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Cougars Claim NCCAA Honors

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Photo by Ken Williams
Azusa Pacific head coach Justin Leslie was named the 2013-14 NCCAA West Region co-Coach of the Year.

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April 2, 2014
Taryn Devich

AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific guards Troy Leaf and Robert Sandoval earned National Christian College Athletic Association all-region honors, with Leaf also picking up NCCAA All-American first team honors, and head coach Justin Leslie was selected the NCCAA West Region co-Coach of the Year.

“Anytime you get recognized by your peers, it’s always an honor,” Leslie said. “An award like this speaks more to the team’s level of success than anything I am able to do, so I consider this to be an award of recognition for the team and the rest of the coaching staff.”

Leslie, who guided the Cougars to a 17-10 record and a 13-7 conference record which was good for a fourth-place finish in the PacWest, and he shared the Coach of the Year honors for the NCCAA West Region with Arizona Christian’s second-year head coach (and former Azusa Pacific assistant coach) Jeff Rutter.

Leaf was the fifth-leading scorer in the Pacific West Conference, averaging 17.6 points per game, and within the NCCAA’s West Region he ranked third in scoring and fourth in assist (4.1 per game). Leaf scored a game-high 25 points and sank three game-tying free throws that helped Azusa Pacific secure a double-overtime win and a regular-season sweep over PacWest Conference and NCCAA West rival Point Loma.

“I’m proud of Troy, because this is an improvement for him over last year in terms of national honors, and anytime you get an All-American award it’s significant,” Leslie said. “He had to deal with being a focal point of our opponents the majority of the year, and I thought he did a great job handling that attention and continuing to produce.”

Sandoval was ranked in the PacWest Conference’s top-10 in assists, with his average of 4.9 per game also ranking second in the NCCAA West Region. He also ranked in the PacWest’s top-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.0) and top-five in steals (47). Sandoval finished the season averaging 12.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game, and he averaged 15.3 points and 4.0 assists in three games with NCCAA West Region rival Point Loma, including a 21-point, five-assist effort in the Cougars’ Feb. 22 double-overtime win over Point Loma.

“Robert had some injury issues this year, and that hampered his consistency a little bit, but in spite of that he had a great attitude about trying to bring whatever he could to the team,” Leslie said. “As a point guard, he’s judged more than other positions by the performance of the whole team, but he still produced for us. Robert continued to take some steps forward again this year, and I look forward to seeing him continuing to develop heading into next year.”

In addition, Andy Jones and Miller Brown were also selected for the NCCAA Scholar-Athlete award, recognizing them as scholar-athletes of junior or senior academic standing while maintaining a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.40 or better.

“Those two had the highest GPAs on the team, but I’m extremely proud of what our whole team was able to accomplish in terms of their team GPA,” Leslie said. “That has been a focal point for our entire team; I’m proud of the work the team put in, and it’s nice to see Andy and Miller get recognized for leading that effort.”