When the Big East announced Sam Young was the conference men’s basketball Player of the Week today, it was a rare and perhaps overdue individual honor for the Panthers.
It had been more than a year since any Pitt player earned the award. The most recent time was Levance Fields on Dec. 24, 2007, a couple of days after he beat Duke at Madison Square Garden.
Young averaged 22 points and 5 rebounds in the victories over Syracuse and West Virginia. It is the second time the senior forward has been honored as Player of the Week. He also won the award in the opening week of the 2007-08 season.
But Pitt doesn’t get a lot of in-season individual accolades, and that speaks volumes to the balance of the nation’s No. 3-ranked team.
Prior to this week, Pitt was one of only six Big East schools without a Player of the Week or Rookie of the Week award this season. The others were Villanova (Pitt’s opponent Wednesday), Providence and three of the bottom feeders, St. John’s, South Florida and DePaul.
Sophomore center DeJuan Blair could have made a claim for the Big East’s best. He averaged 18 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocked shots and 1.5 steals in the two wins.
Blair won the Big East Rookie of the Week three times last season all before Jan. 14. He is long overdue for his first Big East Player of the Week award. Blair didn’t win Rookie of the Week in any of the final 10 weeks as a freshman and then missed out as Player of the Week for the first two months this season.
So, while he’s been on the five-man Big East honor roll four times this season, that’s 18 consecutive weeks without Blair getting an award.
It goes to show how many great players there are in the Big East and it’s probably got Blair playing a little harder each ensuing week.
One hurdle is that each school can nominate only one player each week. So there are weeks when Blair was dominant, but he might not even be considered for the award if one of his teammates (and seniors) also excelled.