‘Cats win three Big East awards

Nick Esposito

Men’s basketball garnered several accolades in New York City this week at the Big East Awards ceremony. It was an event in which the sports world paid homage to the coaches, players and teams that compose the nation’s most deadly conference.

The awards are voted on by the coaches of the 16 Big East schools. Coaches cannot vote for their own players.

For only the fifth time in 30 years the Big East awarded the MVP to two players. Hasheem Thabeet of UConn and the freshman beast from Pittsburgh, DeJuan Blair pulled ahead of the very deserving Big East field.

The Tanzanian defensive juggernaut of UConn, Thabeet took away Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight season. Alex Ruoff of West Virginia was selected as the Big East sportsman of the year. The only bright spot of the Georgetown Hoyas season was freshman phenom Greg Monroe who earned the honor as the Big East Rookie of the Year.

Villanova has enjoyed a whole season of bright spots and it continued to enjoy them this week as it dominated the awards, taking three out of eight awards.

Dante Cunningham was recognized for his work ethic this season as he made great strides to improve his game. Cunningham was awarded the Big East’s Most Improved Player Award. Cunningham spent countless hours in the gym and on the court this offseason adding a lethal jump shot to his repertoire. Last season Cunningham averaged 10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

The ’08-’09 season has been Cunningham’s most successful of his career. He averages 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Above his on-the-court production, Cunningham has stepped into a key leadership role enabling the Wildcats to become one of the conference’s most improved teams.

A lot of the team’s success this season may be credited to sophomore guard Corey Fisher who was presented with the Big East Sixth Man award. Providing a spark off the bench Fisher gives Villanova a much needed jolt. As Fisher matured this season, he has given junior guard Scottie Reynolds the opportunity to play off the ball and look for the shot. The 6-1 Bronx native is third on the team in scoring with 10.8 points per game coupled with an impressive 86-58 assist to turnover differential. Fisher’s production has surged the past few weeks as he has hit double figures in nine out of the last 11 games. This season Fisher brought depth to a team that desperately needed it.

Head Coach Jay Wright won his second Coach of the Year award after a very successful 2009 campaign. By far his most successful season as coach of Villanova as the ‘Cats ran on to a school record 25 wins and a fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance. The preseason polls had Villanova at 21st in the nation and eighth in the stellar Big East conference.

After receiving criticism for a soft early season schedule, Wright and the ‘Cats proved they can play with the best by beating perennial powerhouse Pittsburgh as well as capturing marquee wins against Marquette and Syracuse. The Wildcats finished the season ranked 10th in the nation and finished fourth in the Big East.