Just finished the conference call with American Athletic Conference coaches, and nearly all were asked for their take on the league’s player of the year.
The major candidates are Shabazz Napier, Sean Kilpatrick of Cincinnati and Russ Smith of Louisville, and it will be revealed in Memphis on Wednesday. The coaches vote, usually after a discussion with their assistants.
Lot of non-committal comments, but it kind of sounds like Kilpatrick is the front-runner. We’ll give you a few samples.
Larry Brown: “Our league has some incredible players. Kilpatrick, Napier and Smith, I can’t imagine a league having three better guards. Kilpatrick, he does everything in my mind, a great leader, unselfish, he could score more if he were to hunt shots. I don’t know how you chose from those three, it’s a very, very tough call to make.”
Eddie Jordan: “Those three guys stand out. As far as a big guard, Napier is a little smaller but he has that role. He looks for contact. He’s the straw that stirs the drink, so to speak. Player-of-the-year is just a tough call.”
Mick Cronin: “I don’t have to make a case for Sean, he made it. He made it emphatically; he made it night in and night out.”
Kevin Ollie: “Shabazz is just the heartbeat of our team. He leads us in all the important categories, minutes played, rebounds, scoring , assists – he just means so much to our team dynamic. I know Kilpatrick is same way, when they need a big shot, a play to happen, it seems like he’s always making it. Big-time players step up to big time moments, [Kilpatrick] has done that, not one, two moments but all year. If he got it, it would be a worthy choice.”
Josh Pastner: “Napier’s a stud. … Kilpatrick’s a stud, he was a stud against us Awesome.”
Donnie Jones: “Kilpatrick has been special for Cincinnati, they’ve been tough. Napier’s terrific, Smith is terrific. Kilpatrick, what he’s done night in and night out has probably been the most impressive I’ve seen on our conference.”
Fran Dunphy: “Shabazz Napier, he’s a good a player as there is in the country. I’ve just been so impressed with him. Kilpatrick has been unbelievable, Smith has been unbelievable.”
Rick Pitino: [Kilpatrick is] the most valuable – if you took him out of Cincinnati, it would hurt them tremendously, they count on him so much at the end of games. … Russ smith is valuable for us, I’m sure UConn would say Napier is very valuable for them. We’ve been to back-to-back back Final Fours, won a national championship and we certainly couldn’t have accomplished any of that without Russ Smith.”