Kansas' 2013-14 conference champion starting five - Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr. and Naadir Tharpe - highlight KU's selections to the 2014 All-Big 12 Men's Basketball awards announced Sunday. The all-conference awards were voted on by the league's head coaches who were not allowed to vote for their own student-athletes.
Embiid was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, while Wiggins is the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Wiggins was also a unanimous selection of the league mentors for All-Big 12 First Team, while Embiid was voted second team all-conference, Ellis third-team and Selden and Tharpe honorable mention. Embiid was selected to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team, while he and Wiggins were unanimous choices to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team. All five Jayhawks are making their first appearance on the coaches' all-conference squads.
"Individual awards are usually based on a collection of your team having success and certainly our team had success throughout the league," Kansas head coach Bill Self said. "It's a sign of balance when you have five guys recognized as the top players in your league. We're proud of that and certainly they are all very deserving. I'm happy for Andrew (Wiggins) to make first team and freshman of the year. He has had a great season. (Melvin) Ejim did have a great year and I can understand with his production how it could go that way."
Embiid is the fifth Jayhawk in the past six seasons, seventh overall, to capture the league's best defensive player award and the first freshman in league history. The 7-0 center from Yaoundé, Cameroon, has recorded 72 blocked shots, a Kansas freshman record and the third-best single-season total by a freshman in Big 12 history. Embiid, who averages 11.2 points per game, is tied for fourth in the conference in rebounding (8.1) with eight double-doubles in 2013-14. KU's Jeff Withey was the 2013 and 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, while Cole Aldrich was in 2010 and co-defensive player of the year in 2009. Additionally, Mario Chalmers also shared the honor in 2007.
"I'm happy for Joel," Self said. "I really think no one in college basketball, when he's healthy, has the potential to impact the game on both ends more than he does. I am certain he is proud of the honor but the big thing is we need to get him healthy."
Wiggins is the first Kansas player since 2005-06 to be chosen as top freshman when Brandon Rush was the honoree. A finalist for the 2014 Naismith Trophy, Wooden Award and Oscar Robertson Player of the Year, Wiggins leads all league freshmen in scoring at 16.8 points per game, which is eighth overall in the conference. Wiggins ranks 10th in the Big 12 in field goal percentage (.452) and ninth in free throw shooting (.765). The Vaughan, Ontario, Canada, guard scored 41 points against West Virginia on March 8, the second-best single-game scoring total in Big 12 history. Wiggins is the third Jayhawk to be named Big 12 Freshman of the Year, joining former KU greats Jeff Boschee (1999) and Rush (2006).
Wiggins is seventh freshman in conference history to be named All-Big 12 First Team and the third Jayhawk to earn the accolade. KU's Ben McLemore earned first-team honors as a freshman last season, while Rush did in 2006. Others frosh first-squad members include Kevin Durant (Texas) in 2007, Michael Beasley (Kansas State) and Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) in 2008 and Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) in 2013.
Kansas, which won its 10th-straight, 14th Big 12 and NCAA-leading 57th overall regular-season conference championship in 2014, has five players on the All-Big 12 teams for the third time since the inception of the league in 1996-97. In 2007 and 1997 the Jayhawks also placed five players on all-league honors.
Historically, Kansas has 25 All-Big 12 First Team selections, while Texas is next with 12. Including all teams, KU is tops with 70 All-Big 12 honorees, while Texas is next with 52. Under Bill Self, Kansas has had 40 all-league choices, including 17 first-team selections.
Kansas (23-8, 14-4) will enter the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship as the No. 1 seed for the sixth-straight season and will play in the quarterfinals of the event on Thursday, March 13, at 2 p.m. (Central). The Jayhawks will face the winner of the No. 8 Oklahoma State versus No. 9 Texas Tech game to be played Wednesday, March 12, at 6 p.m. The event will be held at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
For a complete list of the All-Big 12 honorees go to www.Big12sports.com.
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