NEW YORK - Bob Huggins was a magna cum laude graduate at West Virginia University and he's won 710 games as a head basketball coach. He is, by all available measures, a smart guy who knows his sport.
Huggins was nevertheless "dumbfounded" Tuesday. His star senior, Kevin Jones, wasn't named the Big East Player of the Year.
"Obviously I thought he should have been player of the year," Huggins said of Jones, who became the third player to ever lead the league in scoring (20 points per game) and rebounding (11.2 per game). "When you're the leading scorer and rebounder and you take seven freshmen and a transfer and two guys who haven't been in the program much at all and you win 19 games, and maybe could have, should have won a bunch more, I thought he was phenomenal."
WVU has never, and will never, win the Big East's top award. It went instead to Marquette forward Jae Crowder, who was third in the league in scoring (17.6) and ninth in rebounding (7.9). As much as Huggins respectfully disagreed with that, he accepted it. He may never feel the same about what he believes is the larger injustice.
Jones wasn't a unanimous pick Sunday for the all-conference first team. Crowder was and he was alone in that regard.
Huggins, who met with his local media on campus Monday, arranged another meeting here Tuesday at the team hotel and at the same time the conference awards were being announced across the street at Madison Square Garden. The player of the year award was the main topic.
"It doesn't bother me as much as whoever it was that didn't deem him as first-team," Huggins said. "I mean, how could he not be a unanimous pick for the first team? Who can name six players in this league who are better than he is?
"Someone didn't think he was nearly as good as obviously we think he is, or that he didn't have the year we thought he did. But I couldn't imagine who didn't put him on the first team."
The coaches vote on the award and were allowed to send in their ballots during the final week of the regular season with Friday as the deadline, even though there are games Saturday. A coach picks a player of the year and five players for the first team, second team and third team. A coach can't pick his own players and can't use his choice for player of the year on any of the three teams.
The coach, or the coaches, who left Jones off the first team had to pick six players not on his own team that he thought were better than Jones.
"I'm dumbfounded that whoever, or whomever - we don't know how many - didn't think he was first-team all-Big East," Huggins said. "To me, that's mind-boggling."
Huggins said Jones was disappointed and that the senior from Mount Vernon, N.Y., wanted to win the award, but that he was his normal self in Tuesday's practice. Earlier in the day, Jones was named the USBWA District 2 Player of the Year, third-team All-America by the Sporting News and a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award as the national player of the year.
Huggins said he still felt badly for Jones, who this season joined Jerry West as the only player in school history with 1,700 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career, and hoped Jones wasn't the victim of a Big East bias against the outgoing Mountaineers. WVU will join the Big 12 Conference July 1.
In the fall, WVU saw Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead win the conference's football player of the year award over quarterback Geno Smith. During the regular season, Smith criticized officials for holding WVU's exit against the team. He was subsequently reprimanded.
"You hope that wouldn't be the case," Huggins said. "You hope that people do the right thing. This isn't really about anybody other than K.J. It's not about our university. It's not about me. It's not about anything else. It's about K.J. You would hope that everyone would do the right thing."
St. John's freshman forward Moe Harkless was named the conference rookie of the year. South Florida's Stan Heath was named the coach of the year.
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