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March 10, 2010
Matta's Bucks are raking in the awards
March is not only the time that champions are crowned but also the time where top players are recognized for their individual performances within the team setting. While the Naismith and Bob Cousy awards have not been announced yet multiple news services and online entities are starting to release their award winners.
Evan Turner should plan on hearing his name called early and often after already being named the player of the year by the Big Ten media and coaches and a member of multiple All-American teams including by the United States Basketball Writers Association.
Turner has always been a little bit on the quiet and shy side when dealing with the media but his action on the courts speaks much louder than anyone from the podium could ever hope to be. The Ohio State junior led the conference in scoring (19.5 ppg.) and rebounding (9.4 rpg.) and was second in assists (5.8 apg.).
Turner would rather talk about the team rather than himself but couldn't avoid answering questions about himself on Wednesday afternoon.
"It is really cool to just be recognized and one of the top talents," Turner said. "I am really grateful that I have those honors. Definitely I will look back and celebrate after the season. It is really cool representing the program, my high school, my family and friends and that is pretty much it."
Nobody is quite sure how the National Player of the Year award will go but the tide has turned from Kentucky freshman star John Wall to Turner for what he has meant to the Buckeyes and how he has stacked up nationally.
But in a moment that was reminiscent of Tebow-gate (when one of the SEC head coaches did not name Florida QB Tim Tebow as the preseason QB of the year in the SEC) the coaches ballot for player of the year in the Big Ten was not unanimous and don't expect anyone to step forward at this time on that perceived snub. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta obviously recognizes what Turner has meant and can't control how others perceive him but couldn't help being surprised when he learned of it.
"Yes, I was. I think (Evan) is very deserving of that. But in my mind that is neither here nor there," Matta said. "That's up to them and their judgment."
Matta was honored in his own way being named the Big Ten coach of the year by conference media. It is the third time in six years at Ohio State that Matta has earned at least a share of the award and Matta couldn't help but joke in front of the media for their wit and wisdom.
"I have always said that you guys know a hell of a lot more than what we (coaches) know," Matta joked. "Believe me when I say this, I don't do it for the awards."
Coaches will rarely take much credit for winning awards like that and Matta followed along to the text book making sure to put the credit upon his team rather than himself.
"I really believe that is the players," Matta said. "Anytime a coach gets any award I don't score, I don't rebound and I don't get stops. (The players) are the guys that earn coaches those awards. I am as thankful of them as I can possibly be."
While Matta wouldn't talk about himself his players were not afraid to talk about what they liked best about their head coach.
"He allows you to go out and be yourself and play basketball the way that you like to play basketball," junior guard David Lighty said. "I don't think that he restricts you or tells you not to do this or that on the court."
"He is also really positive," Turner added. "When we started off that stretch in the Big Ten where we were 1-3 he just really stayed positive with us. He was telling us that we just have to take it one day at a time and come back and do what we need to do."
Lighty, William Buford and Jon Diebler each picked up recognition either on the third team all-league or in the honorable mention side of things. Dallas Lauderdale was named to the all defensive Big Ten team but there was a noticeable omission.
"The biggest thing that I am shocked is about Dave (Lighty) not being on the defensive team," Matta said. "Evan and I were laughing yesterday that if there was five seconds to go and I had to pick one guy in this league to get the stop that I would put him on it and that is for sure."
National basketball writer Seth Davis from Sports Illustrated agreed with Matta that Lighty needed to be recognized for the season he had and named it as the captain of his All-Glue Team. Lighty admitted however that it is just how he plays the game and that it isn't something out of the ordinary for how he approaches the game.
"I just go out there and do my job every day pretty much," Lighty said. "I try to win the game what my team needs for me to do for the win is what I try and go out there and do. That is what I focus on every day and try to get better."
All five starting Buckeyes have been honored either on a league or national level so far but it is Turner who promises to see more hardware before the end of the basketball season. But don't expect to find any trophies on his own personal mantle here in Columbus (Ohio).
"Most of the trophies will pretty much just go to my mom," Turner said with a big grin.
And most people feel that there better be room for the highest individual honor in the land.