2014-15 RTC Awards: NPOY, FrOY & COY

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 2nd, 2015

Perhaps it is no coincidence that all three of our individual award recipients this year will play in the upcoming Final Four. It is a remarkable achievement to be the best of your peers at what you do, but we are sure that the following three men would give all the credit to their incredible teams before offering a word about themselves. Here are the 2014-15 RTC individual award winners, chosen by a panel of Rush the Court‘s national columnists and contributors.

Player of the Year: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

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There is something to be said for how Frank Kaminsky arrived to the position he is in today. Now a senior and the leading scorer on a Wisconsin team that has lost just three games this season, Kaminsky shunned the fame and fortune of the NBA last spring in order to return to Madison to help lead the Badgers to a National Championship in his final year of eligibility. “Frank the Tank” is unique in the college game today. Standing at a cool seven feet tall, Kaminsky is the definition of a matchup nightmare. The Lisle, Illinois, native is not afraid to get physical in the post but could easily drop a three-pointer on you the next time down the floor. His versatility is off the charts and it shows up in his numbers: 18.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 54.9 percent field goal percentage, and a 41.5 percent mark from three-point range. In his final season under Bo Ryan, the senior increased his production across the board and does not get the credit he deserves for his outstanding defense — averaging 1.5 blocked shots per game and altering many more. Fitting a NPOY winner, he has saved his best production for March, recording a season-high 31 points against Michigan State on March 1, 27 points against Coastal Carolina in the round of 64, and 29 points against Arizona in the West regional final. There were many terrific players in college basketball this year but Kaminsky was a cut above the rest and a very deserving winner of this season’s RTC Player of the Year honor.

Freshman of the Year: Jahlil Okafor, Duke

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It is never easy to enter college basketball and produce as a freshman, especially as the headline member of the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class at one of the sport’s most legendary programs. Expectations were already high for Jahlil Okafor when he signed with Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke program as part of a package deal with Tyus Jones in November 2013, and the pressure only increased as this season dawned. The nation’s top player in the class of 2014 took college hoops by storm from the get-go, posting double figure scoring in all but one regular season game this season. This incredible consistency from an NBA-ready freshman led to season averages of 17.5 PPG and 8.7 RPG on his way to becoming the first freshman ACC Player of the Year in the league’s long and illustrious history. The most impressive of Okafor’s statistics has to be his outrageous 66.8 percent field goal shooting on the season — an astounding conversion rate for a rookie to play that efficiently when post defenses are geared primarily to stop him. Okafor’s smooth and highly skilled array of post moves have been in the making for years and were brilliantly detailed in a recent article by Sports Illustrated columnist Luke Winn. It would be an absolute shock if Okafor chooses to return to Durham for a sophomore campaign, but this one-year treat for college basketball fans from the RTC Freshman of the Year was well worth it.

Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Kentucky

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The leader of the currently undefeated Wildcats was the only unanimous selection by our panel among these three awards. At 38-0 entering this weekend’s Final Four, Calipari has led Kentucky to the best start in the history of college basketball. While the ultimate goal for the Big Blue Nation is to get to 40-0 and win the National Championship, Calipari’s coaching has been phenomenal no matter what happens over the weekend in Indianapolis. Now in his sixth season roaming the sidelines in Lexington, Calipari has already been to four Final Fours that includes the 2012 title run. But this season may be his best coaching job of all. He has taken a group of enormously talented players that features nine McDonald’s All-Americans (including the injured Alex Poythress) and molded them into a powerhouse of a team. His ability to convince young players to set aside individual goals and agendas for the betterment of the team has been Calipari’s calling card at Kentucky, and never more so than during this season. Nobody does it better than Cal. From limiting outside influences to massaging egos and getting multiple NBA-ready players to buy into the moment of the college experience, he has done a masterful job. As with any polarizing figure, many vocal critics question his coaching abilities by saying it isn’t that difficult to win with so much elite talent, but turning that talent into a highly functional and efficient team that believes in each other is very difficult. It takes a person with great insight into player psychology and flexibility in his approach in order to accomplish that, and therefore no coach deserves this honor more than the RTC Coach of the Year, John Calipari.

Brian Otskey (268 Posts)


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