BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University men's basketball program celebrated its incredible 2011-12 season with a dinner banquet and awards ceremony Thursday night on the main floor of E.A. Diddle Arena, and freshman George Fant was named the team's most valuable player.
WKU's remarkable run through the Sun Belt Conference Tournament resulted in a tournament championship and bid to its 22nd NCAA Tournament, where the Hilltoppers defeated Mississippi Valley State in thrilling fashion in Dayton, Ohio, before bowing out after a 81-66 defeat to number-one Kentucky in Louisville.
At the dinner banquet, members of the team, fans and supporters of the program were treated to highlight videos and speeches throughout the evening.
Senior Kahlil McDonald earned two awards during the ceremony, including the Darel Carrier Free Throw Accuracy Award and splitting the John Oldham Most Improved Player Award with Teeng Akol. Akol also claimed the Bobby Rascoe Defensive Player of the Year Award for his defensive prowess.
Fant was given the Ralph Crosthwaite Field Goal Accuracy Award and the prestigious Clem Haskins Most Valuable Player Award. Fant turned in one of the finest freshmen seasons in WKU history with an average of 10.4 points and 6.1 assists per game while playing nearly 27 minutes per game.
Junior Jamal Crook was named the Dwight Smith Playmaker of the Year in honor of his efforts running the Hilltopper offense, which improved steadily throughout the season. T.J. Price took home the Jim McDaniels Toughness Award after proving that he is willing to do whatever it takes to help the Hilltoppers win.
Kevin Kaspar, who missed the final two months of the season after suffering a knee injury, was given the Danny Rumph Outstanding Teammate Award and the E.A. Diddle Award, which speak highly of the character of the freshman. The E.A. Diddle Award recognizes leadership, character, loyalty, ability and love of fellow man and was initiated in 1971.
Caden Dickerson was given the Dixie Mahurin Academic Award for his efforts in the classroom.
The Jones Family Appreciation Award went to WKU President Dr. Gary Ransdell and his wife, Julie.