Herber was selected as ESPN the Magazine’s college basketball academic/athletic player of the year March 1, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America. It is the highest honor combining academics and athletics that a collegiate player can receive. Six days later, his conference honored him with a similar honor.
Herber is the career and consecutive starts (both 124) leader at West Virginia and became its 43rd career 1,000 point scorer against Connecticut and now ranks 39th with 1,040 points. He has played the most minutes of any Mountaineer and carries a 4.0 GPA in political science and his Spanish minor.
“If a player steals a pack of gum, it’s on the front page,” WVU head coach John Beilein said. “Academic honors do not make it as much. But it is big. To do what he has done in a second language in incredible.”
Herber, a Darmstadt, Germany native, was Beilein’s second West Virginia recruit and has numerous offers to play in Europe. He plans to play professionally there after his college career is over.
“It is, again, another honor to receive an award like this,” said Herber, who also speaks French in addition to his native German and his school-used English and Spanish. “It helps that I like to read, I think, and that the subjects are what I am interested in.”
Herber, a two-time Academic All-American, was West Virginia’s first such Big East academic selection, while Gansey and Pittsnogle became the first Mountaineers to be named to the league’s first team in the same season. WVU had just two first team players selected in its nine years in the league, the lowest of any team, and two prior in its history.
Damien Owens made the first team in 1998, when he was named the Defensive Player of the Year. Calvin Bowman was a surprise first-teamer in 2001. Darryl Prue and Steve Berger (all Atlantic-10 in 1989) were the last pair of first-team selections in any conference for West Virginia.
“To get first-team in a great conference is special,” Gansey said. “The best part about it was that Kevin was on there. Anytime you have a teammate on there is special, but to have two in the best conference is awesome.”
Pittsnogle and Gansey are the Big East’s most prolific shooting tandem, ranking second and fourth, respectively. Pittsnogle averages 19.4 points per game to lead the Mountaineers and rank third in the Big East and has scored 1,635 in his career to rank 10th all-time, passing Damien Owens (1,616). He is just 20 points from ninth place, held by P.G. Greene (1,655).
Pittsnogle, a state native, was on the all-freshman team in 2003, when he hit 47.3 percent of his 3-point shots. The senior has made 40.2 percent this season, but added an inside game. He has 38 blocks, one off his career-high 37 last season.
“Kevin is a great all-around player,” Gansey said. “He is one of the best shooters. His inside game has improved, and he has that hook shot. We would not be as good as we are without him.”
Gansey is second at 17.4 points per game and is first in steals, with 57. The St. Bonaventure transfer has scored 927 points, just 113 off Pittsnogle’s three-year total. He is second in the Big East in field goal percentage (56.3 percent) and third in 3-pointers (44.2 percent).
He led the Mountaineers to an upset win over second-seeded Wake Forest in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, scoring a career-high 29 points. His top three scoring games (Villanova and Boston College included) came in the postseason. The 6-4 forward is second on the team in rebounds, behind Pittsnogle.
“It’s a great honor. Mike and I both worked for it,” Pittsnogle said. “It would not be as special without the other. He does everything you want out of a basketball player.”
The tandem are two of five seniors that have helped resurrect the program from perhaps its lowest point in history, just after former coach Gale Catlett retired after a 20-loss season. Pittsnogle was convinced to stay Beilein, and Gansey inked one year later, then sat out 2004 due to NCAA regulations. WVU advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight and Big East finals the first season the pair played together. It now has a first round bye in the conference’s postseason tournament for the first time in school history after a 20-9 season in which it went 11-5 in the league.
“I am sure they will want to credit their teammates. But both are very special players,” Beilein said. “The people on the court with them are special, too.”