The Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) is proud to again present Men’s and Women's College Basketball Player of the Year awards to student-athletes in and from the state of Wisconsin who excel at the next level. The WBCA annually presents awards for Player of the Year from the state’s Division 1, Division 2, Division 3 (public and private schools) and Junior College programs. In-state institutions are required to be members of the WBCA in order for players to be considered for the award.
The 2019 selections for WBCA Men’s and Women's Basketball College Players of the Year can be found below, followed by full player bios.
Division 1 - Markus Howard, Marquette
Division 2 - Harrison Cleary, Minnesota-Crookston (Oak Creek High School)
Division 3 Public Schools - Ben Boots, UW-Oshkosh (Kimberly High School)
Division 3 Private Schools - Matthew Kirmse, Milwaukee School of Engineering (Port Washington High School)
Junior College - Dylan Martens, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Sheboygan Campus (Sheboygan South High School)
Division 1 - Marsha Howard, University of Wisconsin
Division 2 - Jessica Kelliher, Lewis University (Waukesha North High School)
Division 3 Public Schools - Isabella Samuels, UW-Oshkosh (Green Bay Preble High School)
Division 3 Private Schools - Jen Dowden, Wisconsin Lutheran (Bonduel High School)
Junior College - Aleah Herron, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Waukesha Campus (Milwaukee King High School)
Markus Howard of Marquette University has been selected as the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 1 Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. It is just the latest postseason honor for the 5’11” junior guard from Chandler, Arizona. He was previously selected as the unanimous Big East Player of the Year in addition to earning First Team All-Conference. Howard also took home First Team All-American accolades from USA Today as well as Second Team laurels courtesy of Sporting News, USBWA, the NABC, and the Associated Press.
Howard posted incredible numbers as a junior, averaging 25 points per game for the Golden Eagles, who finished second in the Big East Conference and posted a 24-10 overall record. He led the conference in scoring (24.9 points per game in league play), made three-pointers (112), and broke his own record by scoring 53 points in an overtime win against Creighton in January. Howard shot 89% from the free throw line this year while averaging 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
Minnesota-Crookston’s Harrison Cleary, a 2016 graduate of Oak Creek, has been named the Division 2 Men’s Basketball Player of the Year by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. The Division 2 Player of the Year honor is available to a player at a Division 2 institution in Wisconsin or a former Wisconsin high school player who attends an out-of-state Division 2 university.
Just a junior, Cleary has already surpassed 2,000 career points for the Golden Eagles. Averaging 22.2 points per game this year, he shot 46.7% from behind the three-point line and 93.9% on free throws. In a win over Minnesota-Moorhead in December, Cleary scored a career-high 47 points, making all eight free throw attempts and seven-of-eight three-pointers. A repeat First Team All-Conference selection in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, Cleary was named a Second Team All-Central Region choice by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the D2CCA. As a senior at Oak Creek, Cleary was a WBCA Division 1 Honorable Mention All-State selection.
Division 3 Public Schools
It is hard to top the accomplishments of senior guard Ben Boots this year, and he’s deservedly been named the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 3 Public School Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. Boots helped the Titans to a return trip to the Division 3 National Championship Game, and this time Oshkosh came away with the title after a runner-up finish in 2018.
The WIAC Player of the Year, Boots added First Team All-American honors from D3Hoops.com and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. A member of four NCAA Tournament teams and three times a First Team All-Conference pick, he is the school’s all-time leader in assists, three-point makes, three-point attempts, and games played. Boots ranks sixth on the Oshkosh scoring list with 1,695 career points, averaging 15.7 per game as a senior while shooting 87.5% from the free throw line. While at Kimberly High School, he took home WBCA Division 1 All-State honors as a senior in 2015.
Division 3 Private Schools
The Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association has announced Matthew Kirmse of Milwaukee School of Engineering as the Division 3 Private Schools Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. A 2015 graduate of Port Washington High School, he was named the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Player of the Year as the Raiders claimed a share of their first regular season league title since 1982.
