NEW YORK — In the end, Jeff Green’s unselfishness is precisely what netted him the league’s top individual honor.
The Georgetown junior forward was named the Big East’s player of the year by the league’s coaches yesterday, becoming the first Hoyas player since Alonzo Mourning in 1992 and the seventh overall to win the award.
Green led Georgetown (23-6, 13-3 Big East) in scoring (13.6 points) and assists (3.5) and finished second on the team in rebounding (5.9). The Hoyas finished atop the Big East regular season standings.
“I’m completely surprised,” said Green, a 6-9, 235-pound forward from Hyattsville. “When I came to Georgetown, I never thought I could receive this type of award. It’s a great honor for both me, Coach [John Thompson III] and our team. It means a lot because of the way it happened with us winning the regular season. We’re so focused on this week and the postseason that it hasn’t really sunk in yet. But it’s something maybe I’ll be able to sit back and tell my kids about one day.”
Green saved his best for Georgetown’s title-clinching stretch run, averaging 17.3 points over the team’s last 10 games as the Hoyas finished with a 9-1 burst to claim the top seed in the Big East tournament for the first time since 1989.
The Hoyas earned an opening-round bye in this week’s conference tournament and will open play tomorrow at noon against the winner of today’s matchup between eighth-seeded DePaul and ninth-seeded Villanova. Georgetown was 2-1 against the pair during the regular season, splitting with Villanova (21-9, 9-7) and drubbing the Blue Demons (18-12, 9-7) 66-52 at Verizon Center on Jan. 24.
Green’s selection over a number of players with gaudier statistics represents a triumph for versatility and unselfish basketball and a validation for Thompson’s Princeton-based system. Ever since arriving at Georgetown three seasons ago, Thompson has had to fight the perception that his lower-possession, stat-reducing system would restrict blue-chip talent and eliminate his players from individual honors.
“A lot of bugs have been planted in people’s ears on that count, but the proof is in the pudding,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day, stats are irrelevant. People who understand the game understand how good Jeff Green is and what he means to our team. I’m happy for him because he is so unselfish. But the fact is that he should have won it because he deserved it.”
Though Green wasn’t among the Big East’s top 20 scorers or rebounders, nobody in the league proved more dynamic, efficient or important to his team’s success.
“Jeff Green is just the quintessential ball player,” Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. “No other player his size has his array of skills. He can put it on the floor, shoot it, and he’s one of the league’s best passers. He’s a matchup nightmare with his inside-outside game because he can post you up or take you out on the perimeter. If his numbers don’t blow you away, watching film of him does. He’s an unselfish guy who does a little bit of everything for John, and most importantly, he’s a winner.”
The Hoyas were 19-1 in games in which Green scored in double digits, and Green finished second in the league among noncenters (to Notre Dame’s Colin Falls) in points an attempt (1.40). Aside from the Hoyas’ success, a final factor that probably put Green over the top was his improved outside shooting.
After sharing the league’s rookie of the year honors with Connecticut’s Rudy Gay as a pivot-bound freshman two years ago, Green moved to the perimeter last season to make room for 7-2 center Roy Hibbert.
The move paid massive dividends for the Hoyas, who made a run to the Sweet 16 in last season’s NCAA tournament. But Green endured his share of growing pains away from the post, shooting just 31.5 percent from 3-point range and 44.5 percent from the field.
This season he significantly improved his percentages both from the field (51.6) and from behind the arc (41.0).
Hibbert joined Green as one of only five unanimous first-team selections, marking the first time since 1990 (Mourning and Mark Tillmon) Georgetown has boasted two All-Big East selections. Freshman forward DaJuan Summers, a starter in the team’s last 26 games, was named to the rookie team.