March 2, 1999
NEW YORK – Notre Dame freshman forward Troy Murphy has been named the 1998-99 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. Connecticut guard-forward Richard Hamilton and Miami forward Tim James are the BIG EAST Co-Players of the Year. Miami’s Leonard Hamilton was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
Junior center Etan Thomas of Syracuse garnered BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors. Junior guard Johnny Hemsley of Miami was named BIG EAST Most Improved Player.
All the awards were determined by a vote of the conference’s head coaches. The awards were presented at the Grand Hyatt Hotel prior to the AT&T BIG EAST Championship, which will be played at Madison Square Garden on Mar. 3-6.
Murphy is the first freshman in BIG EAST history to win the league’s rebounding crown. The 6-9 native of Morristown, N.J. averaged 10.3 rebounds in BIG EAST contests. The Irish forward was fourth in the league in overall scoring at 18.9 and first in overall rebounding at 9.7. He also led the conference in field goal percentage, hitting at a .534 clip. He has scored 491 points this season and has a chance to break the Notre Dame freshman record of 511 points set by Adrian Dantley in 1974-75. He is the second Notre Dame player to win a BIG EAST Conference individual award. Pat Garrity was named the BIG EAST player of the year in 1997.
Hamilton is the league’s scoring champion, averaging 22.1 points this season in BIG EAST play. The 6-6 native of Coatesville, Pa. has put himself among the all-time scorers in league play in just three seasons. He has 1,020 points in BIG EAST games, the most of any player in league history after three years. In all games this season, Hamilton is averaging 21.3 points. He was the 1997-98 BIG EAST Player of the Year and the 1998-99 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year. The only other players to receive Player of the Year awards more than once were Chris Mullin of St. John’s and Patrick Ewing of Georgetown. Both players shared the award in ’84 and ’85. Mullin won the award outright in ’83.
James led the Hurricanes with an 18.9 scoring average and an 8.3 rebounding mark which placed him third in the BIG EAST in overall scoring and third in rebounding. Late this season, he became only the seventh player in conference history to amass 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in league play. In his UM career, he is the only Hurricane to record over 1,200 points, 600 rebounds and 150 blocks.
Hamilton wins BIG EAST coaching honors for the second time. He was named Coach of the Year in 1994-95 after leading the Hurricanes to a 15-13 overall record and a 9-9 league record. UM had been 0-18 in the conference play in ’93-94. This season, Miami has enjoyed its best campaign since joining the BIG EAST in 1991-92. The Hurricanes are 21-5 overall and on an eight-game winning streak. UM is 15-3 in BIG EAST play and the No. 2 seed in this week’s AT&T BIG EAST Championship.
Thomas was the ’97-98 Most Improved Player. A 6-9 junior from Tulsa, Okla., he is already one of the league’s all-time leaders in blocked shots. In BIG EAST play, he has 167 career blocks, which is fifth on the league’s all-time list. Overall, he is averaging a league-leading 4.0 blocks. A second team All-BIG EAST selection, Thomas is averaging 11.6 points and 7.2 rebounds. His field goal percentage is .614.
Hemsley has played a key role in Miami’s best BIG EAST season. A 6-5 junior who was not on the preseason all-conference first or second teams, Hemsley was fifth in the league in overall scoring with 17.4 points. Last season he averaged 14.1 points and only started in 10 league games.