Kirmse was a repeat selection on the NACC All-Conference team, averaging 18.9 points and 5.5 assists per game as a senior. For a second straight season he led the league in made three-pointers, shooting 42.6% in 2018-19. The Raiders finished 21-5 overall and 16-4 in league play, as Kirmse eclipsed 30 points on three occasions, including a season-high 35 points in a January win over Concordia Chicago.
Dylan Martens of the University of Green Bay-Sheboygan has been named the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Junior College Men’s Basketball Player of the Year for the 2018-19 season. Martens was a key reason the Wombats claimed a share of the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference East Division regular season title and earned the top seed in the WCC Conference Tournament.
Selected as the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year, Martens blossomed in his second year at UW-Green Bay, Sheboygan. After averaging six points and five rebounds per game in his first year, he exploded to lead the conference with 23.8 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for head coach William Greenwood II. A graduate of Sheboygan South High School, Martens twice scored 46 points in a game this year and hit double-figures in points in every game. The 6’7” post player recorded 21, double-doubles for the Wombats.
Marsha Howard of the University of Wisconsin has been named the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division I Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. The 6-foot forward from Chicago was named second-team all-Big Ten by the media and honorable mention all-Big Ten by the coaches as a senior.
Howard averaged 14.7 points and 9 rebounds per game for coach Jonathan Tsipis and the Badgers. She helped lead the Badgers reach the third round of the Big Ten Tournament for just the third time in program history and first since 2009. Howard also helped the Badgers to a 15-win season, the most wins since the 2010-11 season. She finished her career with 1,121 points.
Lewis University’s Jessica Kelliher, a 2015 graduate of Waukesha North High School, has been selected as the Division II Women’s Basketball Player of the Year by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. The Division II Player of the Year honor is available to a player at a Division II program in Wisconsin or a former Wisconsin high school player who attends an out-of-state Division II university.
Kelliher, a 6-foot forward, finished her college career with the fifth-most points in Division II history with 2,764 and also went over 1,000 rebounds. The three-time Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Year averaged 24.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game for coach Samantha Quigley Smith and the Flyers, leading them to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and 27-5 record. Kelliher was also named the Division II Conference Commissioners Association Women’s Basketball Player of the Year and earned Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American honors. She shot 65.9 percent from the floor, which was the best in Division II. Kelliher helped the Flyers reached the NCAA Tournament in each of her four seasons. As a senior in high school, she was named Division 2 WBCA all-state by unanimous vote.
Division 3 Public Schools
Isabella Samuels of UW-Oshkosh has been named the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division III Public School Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. Samuels helped the Titans reach the Sweet 16 and finish the year 26-4 overall.
The 2015 graduate of Green Bay Preble High School received first-team all-WIAC for UW-Oshkosh. Samuels averaged a team-high 9.8 points per game and added 3.4 rebounds per contest for coach Brad Fischer and the Titans. She shot 69.1 percent from the floor, making 105 of her 152 field goal attempts. Samuels was named to the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball All-Central Region Third Team by D3hoops.com. The Titans reached the NCAA Tournament in three of her four seasons.
Division 3 Private Schools
The Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association has selected Jen Dowden of Wisconsin Lutheran as the Division III Private School Women’s Player of the Year. Dowden, a 2015 graduate of Bonduel High School, led the Warriors to a program-best 27-2 overall record and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The two-time NACC Player of the Year averaged 15.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for coach Klay Knueppel and the Warriors as a senior. Dowden shot 44.7 percent from the floor and scored at least 20 points in eight games. Following the Warriors’ postseason run, she was named First Team All-Central Region by D3hoops.com for a second consecutive season. Dowden finished her career as Wisconsin Lutheran’s all-time leading scorer with 1,757 points. The Warriors reached the NCAA Tournament in three of her four years.
Aleah Herron of the University of Milwaukee-Waukesha has been named the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Junior College Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. The 2018 graduate of Milwaukee King High School helped lead the Cougars to the WCC state semi-final.
Herron, a first-team all-WCC selection, averaged 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 4 steals per game for coach David Beebe and the Cougars as a freshman. She scored 20 or more points in seven games, including a season-high 28 in a victory against UW-Milwaukee-Washington County.