|Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman with James Akinjo, Jay Wright, and Markus Howard.|
The Big East Conference announced their award winners at a press conference ahead of the start of the Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Marquette guard Markus Howard has been named Big East Player of the Year, Georgetown guard James Akinjo was selected Big East Freshman of the Year, and Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright earned Big East Coach of the Year honors for a record sixth time. The winners were selected by a vote of the league’s head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own players.
Howard was the Big East scoring champion who helped lead the Golden Eagles to 23-8 overall record and a 12-6 conference mark. The 5-11 native from Chandler, Ariz., averaged 25.0 points in all games this season. His 24.9 scoring mark in league play makes him the conference's scoring champion. One of the nation’s top shooters, Howard led the league with 112 made 3-pointers and shot 41.6 percent from 3-point range. He ranked second in the league in free throw shooting, making 90.2 percent. In an overtime win at Creighton on Jan. 9, Howard broke his own Big East single-game scoring record with 53 points. He is a finalist for several national awards, including the Wooden Award and the Bob Cousy Award and is a semifinalist for the Naismith Trophy. In only three seasons of Big East play, Howard has surpassed the 1,000-point plateau and ranks 29th on the league’s all-time scoring list with 1,070 points. He is Marquette’s second Big East Player of Year. Jae Crowder won the award in 2011-12.
Akinjo has been the spark at point guard that has fueled Georgetown’s rise. The Hoyas enter this week’s Big East Tournament with a 19-12 overall record and a 9-9 Big East mark. Akinjo, who is from Oakland, Calif., averaged 13.3 points and led the Big East in assists with a 5.4 mark. In league games, he performed even better with a 6.0 assist average. Akinjo is the first freshman to lead the league in assists since Notre Dame’s Tory Jackson in 2006-07. Akinjo ranks first in assist/turnover ratio at 2.4 and is the top freshman free throw shooter, making 82.8 percent. He won Big East Freshman of the Week four times this season. Akinjo is the first Big East Freshman of the Year since Greg Monroe in 2008-09.
Wright has led Villanova to a 22-9 record, including a 13-5 Big East mark, and they are top seed in the conference's Tournament. The Wildcats won their fifth regular-season crown in the last six years. This season’s success was achieved despite losing four players from last year’s national championship squad to the NBA Draft. Wright, who owns a 444-174 record at Villanova, is the school’s all-time victories leader and has won two NCAA titles. Wright has earned Big East Coach of the Year accolades in 2006, ’09, ’14, ’15, and ’16 (shared with Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard). The Wildcats have won three of the last four Big East Tournament titles.