March 9, 2009
NEW YORK - A pair of Villanova Wildcats were honored by the BIG EAST with awards on Monday.
The BIG EAST announced that Villanova forward Dante Cunningham has been named BIG EAST Most Improved Player. Cunningham's teammate Corey Fisher is the winner of the BIG EAST Sixth Man Award and West Virginia senior guard Alex Ruoff is the recipient of the BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award.
For the second straight year, Conncecticut's shot-blocking stalwart Hasheem Thabeet has been named BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year by a vote of the league's head coaches who were not permitted to vote for their own players.
The league will announce the BIG EAST Player of the Year, Oppenheimer Funds/BIG EAST Coach of the Year, BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, and BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete of the Year on Tuesday, March 10.
Thabeet was a game-changing defensive presence for the Huskies. The 7-3 junior averaged 13.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots. His blocked shot average is 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 is a native of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
Cunningham, who was already a solid starter at Villanova going into his senior campaign, took a big jump in 2008-09. Last season, the 6-8 forward averaged 10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds. Going into The BIG EAST Championship, Cunningham owns a scoring average of 16.4 points per game and a rebounding mark of 7.3. Both averages lead the team. He helped lead the Wildcats to a 25-6 record. A native of Silver Spring, Md., he has reached double figures in scoring in 30 of his last 33 career games.
Fisher also made significant contributions to Villanova's success, which included a school record number of victories in the regular season. Coming off the bench, the 6-1 sophomore provided a consistent offensive spark. He is third on the team in scoring with a 10.8 average and has 86 assists and only 58 turnovers. A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Fisher has reached double figures in scoring in nine of his last 11 games.
Ruoff has been a dependable four-year performer on the floor and an exemplary student-athlete off the floor. On the court, he is second on the team in scoring with a 15.7 average. He is a top-flight 3-point threat with 80 3-point baskets this season. Ruoff, who was raised in Spring Hill, Fla., recently was named to the 2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America First Team.
BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year
Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut
BIG EAST Most Improved Player
Dante Cunningham, Villanova
BIG EAST Sixth Man Award
Corey Fisher, Villanova
BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award
Alex Ruoff, West Virginia