Tuesday, March 7, 2006
After this weekend, Texas can celebrate not only bringing home the Big 12 Conference trophy but also having the All-Big 12 Player of the Year, P.J. Tucker, and the first recipient of the Defensive Player of the Year award, LaMarcus Aldridge.
Rival Kansas, who tied with Texas for the No. 1 slot in the conference but was denied the trophy, had coach Bill Self named Coach of the Year and Brandon Rush named Freshman of the Year. Michael Neal of Oklahoma was named Newcomer of the Year.
The All-Big 12 awards are selected by the league’s head coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own players.
Tucker, a unanimous All-Big 12 First Team choice, is the first Longhorn to earn Big 12 Player of the Year recognition. He leads the team and ranks sixth overall in the conference in scoring (16.1), while leading the league in rebounding (9.0). He is also fourth in field goal percentage with a .531 mark. He has led UT in scoring seven times in league play and is second in the Big 12 overall with 10 double-doubles.
Aldridge wins the first defensive honor awarded by the Big 12. He is first in the Big 12 with 59 blocks overall, including 27 in conference games. He has 81 defensive rebounds in 2005-06, ranking third in the league. Aldridge can score as well, leading the Big 12 with 13 double-doubles.
Neal is the second-straight Sooner and fourth overall to win Newcomer of the Year. One of the top long-range threats in the Big 12, the junior college transfer ranks first in conference games in 3-point field goal percentage (.495) and 3-point field goals per game (3.86). He is also averaging a team-best 14.8 points in league action. He has shot 50.0 percent or better from beyond the arc 11 times this season.
Rush is the first freshman in conference history to be named to the All-Big 12 First Team. The top scoring freshman in the conference with 15.1 points per game, Rush also ranks seventh with a 6.6 rebounding average. He is the fourth KU player to surpass 400 points (408) in his freshman season. The native of Kansas City, Mo. is the second Jayhawk to win freshman accolades (Jeff Boschee, 1998-99).
Self wins his first Big 12 coaching honor and the third for a Jayhawk mentor. After returning just 21.2 percent of his scoring from a year ago, Self guided KU to a share of the Big 12 regular season championship, its sixth in league annals. Starting three freshmen and two sophomores, Kansas recorded its 18th straight season with at least 22 victories.
The All-Big 12 First, Second, Third and Honorable Mention teams were also announced, while conference coaches also selected All-Defensive and All-Rookie Teams for the first time.