Rivera, Thomas, Gillispie Earn All-WAC Honors
UTEP junior guard Filiberto Rivera and junior forward Omar Thomas each earned All-WAC honors on Sunday, and Miner coach Billy Gillispie was tabbed the Don Haskins Coach of the Year.
Rivera was a first team selection, joining Boise State forward Aaron Haynes, Hawaii guard Michael Kuebler, Nevada swingman Kirk Snyder and Rice forward Michael Harris.
Rivera was also chosen to the All-Newcomer and All-Defensive teams.
Thomas was appointed second team All-WAC along with Fresno State guard Shantay Legans, Louisiana Tech forward Paul Millsap, Rice guard Jason McKrieth and Tulsa guard Jason Parker. Thomas joined Rivera on the All-Newcomer squad.
Nevada's Snyder was named the WAC Player of the Year and Louisiana Tech's Millsap was picked the WAC Freshman of the Year.
The league's 10 head coaches select the award-winners.
Rivera is the first Miner player to earn first team All-WAC honors since Brandon Wolfram in 2001. He is the first UTEP guard to be named to the first team since Antoine Gillespie in 1995.
Gillispie joins Don Haskins (1983 and 1987) as UTEP coaches who have been named WAC Coach of the Year by their peers.
Rivera is averaging 11.4 points (18th in the league), 4.7 assists (second) and 1.9 steals (first) while shooting 79 percent from the free throw line (sixth). He has a 2.03 assist to turnover ratio (third in the WAC). Rivera suffered a mild ankle sprain seven minutes into UTEP's 59-45 loss at Boise State on Saturday and did not play in the second half. The Miners led 8-7 at the time the injury occurred.
Thomas leads UTEP in field goals made (148), free throws made (131) and scoring (15.3 ppg) despite averaging just 22.2 minutes per game. He has come off the bench for 20 of 28 games. Thomas is eighth in the WAC in scoring, fourth in field goal percentage (.540), fifth in free throw percentage (.789) and tied for 14th in steals (1.1 spg).
Gillispie engineered a climb from last place in the WAC in 2002-03 to a tie for first place this season. The Miners, 6-24 a year ago, are 22-6 and on the verge of setting an NCAA record for greatest single-season turnaround.
UTEP will face either Louisiana Tech or San Jose State in a WAC Tournament quarterfinal game on Thursday in Fresno, Calif. The game will be televised in El Paso on Time Warner Cable Channel 7 beginning at 7 PM Mountain time. The winner will meet either third-seed Boise State or sixth-seed Fresno State on Friday at 9:30 PM Mountain time.