Gillespie Big East POY again, Cooley 1st Friars coach to win


NEW YORK (AP) — Collin Gillespie came back to Villanova and filled his trophy box.

The senior guard won his second straight Big East player of the year on Wednesday, and Ed Cooley was voted coach of the year after leading Providence to its first regular-season championship.

Creighton’s injured point guard Ryan Nembhard joined his teammates in the audience for the announcement at Madison Square Garden a few hours before the start of the conference tournament as Freshman of the Year.

Big East head coaches select award winners and cannot vote for their own players.

“It’s a great honor,” said Gillespie. “This is a team award for me and without these guys I wouldn’t be in the position I am today.”

Gillespie shared the League Player of the Year award with Wildcats teammate Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Seton Hall forward Sandro Mamukelashvili last season. But the steady leaders missed both postseason tournaments after torn ligaments in his left knee in Villanova’s home final.

He returned to school for a fifth season, taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic.

Gillespie was voted Big East Player of the Year ahead of the season and he didn’t disappoint. He led the 8th-seeded Wildcats (23-7, 16-4) to second place and finished fourth in the conference at 16.3 points per game and first at 93 at 3 points.

The 6-foot-3 Gillespie, a freshman on the Villanova 2018 reserve team, also led the league in 3-point shooting (43.1%) and free throw (91.5%). He was the only unanimous pick on the Big East roster and will break the school record for Thursday night games at 149.

“It’s been a wild, fun ride and I’m just super grateful to be a part of it,” said Gillespie. “Those were the best five years of my life.”

With a 3.92 graduate GPA in Education, Gillespie also joined former Villanova teammate Jalen Brunson (2018) and Connecticut Big Man Emeka Okafor (2004) as the only player to be the Big East Scholar Athlete of the Year and Player of the Year won season.

Wildcats coach Jay Wright admitted he’s started to think about what next season will be like without Gillespie.

“It hits me every now and then – and it’s scary. It’s just a blessing to know in every game that you have a man who can control everything on the pitch, no matter how crazy it gets,” Wright said. “And he always has something on his mind. As if he would have done anything to win a game. He made a steal, got a rebound, hit a 3, took foul shots. Anything you can do to win a game, he did.”

Cooley gives Providence its first Big East Coach of the Year after 43 seasons in the conference. Pretty remarkable in a place where Rick Pitino, Rick Barnes, Pete Gillen and Tim Welsh have all thrived.

However, Cooley thought of a Georgetown icon.

“I can’t believe I’m on the same podium that John Thompson was on,” he said. “And I’m really proud of the Presidents and ADs that make us the leader in diversity as six of our 11 coaches are black. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that and I’m pretty sure Coach Thompson smiles about it too.”

The 11th-ranked brothers (24-4, 14-3) finished seventh in the preseason poll, riding an experienced group of players and a string of narrow wins to their first-place finisher in the Big East tournament – with an animated Cooley pleading them in the scrum to get hard and “Be them guys!”

“All of us in the league know he’s one of the greatest tacticians in the game and I think a lot of us because we have so much respect for him we’re excited about his win,” Wright said. “He built this team. It wasn’t just this year that happened. It’s been a few years since he went through some tough times with this team.

Cooley, who grew up in Providence, is 218-139 in 11 seasons with his hometown team.

“I never thought I’d be a coach in a million years, I never thought I’d be a head coach in a million years, I never thought I’d be ahead of you in a million years at the greatest spot in the world would stand to play world,” he said. “It’s a dream that my sad cock is up here.”

Nembhard was voted Big East Freshman of the Week six times before injuring himself in a win at St. John’s on February 23. Two days later, he underwent season-ending surgery on his right wrist.

Nembhard was unanimously selected as one of three Bluejays on Big East’s Newman team, averaging 11.3 points in all 27 games he played. , steals (1.3) and minutes (34.8) per game.

“It’s definitely a bit bittersweet not being able to play,” said Nembhard, his right arm in a cast and sling.

The 6-foot-tall, 167-pound guard from Ontario, Canada, is the younger brother of Andrew Nembhard, the senior point guard for the senior Gonzaga. Andrew Nembhard was voted MVP of the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas on Tuesday night.

“It’s been a good year for the family,” said Ryan Nembhard with a grin.

Rich Chvotkin, who has broadcast more than 1,500 games as the radio play-by-play voice of Georgetown basketball since 1974, received the Big East Media Award for his outstanding contribution to the conference and college basketball.


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