Eastern Illinois releases top male newcomwers of the year

Eastern Illinois releases top male newcomwers of the year

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CHARLESTON -- During the spring semester Eastern Illinois Athletics announces its candidates for its yearly awards at the Senior Reception in April. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic that ceremony was unable to take place and no year-end awards were presented for the 2019-20 academic year.

 In place here are the top Male Newcomers of the Year: 

George Dixon (basketball) - Dixon was a dominant player on the glass for the Panthers as he earned All-Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer Team honors helping lead the team to a winning record for just the third time since 2000-01. Dixon led the team in rebounding and finished the season ranked in the top ten for single season rebounds, the first player to join that list since Kevin Duckworth in 1986.  

Isaiah Hill (football) - Hill was one of the top receivers in the OVC despite missing the first four games of the season due to NCAA transfer rules. He earned All-OVC Newcomer Team honors leading the Panthers in receiving, receiving yards and touchdown receptions. He was ranked 31st in the FCS in receptions per game and caught the fourth most passes in a single game in school history.

Adam Swanson (cross country) - Swanson was a standout in his first season as a member of both the cross country and track teams. He helped EIU win in the OVC Indoor Track Championship scoring points in the indoor mile after earning first team All-OVC honors by winning the 800 meter run. In cross country he placed in the top 100 at the NCAA West Regional and was in the top 30 at the OVC Championships.

Jason Johnson football) - Johnson came on strong late in the season to finish third on the team in tackles. He would earn All-OVC Newcomer Team honors and later collect Freshmen All-American accolades. He finished with 59 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss. 

Shandalll Thomas (track) - Thomas helped the Panthers win the OVC Indoor Track Championship landing himself as one of the fastest runners in school history. He was a first team All-OVC performer winning both the 60 meter and 200 meter dash. Thomas posted times in both sprint events that ranked ninth on the EIU career list.

Gunner Smith (baseball) - Smith helped the Panthers finish with the highest rated RPI in the Ohio Valley Conference as the Panthers were ranked 60th when the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the season.  Smith ranked second on the team with a .318 batting average and was second on the team in RBI.

In addition EIU had several other top performances by male newcomers during the year including: Jaelin Benefield (football), Davi Giradi (soccer), Christos Kyrillou (tennis), Ben Lanman, a Charleston grad (golf), Rickey Johnson (track and JJ Ross (football). 

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Related to this story

Coming off its first winning season since going 18-15 in 2014-15, Eastern Illinois men’s basketball coach Jay Spoonhour is excited about his recruiting class of 2020-21.

The Panthers were 17-15 last season and 9-9 in the Ohio Valley Conference.

This year's recruiting class currently consists of eight players and may include one more player. It's been different than most in that Spoonhour and his coaching staff have had to do it during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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