Ah, college rivalries. Now that basketball’s regular season is over, Arizona and Arizona State are stacking up their individual awards as the Pac-12 teams prepare for their conference tournament this week.
The Sun Devils just picked up a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award and an All-Pac-12 first-team selection.
But the Wildcats countered with the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and Coach of the Year – and a couple of additions of their own to the First Team.
Jordan Bachynski provided the gem in ASU’s bag of awards that included end-of-year awards for six players this season. The 7’2″ center from Canada is the first Sun Devil to be voted the Pac-12 defensive POY following a senior season he just completed as the nation’s leader in blocked shots, with 4.23 per game. His 8.4 rebounds per game ranks sixth in the conference.
He recorded 128 blocks this season alone, which breaks the Pac-12 record of 120 he set last year, and his 309 career blocks also set a conference record.
The ASU representative on this year’s Pac-12 First Team is Jahii Carson, the sophomore guard that passed up the NBA draft for a second year of college ball. The Mesa High School graduate finished second in the conference in scoring with 18.9 points per game and sixth in assists, with 4.5 per game.
He’s expected to make the jump to the pro game after this season, but in his two years in a Sun Devil uniform he has compiled 1,232 points and posted 30 games of 20 or more points.
And down in Tucson… the Wildcats need an even bigger bag for their awards. Their 10 individual honors more than doubled those of any other team in the conference.
The Pac-12 Player of the Year honors went to the Cats’ junior guard from Gilbert, Nick Johnson, who leads the team in scoring with 16.1 points a game and is second in both assists (2.8) and steals (1.2). The finalist for this year’s John R. Wooden Award for the nation’s top basketball player notched 10 games this season in which he contributed 20 or more points in helping Arizona to a 21-0 record start to the season and a No. 1 national ranking.
Aaron Gordon pulled down the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award and head coach Sean Miller snagged his second Coach of the Year honor since arriving in Tucson five years ago. He has a .777 record at Arizona, has two regular-season conference titles, and is expected to take this year’s 28-3 team deep into the post-season.
The 6’9″ Gordon was a five-star recruit that was ranked No. 4 on ESPN’s list of top 100 recruits, making him the highest-ranked recruit during Miller’s 10 years as a college head coach. And he quickly lived up to the promise of greatness at the next level.
The California native leads Arizona with an average of 7.8 rebounds a game and has had eight double-doubles this season. Both of those stats are tops among Pac-12 freshmen this season. Offensively, he ranks second in the conference for scoring (12.3/game) and field-goal percentage (.486).
Gordon and Johnson were also named to the All-Pac-12 first team.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)