Thabeet, Blair Are Co-Players of the Year
Thabeet, UConn’s 7-foot-3 junior center, averaged 13.6 points and10.8 rebounds this season, and his 4.5 blocks per game were second in the nation. With 89 blocks in league games this season, Thabeet is already second on the all-time Big East blocks list with 243, trailing Patrick Ewing by only five.
Thabeet won his second straight conference defensive player of the year award on Monday. Seriously considering entering the NBA draft last spring, Thabeet decided to return to UConn for at least one more season, in order to improve his all-around game.
“I always want to get better,” he said. “Coming back this year, I got way better. Every day, I keep getting better. I’m just happy with the progress I’m making, thanks to the coaches who’ve helped me get to where I am right now.”
Blair, a 6-7, 265-pound sophomore center, averaged 15.6 points and a league-leading 12.4 rebounds. He shot 59.6 percent from the floor and notched 17 double-doubles. Blair, last year’s Big East co-rookie of the year, was the only unanimous selection to the league’s first team.
Blair was never better than on Feb. 16, when he went for 22 points and 23 rebounds in Pitt’s 76-68 win over UConn in Hartford. Thabeet had just five points and four rebounds before fouling out.
In the rematch this past Saturday, Blair was limited to 28 minutes due to foul trouble and finished with just eight points and eight boards. Thabeet poured in 14 first-half points but was held scoreless (on just two shots) in the latter half. He finished with 13 rebounds and five blocks.
Thabeet is almost certain to enter this June’s NBA draft, and Blair is likely to enter, as well. Both players helped their respective teams to 15-3 Big East records, tying for second place. They’re also the first players to share the league’s player of the year award since UConn’s Caron Butler and Pitt’s Brandin Knight were tabbed in 2002.
The award is decided by a vote by the conference’s 16 coaches, who aren’t allowed to vote for their own players.
Also, Georgetown’s Greg Monroe was named Big East rookie of the year, Villanova’s Jay Wright earned coach of the year honors, and Alex Ruoff of West Virginia earned the scholar-athlete award for posting a 3.79 grade-point average.