The Marquette Basketball team held its annual postseason awards banquet on Monday night at the Alumni Memorial Union and paid special mention to the three departing seniors in Steve Novak, Chris Grimm and Joe Chapman. ESPN college basketball analyst and former Notre Dame head coach Digger Phelps gave the night’s keynote address offering several stories about Al McGuire and the lesson he lived, learned and passed onto both his players through the years and the Marquette players in attendance.
As the night came to a close, head coach Tom Crean, with the help of his assistant coaches, presented awards to the players for their contributions to the team during the season.
Free Throw Proficiency: Steve Novak
The first award was presented by head athletic trainer Jayd Grossman, and Grossman said it best, “There is not a lot of suspense for the free throw award.” He went on to explain that Novak had missed only two shots from the charity stripe since January of his Junior year, on his way to a 97.4% success rate for the season and earning a spot as Marquette’s All-Time leader in Free Throw shooter.
When coach Crean told him to talk about the two misses Novak responded, “I’d rather talk about the makes.” He attributed his success this season to the constant influence and positive pressure from the coaches and teammates that made him strive for perfection.
Super Sub Award: Dan Fitzgerald & Wesley Matthews
The Super Sub Award was shared between sophomore Dan Fitzgerald and freshman Wes Matthews. Assistant coach Jason Rabedeaux explained that the two teammates are both “terrific young men” and fully deserving of the award for their contributions off the bench.
Floor Burn Award: Jerel McNeal
New assistant coach Bennie Seltzer presented the Floor Burn Award to freshman Jerel McNeal for his hustle on the floor and inclination for diving on the floor after loose balls.
McNeal joked that he earned this award, “because I know how to fall” but added that his aggressiveness on the floor was merely a product of the hard work and intensity that the entire team demonstrated throughout the season.
Oluoma Nnamaka Consistency Award: Chris Grimm
Chris Grimm received the Oluoma Nnamaka Consistency Award from Coach Tom Crean for competing at a high level everyday whether at practice, in the weight room or during games.
“It has nothing to do with scoring average or how many times you get a headline in the paper. It is about bringing everything you have, your heart and soul, to the program everyday,” said Crean.
Most Improved Player Award: Ousmane Barro
Assistant coach Dan Panaggio presented the Most Improved Player Award to sophomore Ousmane Barro for his development over the course of the season and ending the year with his best performance in the NCAA tournament against Alabama.
“These players work hard. It is not easy and they are tested every day. [Ousmane] was always the first guy in the gym ready to work hard. Sometimes he started and sometimes he didn’t, but it didn’t matter because he played without any agenda other than to win the game,” Panaggio said of Barro.
Reluctant to give an acceptance speech Barro finally said, “I just want to thank God, my parents who could not be here, my teammates and specifically coach Panaggio because whenever I was in the gym, he was there with me.” He also said that he was glad to have coach Loren Jackson and family in attendance for the banquet.
Deflections: Jerel McNeal
The award for most defensive deflections went to McNeal for his average of 7.7 deflections per game that helped to increase the team average from 29 last year to 37 per game. Crean compared Jerel’s defensive numbers to those of Dwyane Wade who averaged over 10 and 12 per game in his two seasons at Marquette adding that “7.7 is a heck of a start.”
Jerel said that his motivation came form Crean’s policy on deflections. “The incentive was that the guy who gets the most deflections gets to eat first. It is tough to sit and watch someone else eat before you.” On a more serious note he said that looking at the banner in the gym that posted Wade’s average as a pinnacle of defense for a Marquette player is motivation to keep improving.
Hanks Raymonds Sportsmanship Award: Steve Novak
The Hanks Raymonds Sportsmanship Award was presented by the former coach himself to Novak for his demeanor, personality and leadership in all aspects of the game.
Freshman Dominic James said later of Novak, “He does the little things, and I think that is why he has been up here so many times. He is an unbelievable player and an even better person. One thing about Steve is that every time you pass him the ball, after he hits the shot he will always point or say nice pass. It is the little things in life that make a difference.”
Hit the Deck Award: Joe Chapman
Coordinator of Basketball Operations Derek Deprey presented the Hit the Deck Award to Joe Chapman for his physical play and willingness to take a charge and sacrifice his body for the team.
“[Chapman] laid it all out everyday. He became and outstanding leader for this team by example and through his toughness. He had people write him off, but he came back and he is competing at such a high level,” said coach Crean.
Chairman of the Boards Award: Steve Novak
The Chairman of the Boards Award was given to Steve Novak by Strength and Conditioning coach Scot Holsopple for his improvement in rebounding over the course of the year. Holsopple explained that Novak heard nearly everyday that he was not good enough on the boards and ended up being the fifth-leading defensive rebounder in the Big East.
Most Assists: Dominic James
Todd Townsend presented the award for Most Assists to point guard Dominic James for averaging 5.5 assists per game and dishing out 9 assists on two separate occasion.
James attributed his success to the trust placed in him by the coaches and to his teammates. “I was told coming in that the ball would be placed in my hands, and that coach was going to let me do what I do with it, as long as I brought it back in one piece. When you have a coach that has that much confidence in you, it is easy to just go out there and play.”
The Most Valuable Player: Steve Novak
Bart Miller Standard of Excellence Award: Steve Novak
Finally Steve Novak collected the final two awards handed out for the evening. The Most Valuable Player as voted unanimously by his teammates and the Bart Miller Standard of Excellence Award for excellence on and off the court.
The banquet highlighted the accomplishments from a successful season and what the Marquette faithful hope will be the first of many successes in the Big East conference. As Athletic Director Bill Cords stated in his welcoming speech, “There is no guarantee for the future, but we can take great pride in the past” and the talent and achievements of the 2005-2006 Marquette team, boast plenty to be proud of, and offers great excitement for the future.