Valparaiso University senior center Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy) earned national plaudits today, as he was named the Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year by CollegeInsider.com. In addition, with the release of the NCAA’s final national statistical rankings on Tuesday following Monday’s national title game, Fernandez officially concluded the 2015-16 season as the nation’s leading shot blocker.
Fernandez was honored with the national defensive player of the year honor following a senior season in which he took his defensive game to another level. Fernandez easily surpassed his mark for blocked shots from last season, setting a new school record with 119 total rejections – also good for a Horizon League single-season record. The only two-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year in league history, Fernandez blocked five or more shots on 12 occasions this year, including matching his own record with eight rejections in the first-round NIT win over Texas Southern.
Fernandez broke Valpo’s career blocked shots record during the middle of the season, and with his 119 rejections this year, closed out his Crusader career with 289 total blocks. He also paced the nation in block percentage and anchored a defense which finished the year ninth in both points allowed per game and adjusted defensive efficiency.
Fernandez racked up his 119 blocked shots over 36 games this season, finishing the campaign with 3.31 blocks/game to beat out UIC’s Tai Odiase (3.23 blocks/game) to close out the season as the leading shot-blocker in Division I. Fernandez is the first Crusader individual to lead the nation in a statistical category since Bill Schroer paced the country in free throw percentage for the 1948-49 season, while as a team, Valpo led the nation in 3-point percentage in 1992-93.