Tuesday, March 06, 2001

XU's West may lose out on Player of Year

St. Joe's O'Connor put on late charge

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If Xavier's David West is named the Atlantic 10's Player of the Year tonight, he may have been helped by a deadline.

        That's because the league's coaches, who vote on the award, had to submit their ballots by last Friday. They missed the most amazing game in a late surge by West's chief competitor, St. Joseph's junior guard Marvin O'Connor.

  The case for David West
  • Tied for the national lead with 19 double-doubles
  • Ranks fourth nationally in rebounding (11.0)
  • Leads A-10 in rebounding and field-goal percentage (.556)
  • One of 15 finalists for U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-American honors
  • Named A-10 Player of the Week four times this season
  The case for Marvin O'Connor
  • Ranks second in the A-10 in scoring (21.6 ppg)
  • Ranks third in A-10 in field-goal percentage (.462)
  • Led Hawks to A-10 regular-season title
  • Named A-10 Player of the Week three times this season
        O'Connor scored a career-high 37 points in a 91-90 loss Saturday at La Salle, including 18 points in a 58-second span near the end of the game. O'Connor has won the A-10 Player of the Week award the past two weeks and created a tough call for coaches who previously seemed to favor West.

        St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli, who weeks earlier had said West should win the award, backed off that claim Monday.

        “The fairest thing to do would be to split it,” Martelli said. “Marvin is equally deserving.”

        A straw poll of coaches Monday found the voting tight: Martelli and Massachusetts coach Bruiser Flint said they voted for West. (Coaches can't vote for a player on their own team). Duquesne's Darelle Porter, George Washington's Tom Penders and XU's Skip Prosser said they voted for O'Connor.

        “I think Marvin is probably going to get it because his team won the league,” Porter said. “You usually go by who won the title and take their best player.”

        O'Connor's 21.6-point scoring average ranked second in the A-10; in league play, he was tops at 22.3. He shot 46.2 percent — third in the league — including 37.1 percent from 3-point range.

        West's total of 19 double-doubles is tied with four other players for the national lead, and his 11.0 rebounding average — tops in the A-10 for a second consecutive season — ranks fourth nationally. He averaged 17.7 points and led the league in field-goal percentage (55.6 percent). West's averages in league play were 19.1 points and 11.4 rebounds.

        “I think Marvin had as good a season as anyone has ever had in this league,” Flint said. “But I think David West was night-in and night-out the best player. Any kid who can get (almost) 20 points and 10 rebounds in this league is a special player.”

        Both could also be candidates for the league's Chris Daniels Award, given to the most improved player. O'Connor averaged 16.6 points last season, shooting 40.8 percent, and West averaged 11.7 points as a freshman.

        “I demanded the ball a little bit more, and my teammates got it to me,” West said. “I improved my stamina. Physically, I was able to keep up this year.”

        West could be the only Musketeer on the three all-league teams. XU freshman Romain Sato is a cinch for the league's all-rookie team.

        RANKING GONE: XU fell out of the Associated Press poll Monday, ending its second one-week stay of the season. It ranked 25th last week, but it received just 20 votes this week to rank 11th among schools also receiving votes.

        SHORT AND SECRET: XU has closed its practices to the media this week.

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