Bowling Green, Ky. — Nearly half of Western Kentucky University’s basketball players were honored when postseason awards were handed out Sunday at a Sweet 16 celebration on the main floor of E.A. Diddle Arena.
Seven individuals picked up at least one award led by the duo of Tyrone Brazelton and Courtney Lee, who earned three and two, respectively, including sharing Clem Haskins Most Valuable Player honors. Jeremy Evans also claimed a pair of awards, with Adam Howard, Ty Rogers, Boris Siakam and Mike Walker each winning one.
Brazelton, who hails from Chicago, Ill., also earned the Dwight Smith Playmaker of the Year and Bobby Rascoe Defensive Player of the Year awards. He averaged a career-best 14.4 points and 2.8 rebounds per contest, ranking ninth in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring, and he led the Hilltoppers with a career-best 134 assists — that was the eighth-highest total in school history, as he finished third in the conference with 3.72 per game. Brazelton was also credited with a career-best 39 steals, the third-highest total on the team, and the first two blocks of his career, while shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range, the fourth-highest figure in the league.
A native of Indianapolis, Ind., Lee ranked among the top 20 in the conference in eight different statistical categories, including second with a career-best 20.4 points per game, as he had 20 or more points in 19 games, including three with at least 30, while recording the third-highest total in school history (735). Lee also averaged 4.9 rebounds per outing and was fifth in the Sun Belt in steals after collecting a team-high 65, while he made 82.8 percent overall at the foul line to rank seventh in the Sun Belt and 89th in the nation in picking up the Darel Carrier Free-Throw Accuracy award. And, he was among the conference leaders after blocking 28 shots and making a team-high-tying 69 three-point field goals.
Evans earned the Tom Marshall Rebounder of the Year and Ralph Crosthwaite Field-Goal Accuracy awards, as he finished 15th in the SBC with 5.2 rebounds per game and converted 62.5 percent from the floor. The Crossett, Ark., resident — who paced the team in rebounding for the second year in a row — led WKU in on the glass a team-best 10 times while posting 10 or more rebounds in three outings, which included a season-high 14 in the championship game of the Sun Belt Tournament against Middle Tennessee. Evans was also perfect from the field in seven contests and he made at least 60 percent from the floor in six other games, with four of those coming in the postseason.
Siakam, a Douala, Cameroon, native, was presented the E.A. Diddle Award given to the individual who displays leadership, character, loyalty, ability and love of fellow man — it was initiated by the Bowling Green Civitan Club in honor of Diddle, who coached the Toppers for 42 seasons and still, nearly four decades after his retirement, ranks among college basketball’s all-time winningest coaches, back in 1971. Siakam averaged career highs of 4.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in his final season on the Hill, also posting career-best totals in assists, blocks and steals, and he shot 53.9 percent from the field and 70 percent at the foul line.
The Dixie Mahurin Academic Award went to Rogers for the fourth year in a row. In addition to recording 6.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per outing, the Eddyville, Ky., resident collected 39 assists and 27 steals, and he made 46 three-pointers including the one at the buzzer in overtime that lifted the Hilltoppers to a 101-99 overtime victory over then-No. 14 Drake in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Rogers was one of 30 candidates for the 2007-08 Lowe’s Senior Class Award.
Actually, John Casmon of Pontiac was on hand to make the official presentation of $100,000 to the WKU general scholarship fund for Rogers’ shot againt the Bulldogs, which was voted the Pontiac Game Changing Play of the Tournament.
Walker, who hails from Macon, Ga., earned the John Oldham Most Improved Player award after posting career highs with 114 rebounds, 11 assists, 11 blocked shots and 12 steals while averaging a career-best 3.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest. In addition to shooting 60.6 percent from the field, Walker led WKU in rebounding in eight games, pulling down a career-high 11 against nationally ranked Tennessee.
For the third straight season, Howard was voted the Danny Rumph Outstanding Teammate award winner. The Ashland, Ky., resident made a career-high 15 appearances, including the first start of his career in a win over Louisiana-Monroe on Senior Day, scoring a career-best 20 points with a high of five in WKU’s season-opening victory over Kennesaw State.
The Jones Family Appreciation Award was presented to four-year student managers Sam Ernst and Kevin Hulsman.
WKU Director of Athletics Dr. Wood Selig also recognized a group of donors who have collectively given and pledged $395,000: Jerry and Becky Blacketer of Louisville, Gerry and Janice Edds of Owensboro, Houchen’s Industries, Jones Builders, Leon and Lassie Page of Franklin, Ray “Tommy” Thomas of Louisville and Bill Yates of Louisville.
The Toppers finished 2007-08 29-7 overall, tying the Sun Belt record for wins in a season, and they were 16-2 to share the league’s East Division crown. In addition to claiming the program’s fourth league tournament championship this decade and picking up the first NCAA Tournament win since 1995, they advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years after defeating San Diego, 72-63, in the second round of the event after beating Drake in their opener.