It’s hardly a shock, but now it’s official: Sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. is your Big East Player of the Year, while John Thompson III has received the league’s 2013 Coach of the Year award, the league announced Tuesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
As was the case with the all-Big East First Team, Porter Jr. was a unanimous selection for Player of the Year, a recognition that marked the sharpest of contrasts with the Missouri native’s experience following the 2011-12 regular season, when he was snubbed from the Big East all-Rookie team in an eyebrow-raising decision.
It is the first Big East Coach of the Year award for Thompson III in his ninth season at the helm; his father, John Thompson Jr., got the nod three times during his 20 seasons coaching in the Big East.
Not much was expected out of Georgetown this season in the wake of the losses of Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark, as the Hoyas were tabbed to finish fifth overall by the conference coaches in the preseason. The suspension of sophomore forward Greg Whittington — the team’s second-leading scorer at the time — in January due to academic issues certainly did not appear to bolster the Blue and Gray’s chances.
A Jan. 19 loss to cellar dwellars South Florida aside, however, that’s exactly what Whittington’s absence in fact did.
With Whittington out, Thompson III inserted another defensive stopper, sophomore guard Jabril Trawick, into his starting lineup, and the Hoyas seemingly rededicated themselves as a unit to making defense a central point of pride. As a result, Georgetown reeled off 11 straight wins from the end of January to the beginning of March, with junior guard Markel Starks, freshman guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and — above all — Porter Jr. picking up the slack and then some.
All three players sharply improved their production after Whittington’s suspension, as Starks boosted his points per game average above his inactive teammate’s to 12.4 per game; Smith-Rivera, meanwhile, now averages nine per contest, a figure augmented by his 33-point breakout against DePaul on Feb. 20.
Few could have seen such a response coming, but Thompson III managed to pull the strings in just the right ways to deliver a top Big East tournament seed against all odds.
Of course, he could not have done so without the work of his brilliant star player.
Porter Jr., who has rocketed up NBA draft boards with his torrid recent stretch, poured in 33 points at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse, 22 at Connecticut and 28 against Rutgers between Jan. 23 and March 2. He ranks second in the Big East in points per game during league play (18.1), second in three-point shooting (44.1 percent), fifth in rebounding (7.3) and third in steals (1.8). While his do-it-all style of play may be almost impossibly smooth, Porter Jr. has also well demonstrated that he can take over games when called upon, a trait particularly put on display in his team’s rout of Syracuse and its overtime comeback win over the Huskies in Storrs, Conn.
Porter Jr. is the first Hoya since current Boston Celtic Jeff Green in 2007 to bring home the player of the year award. Thompson Jr. in 1992 previously represented the last time a Georgetown head coach had been named Coach of the Year.
Mike Brey and Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame were the last coach-player duo to sweep the league’s two top awards, having done so following the Irish’s 2010 campaign.