That Shabazz Napier is a worthy choice for American Athletic Conference player of the year is a no-brainer.
It’s just hard to explain that to Mick Cronin and Sean Kilpatrick. Though, there’s really no argument for why Kilpatrick wasn’t player of the year, either, I suppose.
Anyway, just a couple of hurt feelings on the Cincinnati side and some wide smiles on the UConn side to get the first AAC tournament underway.
To recap the awards:
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Shabazz Napier, UConn
COACH OF THE YEAR
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Austin Nichols, Memphis
SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Jimmy McDonnell, Temple
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Justin Jackson, Cincinnati
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
Michael Dixon Jr., Memphis
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Here are few of the comments from the awards ceremony:
— KILPATRICK DIDN’T MIND showing displeasure at missing out on the player of the year honor.
“When all the numbers do line up and it doesn’t go your way, of course there’s some type of disappointment. But you have to use it as motivation to keep going,” Kilpatrick said.
Fans shouldn’t feel sorry for him, Kilpatrick says. They should feel sorry for the other nine teams here in Memphis this week.
“It’s going to be 20 times worse for a lot of people now,” Kilpatrick said.
— NAPIER WAS AS gracious as possible in accepting the award.
He thanked everyone at UConn from the coaches, trainers, strength coaches, managers, players and on down. He saved his most poignant praise for his mother and his teammates, however.
About his mother, Carmen Velasquez, who was in the crowd Wednesday, he had many kind words.
“For me to be in this position it’s a tribute to who she is and how she raised me,” Napier said.
About his teammates, Napier said he wished he could break the award into 15 pieces.
“Without my guys, I’m nothing,” Napier said.
— NAPIER FOUND OUT he was winning on Sunday. He kept it quiet, however.
“I kept it a secret from everybody,” Napier said. “My mother thought I didn’t know.”
— LIKE MANY OF the Huskies in the room, UConn coach Kevin Ollie gushed over his point guard.
“It’s remarkable the things he does on a day-to-day basis. I know I put a lot on him to be the point guard, to be the extension of me, and he’s done it remarkably,” Ollie said. “I couldn’t ask for a better leader or a better point guard than Shabazz Napier.”
— IN WINNING THE top coaching honor in the league, Cronin made a point of thanking Rick Pitino, who wasn’t in attendance.
Cronin said that Pitino “is probably practicing his team three times today and that’s why he couldn’t make it here.”