Here are the Tribune-Herald’s All Big 12 awards:
PLAYER, FRESHMAN: OKLAHOMA STATE’S MARCUS SMART
When Marcus Smart arrived at Oklahoma State, coach Travis Ford knew he was getting one of the most gifted freshmen in the nation.
What he couldn’t have guessed is that Smart would also emerge as the Big 12’s best all-around player in his first year in the league.
Smart played with a maturity well beyond his 19 years, as he guided the Cowboys to a 23-7 regular-season record and a third-place finish in the Big 12. He was recently named the winner of the Wayman Tisdale Award as the nation’s top freshman.
“I’ve never seen a player who affects the game in so many ways as he can,” Ford said. “He plays a ton of minutes and has the ball in his hand a lot. We ask him to score, get assists and steals, and he does it all with high efficiency. He’ll rebound, dive for loose balls and make plays to put you in position to win.”
Smart ranked among the Big 12 leaders by averaging 15.1 points and 4.3 assists, and showed his defensive prowess by collecting a league-high 2.97 steals per game. But he also threw his 6-4 body around in the paint in averaging 5.7 rebounds, and raised the bar for everybody else on the team.
Whatever the Cowboys need, Smart gives them. He not only sets the tone for his teammates in games, he also does it in practice.
“What’s surprising is how hard he goes every day, not just in games,” Ford said. “The other guys know he’s going to set the tone for practice and other people have fallen in line. The way he sustains it amazes me. It’s always great when you have a guy who is going to lead by example by hard he plays, but he’s also extremely vocal.”
Big things were expected from Smart after a remarkable high school career at Flower Mound Marcus. Teaming with Oklahoma State teammate Phil Forte, Smart led Marcus to consecutive Class 5A championships in his final two seasons, including a 39-2 record last year.
Smart’s senior statistics were similar to his Oklahoma State numbers as he averaged 15.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and five assists to earn the Texas Gatorade player of the year and McDonald’s All-American honors.
Projected to be an NBA lottery pick, Smart might just play at Oklahoma State for one season. But he’s certainly left his mark.
“Marcus Smart is all about winning,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He makes so many plays on the floor and forces so many turnovers with his quickness and anticipation. He’s helped them get over the hump and is a reason why they’ve won so many games. He’s a great player and has a big career ahead of him.”
DEFENDER: KANSAS’ JEFF WITHEY
There isn’t a more intimidating sight in the Big 12 than Kansas 7-0 center Jeff Withey raising his long right arm in the paint to block a shot.
The Jayhawks should post a “Do Not Trespass” sign in the lane.
Withey ranked among the NCAA leaders with four blocked shots per game, which is twice as many as any other Big 12 player.
“I think he’s the best defensive player in league,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He changes game plans for other teams because he’s so good around the basket blocking and altering shots. He’s got remarkable timing.”
Withey is the top shot blocker in Kansas history, with 289 through this year’s regular season. He’s blocked 124 this season after leading the Big 12 with 140 last season, and has helped the Jayhawks become a tremendous defensive team.
“A lot of times he’ll block shots and that will lead to our best outlet pass,” Self said. “He can take two points away from their team and make it two for ours.”
Shot blocking isn’t Withey’s only talent. He’s Kansas’ second-leading scorer with 13.6 points per game and the Big 12’s third-leading rebounder with 8.6 boards.
The senior is also the kind of veteran player that coaches love because of the leadership he brings to the floor.
NEWCOMER: IOWA STATE’S WILL CLYBURN
When Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg saw Will Clyburn practice last year, he couldn’t wait to see him hit the floor for games.
Clyburn had to sit out last season under NCAA transfer rules after averaging 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds as a junior at Utah. Clyburn transferred because of a coaching change at Utah.
“I knew Will would be a good player when I watched him on the scout team,” Hoiberg said. “He gave Royce White fits because he could go around him and score in different ways. I saw the potential for a special player and he’s lived up to it this year.”
Clyburn has emerged as the leading scorer for an Iowa State team that appears headed for the NCAA tournament. The 6-7 swingman ranked fifth in the Big 12 in points and rebounds per game during the regular season with 15.2 and 7.1, respectively.
He’s also been a highly efficient player, as he’s shot 45.3 percent from the field and 75.7 percent from the free-throw line.
“Will gives us a very versatile player who can score inside or shoot the 3,” Hoiberg said. “He takes what the defense gives him.”
SIXTH MAN: IOWA STATE’S TYRUS McGEE
Few seniors as talented as Tyrus McGee would feel comfortable in a sixth man role.
But McGee has given Iowa State a shot of energy every time he comes off the bench.
McGee has been the best 3-point shooter in the Big 12, hitting a league-high 87 during the regular season. He’s also been accurate as he’s hit 47 percent beyond the arc, by far the best in the Big 12.
