Memphis freshman forward Austin Nichols wasn’t sure how much he would even play in his first year with the Tigers. And senior guard Michael Dixon Jr. was a newcomer with an uncertain role after transferring from Missouri.
Memphis Tigers freshman forward Austin Nichols was voted the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year by the league’s coaches. Nichols averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in the regular season.
(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
On Wednesday, March 12, at a luncheon at the Gibson Guitar Factory Nichols won the league’s Rookie of the Year award and Dixon was selected Sixth Man of the Year, as voted on by the league’s 10 coaches.
“I’d love to get it,” Nichols had said of the award earlier in the week. “But honestly, before the season, I didn’t think I’d be doing this well and would just be getting a few minutes a game.”
Nichols (Briarcrest Christian School) averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, was the only unanimous choice for the AAC’s All-Rookie Team, and won the Conference Rookie of the Week honor four times.
Dixon averaged 12.2 points and shot 48.1 percent from the field. He started just four games this season for the Tigers (23-8, 12-6). In 18 conference games, Dixon averaged 13.3 points and shot 50 percent from the floor in his sixth man role.
“Dixon comes off the bench and brings that spark and that toughness,” said Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, whose No. 4 seed Huskies play the No. 5 seed Tigers in a quarterfinal tournament game that will start around 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 13, at FedExForum.
UConn senior guard Shabazz Napier beat out Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick and Louisville guard Russ Smith for Player of the Year honors. Napier averaged 19.3 points in league games and is a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award and on the watch list for several other national awards.
Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin won Coach of the Year after his Bearcats went 26-5 and 15-3 and shared the regular season conference title with Louisville.
“Mick Cronin should get consideration for National Coach of the Year,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said.
Bearcats forward Justin Jackson was named Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league in blocks (2.9) and finishing fifth in rebounding (7.1).
Louisville sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell won Most Improved Player; he averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Temple forward Jimmy McDonnell was recognized as the Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Kilpatrick won the Sportsmanship Award.
“The way he treats opposing players and officials is exemplary,” Cronin said.