Izzo, Lucas and Walton Earn Major Conference Awards
March 9, 2009
EAST LANSING, Mich. -
Michigan State men's basketball coach Tom Izzo, and the Spartans' starting backcourt of Kalin Lucas and Travis Walton each earned a major award as the 2009 Men's Basketball All-Big Ten teams were announced on Monday night. Izzo earned Coach of the Year honors as voted on by the coaches. Lucas was voted Big Ten Player of the Year by both the media and coaches and Walton was chosen by the coaches as the Defensive Player of the Year. Michigan State becomes just the second program in league history (since 1984) to win all three awards in the same season, joining Illinois in 2005.
"Maybe to win the Big Ten by four games like we did, somebody must have thought we did something," said Izzo. "Usually the MVP of a league leads a team somewhere, and that's why we preach that team goals lead to individual goals."
Four other Spartans were also recognized in the all-conference voting, as Goran Suton earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and media, while Delvon Roe earned a spot on the All-Freshman Team. Raymar Morgan earned honorable mention accolades despite playing 20 minutes or more in just nine of 18 league contests. Idong Ibok was recognized as Michigan State's sportsmanship honoree.
For Izzo, it is the second Big Ten Coach of the Year award in his 14 seasons at Michigan State, having led the Spartans to the fifth league title of his career. Izzo directed the Spartans to a 25-5 record, including a 15-3 mark in league play, tying the school record for conference victories and capturing the league title by four games, the greatest margin since 1985. Izzo did all this while overcoming a series of injuries and illnesses to key players that forced Michigan State to play 14 different starting lineups this season. For his career, he ranks second in conference winning percentage (.690) among coaches with at least 10 years of service, and with a record of 160-72, he ranks eighth all-time in league victories. Previously, Izzo captured Coach of the Year honors in 1998. He is also a four-time National Coach of the Year honoree. While Izzo won the award as voted on by the coaches, Penn State's Ed DeChellis took home the award from the media.
"For me, that was a great honor, I didn't think I'd get that," said Izzo. "It's always a great honor to be recognized by your peers."
Lucas becomes the third different Spartan of the Coach Izzo era to earn Big Ten Player of the Year honors, joining Mateen Cleaves (1998 and 1999) and Morris Peterson (2000). He is the first Spartan to earn the accolade from both the coaches and media since 1998. Since 1985, he is just the seventh sophomore to capture the honor, joining Indiana's Jay Edwards (1985), Ohio State's Jim Jackson (1991), Purdue's Glenn Robinson (1994), Cleaves (1998), Illinois' Frank Williams (2001) and Indiana's Jared Jeffries (2002). In conference play, Lucas ranked second in the league, averaging 16.5 points per game. In league road contests, he raised his scoring average to 18.0 ppg, as MSU established a school record with eight conference road wins. He was MSU's leading scorer in 11 of 18 Big Ten games.
"It is crazy. It is an honor and a blessing," said Lucas. "I have to give a lot credit to the coaches and Coach Izzo for just pushing me to be the best player I can be. I have to give a whole bunch of credit to my teammates. I give them all of the credit, without them I wouldn't have been able to be Big Ten Player of the Year.
"My main goal is just to try and work hard and become the best player I can be. So during the season, we were winning and that was the main goal. We wanted to take it one game at a time and that is what we did and then because of that, I was named Big Ten Player of the Year."
A three-time member of the Big Ten's All-Defensive Team, Walton becomes just the third player in Michigan State history to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors, joining Ken Redfield (1990) and Eric Snow (1995). In conference games, Walton ranked third in the league in steals (1.83 spg), but even more importantly, he shut down some of the league's top players. For example, Walton held Michigan's Manny Harris (a first-team All-Big Ten performer) to seven points on 2-of-10 shooting, including 1-of-6 from 3-point range; Harris averaged 17.1 points for the season.
"This has been a dream of Travis' since he came to school," said Izzo.
"When you set a goal for yourself and set a goal for the team at the beginning of the season, it feel so good when you actually achieve it because you know how hard you have worked to get it," explained Walton. "It is huge for me to win it and it was one of the top goals that I set for myself and it was one of the top goals that the coaching staff set for me at the beginning of the year. To win it is just a blessing.
"I think our team did a great job this year. We weren't guarding well at the start of the season, but we picked it up. Our coaches do a great job of telling me how to guard someone and what their strengths and weaknesses are. I also spend a lot of time watching film and breaking down how I am going to defend someone."
Suton won the league's rebounding crown as the Big Ten's top rebounder in conference play at 8.4 boards per contest. He becomes the first Spartan since Antonio Smith in 1997 to lead the conference in rebounding. It is the first all-league honor of Suton's career. He currently averages 9.9 points and 7.8 rebounds, and has recorded five double-doubles, all coming in league action.
"It feels great," said Suton. "I think about the adversity that the whole team went through, not just myself, with the injuries and everything, it is an honor. Maybe without the injury I could have made the first team, but it is still a great honor to be recognized by the committee.
"Being the Big Ten rebounding champ is also a great honor for me. It is something that I have always wanted. Last year I came in second behind D.J. White. To win it this year is one of the biggest honors that I have ever had."
Roe entered Michigan State as one of the most-highly touted recruits in league history, but he was also coming off two knee surgeries since December 2007. As the season opened, Roe was limited to approximately 15 minutes per game. As the season progressed, so too did his consistency. Since Feb. 1, he has averaged 8.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. For the year, he is averaging 6.2 points and 5.5 rebounds, shooting 55.9 percent from the field.
"It is a great honor, especially with everything that I have had to overcome; two knee surgeries in the same year and all," said Roe. "Being able to come in and play in one of the biggest conferences in the nation and making the All-Freshman team is very special to me.
"I give my teammates all of the credit; they have been there for me since day one, since I wasn't able to do three-a-days. They never gave me a hard time for that. They let me develop and turn into the player that I am now and they taught me a lot as did the coaches. Everyone in this organization has helped me and this is a group award, not an individual award."
Morgan is averaging 11.2 points and 5.9 rebounds on the season, but due to illness was able to play just 20 minutes or more in nine of 18 conference games, and missed three games completely. In league games in which he played 20 minutes or more, Morgan averaged 12.1 points and 7.9 rebounds.
"I know Raymar is one of the better players in this league, and I'm also sure we might not win the league without Raymar," said Izzo.
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