The past few weeks have seen more gold than a rapper’s mouth. With the Olympic medals, the Academy Awards and the Big East’s highest honors already passed out, I thought it would be appropriate to hand out some hardware to Milwaukee’s finest.
The Carl Spackler jack-of-all-trades award: Darius Johnson-Odom
The basketball gods predicted that DJO would be a reliable scoring option for a points-starved team. But the juco transfer defied fate when he became the most versatile and valuable offensive force for the Golden Eagles. He’s like Carl Spackler from Caddyshack: a utility man.
DJO and his mighty chin averaged 12.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting a sweet 47.2 percent from downtown. He left his fingerprints all over this successful season, shooting and slashing his way into the hearts of fans. The sophomore glue-guy locked down All-Big East First Teamer Dominique Jones in a match-up versus South Florida and went for a career high 22 points, including a whiplash-inducing dunk, against Louisville.
The Jackie Chiles ‘Who-put-the-balm-on?’ award: Junior Cadougan
Everyone remembers the over-caffeinated lawyer Jackie Chiles from Seinfeld, whose mouth got more exercise than a marathon runner. In a classic scene, Chiles peppered Kramer with non-stop questions about his miraculous recovery from an illness. “You put the balm on? Who told you to put the balm on? Do you even know what a balm does? Nobody knows what a balm does. They’re unpredictable.”
Which brings us to Cadougan, who appeared to have lost his freshman season due to an Achilles tendon injury in September. The highly-touted recruit showed Wolverine-like healing prowess, returning from the ailment after just three months. Who put the balm on? Junior Cadougan did.
The Rick James cold-blooded award: Jimmy Butler
Cold blooded! The junior forward made his mark as a garbage man in his 2008-’09 breakout campaign, doing the dirty work and cleaning up missed shots around the rim. But this year it was in the final seconds of critical games when Butler truly shined as Marquette’s Mr. Clutch. He knocked down a silky-smooth fadeaway to seal the deal against Connecticut in overtime, and as an encore, Butler swished an improbable jumper as time expired against St. John’s that earned him the No. 1 spot on SportsCenter’s top plays.
It was an interesting combo for Butler, being a low-post banger and an icy cold late game hero. If not for Butler’s Jerry West impersonations, the Golden Eagles may have missed the NCAA Tourney by the slimmest of margins.
The Reggie Miller bombs-away award: Maurice Acker
At 5-foot-7, Acker is the smallest player in the Big East. But his 3-point percentage in conference games? Huge. The Lilliputian point guard shot a Big East-best 50 percent from the Land of Triple.
Acker was also fourth in all of Division 1 basketball in assist-to-turnover ratio. So while he wasn’t always the most noticeable player for Marquette, Acker managed to do the little things that counted. (By the way, David Cubillian was tied for 13th in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. Now the reason for the surprise season is becoming clear.)
The Beyonce Knowles ‘Irreplaceable’ award: Lazar Hayward
The numbers are great, and the numbers don’t matter. His 18.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game only tell half the story of why Big Zar is the team’s most valuable piece. As a player, he does the invisible things that don’t show up in the box score — he guards the opposition’s inside gorillas every game despite being drastically undersized, draws defenses off outside threats like Acker and DJO, and is masterful in dumping the ball to Butler in the post.
As a person, Hayward is even more important. The rest of the team absolutely adores him. He’s humble, unselfish and a tireless worker. At the beginning of the year, Butler cited Zar as his sole motivation for getting to the NCAA Tourney. He said he didn’t want to let him down.
Well Jimmy, you didn’t. You guys will be dancing in March, and there are a lot more awards to be won.