Thursday, March 09, 2000

Martin, Huggins win top league honors

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MEMPHIS — There was no argument: Kenyon Martin's election as Conference USA player of the year was unanimous, the first time that has happened in the league's five-year history.

        Martin, a 6-foot-9 senior center for the Cincinnati Bearcats, was chosen in a vote of media members who cover the league and the 12 head coaches. He led the league in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots and propelled UC to a 16-0 record in conference games.

        That perfect record was a large part of the reason UC's Bob Huggins was presented the Ray Meyer Award as Conference USA coach of the year for the third consecutive year.

        The only major award the league presents that was not won by the Bearcats was for the top sixth man, which went to South Florida guard Altron Jackson.

        A year ago, Martin's defensive ability earned him first-team all-conference honors, but his progress as a scorer — from 10.1 points a year ago to 19.5 this season — made him the league's dominant player at both ends.

        “My teammates had confidence in me, and I had to look to score for us to win,” Martin said. “I knew I had to score a little more, but I didn't know it would be like this. I had no clue.”

        He also improved his free throw shooting from .562 a year ago to .684. His struggles at the line earlier in his career led him to avoid being fouled. “Now, if I don't get fouled, I'm upset,” Martin said.

        Huggins has won the Ray Meyer Award — which previously went to the Great Midwest coach of the year — five times.

        His Bearcats have won 83 percent of their games since Conference USA was founded.

        “I've always looked at it as a team honor,” Huggins said. “These guys are the best group I've ever had in terms of listening, trying to do what we tell them to do.

        “That's from top to bottom, but it starts with Kenyon and Pete (Mickeal).”


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