“We think of Tyrus being a microwave in a Vinnie Johnson kind of role,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s a great role to have as a shooter because he knows he’s going in there to score. He’s accepted that role from the beginning and has embraced it.”
McGee has always been a natural scorer. As a senior at Stringtown, Okla., High School, he averaged 36 points. As a sophomore at Crowley County (Kan.) Community College, he earned NJCAA all-American honors by averaging 20.1 points.
He’s been Iowa State’s second-leading scorer this season with a 13.5-point average after averaging 7.7 for the Cyclones last year.
“You have to worry about him the minute he comes off the bench because he can score,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “He does it as well as anyone because he shoots great, plays great, and has a big impact on the game.”
COACH: KANSAS STATE’S BRUCE WEBER
Bruce Weber loves to play physical basketball, and so does Kansas State.
Rarely have a first-year coach and a team meshed together so perfectly.
During his nine-year tenure at Illinois, Weber’s teams fit in with the rest of the Big Ten by playing a rough and tumble brand of basketball. After he was fired following a 17-15 record last season, Weber brought that style to Kansas State.
It didn’t take much coaxing to get his new team to play physical basketball because that’s the way the Wildcats played under Frank Martin who left for South Carolina after last year’s NCAA tournament appearance.
The result was Kansas State’s first-ever Big 12 co-championship as it tied arch rival Kansas with a 14-4 conference record.
“We made the decision to emphasize defense and rebounding early and that got us through some games,” Weber said. “Then we took time over Christmas and put in more offense and really started clicking. The kids have reacted in a positive way, and since then we’ve been pretty good. We’ve continued to stay consistent.”
Martin didn’t leave the cupboard bare when he left Kansas State. Weber inherited one of the most experienced teams in the league that includes senior starters Rodney McGruder, Martavious Irving and Jordan Henriquez. Point guard Angel Rodriguez, shooting guard Will Spradling and power forward Thomas Gipson also started last season.
Led by McGruder and Rodriguez, all of those veterans have contributed heavily this year. The Wildcats were one of the best teams in the league at pulling out close games.
“When you have experienced guys who have been through it and have been on the road it definitely helps you,” Weber said. “We try to emphasize stopping people and not just making big shots. You’re always going to miss shots and free throws, but if you stay consistent on the defensive end it can give you a chance.”
Weber credits McGruder’s leadership for making his first season at Kansas State a success.
“Rodney works hard and never squawks about anything, and he makes it so much easier for us as coaches,” Weber said. “When you can get your best player to buy in and be the hardest worker, you can do what you need to do. He definitely has a real positive work ethic, and the way he has handled himself has helped us as a staff.”
2013 ALL-BIG 12 MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM
Pos Name School Cl Ht Pts Reb Notable
G Marcus Smart Oklahoma St. Fr 6-4 15.1 5.7 League-high 2.97 steals
G Ben McLemore Kansas Fr 6-5 16.7 5.3 Big 12-best 86.3 FT pct.
C Jeff Withey Kansas Sr 7-0 13.6 8.6 4.0 blocks nation’s third best
F Romero Osby Oklahoma Sr 6-8 15.7 6.9 52.9 FG pct.
G Pierre Jackson Baylor Sr 5-10 19.4 6.6 Leader in scoring, assists
Player: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State Coach: Bruce Weber, Kansas State
Freshman: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State Newcomer: Will Clyburn, Iowa State
Defender: Jeff Withey, Kansas Sixth man: Tyrus McGee, Iowa State
Pos Name School Cl Ht Pts Reb Notable
G Rodney McGruder Kansas State Sr 6-5 15.1 5.2 76.0 FT pct.
G Angel Rodriguez Kansas State So 5-11 11.5 2.0 5.5 assists per game
F Isaiah Austin Baylor Fr 7-1 13.6 8.8 1.6 blocks per game
F Will Clyburn Iowa State Sr 6-7 15.2 7.1 75.7 FT pct.
G Markel Brown Oklahoma St. Jr 6-3 15.6 4.5 49 3-pointers
Pos Name School Ht Pts Reb Notable
G Marcus Smart Oklahoma St. 6-4 15.1 5.7 4.3 assists per game
G Ben McLemore Kansas 6-5 16.7 5.3 43.4 3-point pct.
F Isaiah Austin Baylor 7-1 13.6 8.8 27 3-pointers
F Georges Niang Iowa State 6-7 11.8 4.5 50.6 FG pct.
G Josh Gray Texas Tech 6-1 9.6 2.3 1.97 steals per game
— Compiled by John Werner; photos by AP, Rod Aydelotte, Michael Bancale
Statistics through the regular season