hansen (PSU)
Honorable Mention: Alisha Davis (UNC), Caitlin Malvar (NAU), Bella Cravens (EWU), Darian White (MSU), Harley Hansen (SUU)