BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College seniors James Wallace (Bellaire, Ohio/Linsly) and Chris Stephens (Wheeling, W.Va./Wheeling Central) were voted to ESPN the Magazine’s College Division Academic All-District II teams Thursday, as announced by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
To be eligible, a student-athlete must be a varsity starter or key reserve, maintain a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.20 on a scale of 4.00, have reached sophomore athletic and academic standing at their current institution and be nominated by their sports information director. All Division II, III and NAIA institutions in Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia make up District II.
Wallace earned First Team All-District II honors, which means he will be placed on the national ballot for Academic All-American, with that team to be announced Feb. 28. Stephens received Second Team recognition, making Bethany one of just five men’s basketball programs in the country to place at least two student-athletes on the First or Second Team. The University of Redlands (Calif.) had the most representatives with three, while Boise State (Idaho) University, George Fox (Ore.) University and Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio) University all had two players earn spots on the top two academic all-district teams.
“This is a very big honor and I am extremely happy for James and Chris because of how hard they work on the court and in the classroom,” said Bethany head coach Aaron Huffman. “And not only is it an honor for them, but it’s a proud accomplishment for the entire program. To have three earn All-District recognition last year was a great feat but to see two more earn spots this year shows consistency in achieving academic success away from the court. It’s a great thing for us and has become a real point of pride within the program.”
Wallace and Stephens aren’t just piling up awards in the classroom, as their athletic accomplishments are nearly unrivaled by anyone in school history. This year’s co-captains have led Bethany to a 16-6 start on the season, which makes them the winningest class in Bethany history with an 81-24 overall record and a 41-7 mark in the PAC. The duo have helped Bethany win two PAC titles, earn two consecutive bids to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and attain the ninth-longest conference winning streak in NCAA Division III history of 29 games.
On the court, Wallace is Bethany’s leading scorer this season, as he ranks fourth in the PAC with 15.8 points per game. The 6-4 forward has scored in double figures in 16 games and has five contests with 20 or more points. The three-time PAC Player of the Week and one-time ECAC South Region Player of the Week is also ranked fourth in the conference in field goal percentage (55.6) and 10th in rebounding (5.1).
Away from the hardwood, Wallace has a GPA above 3.6 as a history education major and special education minor. He’s made the Dean’s List three times and the PAC Academic Honor Roll twice, while also earning membership into the Phi Alpha Theta History and Kappa Delta Pi Education Honor Societies.
Stephens is a four-year starter for the Green and White and with 105 career games played, is just five away from breaking the school record. This season, the 6-2 swingman is fourth on the Bison squad in scoring with 11.0 points per game. But his contributions go far beyond the scoring column, as he is third in the conference in assists with 4.38 per game, fourth in free throw (82.4) and three-point (42.4) percentages and eighth in steals (1.62).
In the classroom, Stephens’ GPA is nearly 3.6 as a psychology/pre-physical therapy major. He’s made the Dean’s List four times and the PAC Academic Honor Roll twice, while also earning inclusion to the Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society. His volunteer work includes serving more than 200 hours at Wheeling Hospital and volunteering with Special Olympics.
“Our success as a program is directly due to having student-athletes who strive to achieve,” said Huffman. “And James and Chris are perfect examples of the type of achievers I’ve been fortunate to be around since I came to Bethany. No matter what they decide to do in life, they will be very good at it. Right now, their main focus is excelling academically and on the basketball court. But in a few months, when basketball is over and they’ve graduated, they will continue to excel because they will put everything they have into accomplishing as much as they can in life.”