By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
West Virginia’s point guard Juwan Staten was named to the All-Big 12 team and selected as a member of the league’s All-Defensive team but lost out to Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim in the Player of the Year voting.
Guard Eron Harris, who finished tied for third with Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart in the conference in scoring with a 17.9 average, was selected for honorable mention.
Ejim finished second in scoring to Staten with an 18.2 point per game average and had the greatest scoring game in the Big 12’s history when he scored 48 points against winless TCU. The Iowa State senior from Toronto also was second in rebounding with 8.6 per game while finishing third in field goal percentage.
He became the fourth player in Big 12 history and the second Cyclone to reach the 1,500-point mark and 1,000-rebound mark for his career.
Staten, who had set goals coming into the season of being named unanimous all-conference and Player of the Year, goals he said drove him throughout the season and had him playing “with a chip on my shoulder” because he felt he was being overlooked, not only led the league in scoring with an 18.4 average but led the league in assists, dishing out 5.94 per game.
Both Kansas coach Bill Self and WVU coach Bob Huggins called him the best point guard in the league following WVU’s upset of Kansas on Saturday night.
The All-Big 12 team included Ejim, Staten, Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, who dropped 41 points on WVU on Saturday, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane, the former Marshall player out of Pittsburgh.
The All-Defensive team included Staten, Kansas’ Joel Embiid, the league’s Defensive Player of the Year; Smart, Demarcus Holland and Cameron Ridley of Texas, along with Baylor’s Isaiah Austin.
Winning the individual awards along with Ejim and Embiid was Texas’ Rick Barnes as Coach of the Year, Kane as Newcomer of the Year, Wiggins as Freshman of the Year and Tyler Neal of Oklahoma and Phil Forte of Oklahoma State as Sixth Man of the Year.
Embiid is the fifth Jayhawk in the past six seasons to capture the defensive award and the first freshman in league history. The center recorded 72 blocked shots, the third-best single-season total by a freshman in Big 12 history. He tied for fourth in the conference in rebounding (8.1) with eight double-doubles in 2013-14.
For the third time in head coach Fred Hoiberg’s four-year tenure, an Iowa State student-athlete has been named Newcomer of the Year. Kane ranked among the Big 12 leaders in scoring (sixth), rebounding (11th), field goal percentage (fourth), assists (second), steals (sixth) and minutes played (fourth). He is one of only two players nationally averaging at least 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
Wiggins is the first Kansas player since 2005-06 to be chosen as top freshman. A finalist for the Naismith Trophy, Wooden Award and Oscar Robertson Player of the Year, he leads all league freshmen in scoring at 16.8 points per game. He ranks 10th in the conference in field goal percentage (.452) and is also ninth in free throw shooting (.765). Wiggins scored 41 points against West Virginia on March 8, the second-best single-game scoring total in Big 12 history.
Neal and Forte are the first players from their schools to win the Sixth Man Award. Neal came off the bench in all 30 Sooner contests, averaging 6.4 points and 3.4 rebounds, scoring in double digits eight times. Forte is one of the league’s top long-distance threats, ranking second in 3-point field goal percentage (.452). He also led the Big 12 in free throw shooting, making 85-of-98 (.867) from the stripe.
Barnes ties Bill Self of Kansas for the most Coach of the Year accolades (four) in Big 12 history. The Longhorn mentor led a team that had lost its top four scorers from a year ago to a 22-9 overall record, including an 11-7 mark in Big 12 play. Texas will be the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Championship and is expected to earn its 15th NCAA bid in 16 seasons under Barnes.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.