West Coast Conference Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year Are All Gaels

Along with Saint Mary's winning the WCC title, five Men’s Basketball players receive conference honors: Augustas Marciulionis, Mitchell Saxen, Aidan Mahaney, Alex Ducas, and Joshua Jefferson. And Randy Bennett is Coach of the Year.

by Ryan Barnett, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications | March 5, 2024

The West Coast Conference has announced the All-Conference list of players in Men’s Basketball. The 2024 regular season WCC Champion Saint Mary's Gaels saw a hefty contingent on the list, including three major award winners—for Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year.


Player of the Year: Augustas Marciulionis

Men's basketball player Augustus Marciulionis
WCC Player of the Year Augustas Marciulionis / Photo by Tod Fierner for SMC Athletics

Augustas Marciulionis was named the WCC Player of the Year after his breakout junior season. The point guard out of Vilnius, Lithuania, was the Gaels’ second leading scorer, averaging 12.4 points per game while dishing out 159 assists—the most by a Gael since Emmett Naar's 284 in 2017–18. Marciulionis played more minutes than any other Gael this season. He finished ranked second in the conference in assists, assists per game, and assist/turnover ratio. He also ranked third in the conference in steals. In WCC contests, Marciulionis averaged 14.1 points and 6.5 assists per game, while holding a stellar assist to turnover ratio of 3.4. He was a huge reason as to why the Gaels are currently ranked 18th in the country in assist/turnover ratio as a team. Marciulionis scored a career-best 28 points in front of the home fans against Pepperdine, and he logged his first three career double-doubles on the season. For his achievements, Marciulionis was also named a first team member of the All-WCC team. 


Defensive Player of the Year: Mitchell Saxen

Men's basketball player Mitchell Saxen
WCC Defensive Player of the Year Mitchell Saxen / Photo by Tod Fierner for SMC Athletics

Mitchell Saxen made life tough for post players and guards alike when they tried to traverse the paint. That earned him recognition as WCC Defensive Player of the Year. The Gaels’ leader in both rebounding and blocked shots, Saxen proved to be one of the grittiest players in the conference all season long. Never allowing an easy shot to go up on the interior, he was a big reason as to why the Gaels held opponents to just 39.1% shooting from the field and 58.5 points per game—both ranking in the top 10 in the country. The Gaels are also leading the nation in rebounding margin, with Saxen as their leading rebounder. Saxen led the conference with 42 blocked shots, and he currently ranks sixth in program history, with 111 total rejections. With all of his defensive contributions, it cannot be forgotten that Saxen was also a major offensive contributor for Saint Mary's, averaging 11.5 points and 7.3 rebounds—including 3.7 offensive rebounds—per contest. Saxen logged five double-doubles on the year, including a 23 point, 16 rebound game against UNLV. In that game, he scored the game-winning basket as time expired, and he was named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week. Saxen was named a first team member of the All-WCC team.


Coach of the Year: Randy Bennett

Saint Mary's Men's Basketball Head Coach Randy Bennett celebrating after a game
WCC Coach of the Year Randy Bennett / Photo by Tod Fierner for SMC Athletics

For the third consecutive year, and sixth time in his illustrious career, Head Coach Randy Bennett has been named the WCC Coach of the Year. In his 23rd season at the helm, Bennett led the Gaels to their first outright regular season WCC outright title since the 2012 season. The Gaels began the season with a rocky 3 and 5 record before righting the ship to win 21 of their final 23, closing out the regular season with a 24–7 record. Throughout the slow start, Bennett continued to coach with a "get better every minute" mindset, and he gave his younger players the opportunity to grow before everybody's eyes and turn into a top-25 program. Bennett notched his 16th consecutive 20-win season (not including the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season) and is certainly on his way to leading the Gaels to their 17th consecutive postseason berth, playing in either the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament. This year, as conference champs, the Gaels are headed for the NCAA Tournament.


All-WCC First Team: Aidan Mahaney and Alex Ducas

Men's basketball player Aidan Mahaney dribbles the ball against Gonzaga
First Team All-WCC Member Aidan Mahaney / Photo by Tod Fierner for SMC Athletics

For the second consecutive year, Aidan Mahaney was named a first team All-WCC member. Mahaney led the Gaels in scoring, burying 73 three pointers, tied with Alex Ducas for the team and conference lead. Mahaney was also a model of consistency at the charity stripe, with a team-best 81.3% free throw clip. Through two seasons, Mahaney has already surpassed 900 points, which sets him on pace to be one of the most prolific scorers in Saint Mary's history. 

Men's basketball player Alex Ducas shoots
First Team All-WCC Member Alex Ducas / Photo by Tod Fierner for SMC Athletics

Alex Ducas earned his way onto the All-WCC list for the third consecutive season, being named a second team member for the second time in his career. Returning from injury from a season ago, Ducas found his way back to being the Gaels’ most lethal option from beyond the arc, burying a conference high 73 three pointers, tied with Aidan Mahaney. Averaging 9.8 points per game, Ducas saw his scoring numbers taper off some this season; however, he saw steady rises in nearly every other statistical category, including rebounding, assists, field goal percentage, and three point percentage. His 49.5% three point percentage in conference play ranked best in the WCC. Ducas also notched his first three career double-doubles on the season. He scored a season-high 23 against Davidson, burying a career best seven triples in the contest. He is currently ranked second in program history in three pointers made and attempted, and he is on pace to break Tommy Kuhse's record for most games played in a Gael uniform. 


All-WCC Honorable Mention: Joshua Jefferson

Men's basketball player Joshua Jefferson on the court
All-WCC Honorable Mention Joshua Jefferson / Photo by Tod Fierner for SMC Athletics

Last, but certainly not least, Joshua Jefferson made his way onto the All-WCC list for the first time in his young career, earning an honorable mention nod. After averaging less than 10 minutes per contest last season, Jefferson took on the starting power forward role for the Gaels in his sophomore campaign, and was nothing short of brilliant. Averaging 10.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game—and becoming a consistent weapon from beyond the arc in conference play—Jefferson was another potent threat in the Gaels starting five. He had a knack for putting up his best performances in big games, going for his first career double-double in an upset over Colorado State in Fort Collins, scoring a career-high 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds at San Francisco, and playing the full 40 and going for 16 points and 11 rebounds in Spokane in the Gaels victory over Gonzaga. Unfortunately, Jefferson was shut down after an injury with five games left to go in the regular season, but his impact throughout his first 26 games of the year made him an obvious choice for the all-conference list. 


WCC Tournament, Here We Come

The Gaels will be back in action on Monday, March 11, in the WCC Semifinals at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tip off is at 6 p.m. The Gaels could see any of the following schools: Santa Clara, San Diego, Pepperdine, or Pacific.

READ MORE: This story as it appears at SMCGaels.com

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