By SETH STRINGER
NICEVILLE – Panhandle Conference Player of the Year has a nice ring to it. As does University of Oregon signee.
Now, fresh off helping lead NWF State to a fifth straight Panhandle Conference crown, a second straight Region 8 title and a fifth straight Elite Eight appearance, Chris Duarte can add All-American to his titles.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore guard – named both the media and coaches pick for Panhandle Player of the Year – was one of 10 players selected to the first team Monday by an NJCAA Division I men's basketball committee.
Leading a Raiders offense that averaged 89 points per game on 50 percent shooting, Duarte averaged 19 points a night on 54 percent shooting and two 3-pointers per game at a 40-percent clip.
Compiling 10 double-doubles on the season, Duarte added 7.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists a night and also thrived on the defensive end with 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
Only twice was Duarte held to single-digit points on the season, the sophomore shining at critical junctures.
On the night NWF State (28-5, 10-2) clinched its fifth straight Panhandle title, Duarte delivered 19 points of 8-of-10 shooting and three treys to accent seven boards.
A month later in an upset of top-ranked Florida Southwestern in the region semifinals, Duarte's game-high 24 points led the Raiders back from 19 points down in the second half of a 69-68 victory.
Now Duarte is headed to Oregon, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the national tournament before losing 53-49 to Virginia.