Brunson, Mack, Spellman win Big East honors
NEW YORK (AP) — Even when he received the most prestigious award of his coaching career, Xavier’s Chris Mack joked Villanova was there to sour the moment.
Mack, Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson and Villanova freshman Omari Spellman are the Big East award winners.
“A program has four losses, and you have to invite the guy (Villanova coach Jay Wright) that gave us two of those and the two players that helped him secure those two,” Mack quipped.
The voting of the conference’s coaches was announced Wednesday.
Brunson, a junior, led the Wildcats to a 27-4 record, 14-4 in the Big East. He is averaging 19.0 points and 4.8 assists per game.
Brunson is the third Wildcat guard in the last four seasons to earn Big East Player of the Year honors. Josh Hart won last year and Ryan Arcidiacono shared the honor with Providence’s Kris Dunn in 2014-15.
He was also named the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year. It marks the first time a Villanova player was given the award since 1991, when Greg Woodward was given the honor.
“It’s a great feeling,” Brunson said. “It just shows how dedicated I am on and off the court. I really try to be a part of the school, I really try to work hard on my game. I just really try to do everything as hard as I can as best as I can in all aspects of life.”
Mack directed Xavier to its first Big East regular-season title with a 15-3 league record and a 27-4 overall mark. The overall win total is the highest in school history in the regular season. This season, Mack became the school’s career leader in victories when he won his 203rd game.
“It’s always been home. My parents live in Cincinnati, I grew up there, my parents come to every radio show, so for me, it never felt like any program that wanted me or felt like it was a better opportunity,” Mack said. “It always felt that Xavier - especially when it got to the Big East, was on a different plane.”
Spellman received all nine possible votes. The 6-foot-9 forward is the Big East’s top freshman scorer with a 10.9 average and his rebound average of 7.8 ranks fourth in the conference. Spellman had 12 double-doubles this season.
He is the third Villanova freshman to win the honor joining Scottie Reynolds in 2006-07 and Tim Thomas in 1996-97.
“Thanks to the Big East, and thank you to coach Wright and (his wife) Patty and his family for supporting me,” Spellman said. “Most of all I want to thank my mom for raising me basically by myself and making sure I know to do right from wrong. . She’s just a strong woman I just wanted to make sure I thanked her and the rest of my family and supporting cast.”