The Big East Conference officially awarded a handful of awards on Monday morning, per the conference's official website.
Seton Hall swingman Fuquan Edwin was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. The senior from Paterson, N.J. had 74 steals on the season, which is a single-season high for any Pirate in program history.
Joining Edwin in the award department were Villanova's James Bell and Darrun Hilliard and Marquette's Devante Gardner. Bell and Hilliard were both named co-Most Improved Player of the Year for the conference, while the Golden Eagle big man picked up the Big East Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Both Bell and Hilliard were huge contributors to the Wildcats' successes this season. The duo averaged 14.9 and 14.4 points per game respectively, accounting for first- and second-best on the team in that category. Additionally, Bell averaged six rebounds per game, while Hilliard thrived from the perimeter, shooting a team-high 41.3 percent from the three-point line.
Gardner picked up his second career Big East Sixth Man of the Year Award for his outstanding play in 2013-14. While Marquette faced their struggles this season, Gardner did not, as the big man averaged 15.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and a FG% of 52.5 percent in just 26.5 minutes per night. Additionally, Marquette's Chris Otule came away with the conference's Sportsmanship Award.
Here is the official release from the conference website:
NEW YORK – Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall’s all-time steals leader, 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 also announced that Villanova teammates Darrun Hilliard and Daniel Ochefu are co-winners of the BIG EAST Most Improved Player award. Marquette junior forward Davante Gardner has won the BIG EAST Sixth Man Award for a second straight year. Gardner’s teammate Chris Otule has won the BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award.
Edwin, a 6-6 senior guard from Paterson, N.J., led the BIG EAST in steals with 74 despite missing five games due to injuries. The senior broke the school record for career steals earlier in the season. He moved into seventh place on the BIG EAST’s all-time steals list with 153 in league play. He ranks second in the nation among active career steals leaders with 292, trailing only Ohio State’s Aaron Craft. This season he is averaging 15.8 points per game in league action.
Hilliard and Ochefu have come to the forefront to make significant contributions toward Villanova’s high-level success this season. Hilliard, a 6-6 junior from Bethlehem, Pa., is second on the team in scoring with a 14.4 average. He is shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range. Last season, Hilliard averaged 11.4 points last year and shot 31.5 percent from beyond the arc. Hilliard also excels defensively, often drawing the most difficult assignment. Ochefu, a 6-11 sophomore, is averaging 5.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and shooting 62.1 percent from the field. A native of Baltimore, Md., he is fourth in the BIG EAST in blocked shots with a 1.5 average. Last year, he averaged 3.5 points and 4.1 rebounds.
Gardner is the first player to win the BIG EAST Sixth Man Award twice. This season, he leads Marquette with a 15.1 scoring average and is averaging 5.7 rebounds. A native of Suffolk, Va., he is shooting 52.5 percent from the field, which ranks sixth in the BIG EAST, and 78.8 percent from the foul line.
Otule returned for his sixth season with the Golden Eagles after receiving a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA following the 2012-13 campaign. A native of Richmond, Texas, the 6-11 center has seen three previous seasons cut short by injury. Otule has persevered and played 123 career games, 109 as a starter. His on-the-court demeanor and exemplary team leadership has been lauded by many. Also an effective player, Otule has 144 career blocks, which is fourth on the school’s all-time list.
BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall
BIG EAST Most Improved Player Darrun Hilliard, Villanova Daniel Ochefu, Villanova
BIG EAST Sixth Man Award Davante Gardner, Marquette
BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award Chris Otule, Marquette