Awards time, folks. You know, that one awkward Banquet, or whatever, at the end of the year for the big-money boosters. Yeah, it's kinda like that, but way better in every way, because no Banquet is involved. Only the internet.
Of course, Sherron won't be coming on to accept his award(s), so I suppose that kind of makes it worse. You can just get over it, though, yes?
In this edition, we'll be awarding the Defender of the Year Award. It shouldn't be too much of a surprise.
Defensive Player of the Year -- G Brady Morningstar
More than anything, Bill Self values defense. And so, to start out the year, with 2 perimeter starting spots entirely up for grabs, he selected the two best defenders of the bunch. This allowed Brady Morningstar, the hometown-boy-made-good, a spot in Kansas' starting lineup. The kid called a legacy player, who only earned his scholarship because of his dad's exploits in a Kansas uniform a generation ago, was starting. Just for a bit, though, until everyone elses defense caught up. Then, Brady would go back to the bench, maybe even fall out of the rotation, resort back to his expected role in the first place.
It never happened. He started 34 of the season's 35 games, only coming off of the bench on Senior Day, allowing Brennan Bechard to start in his place. He averaged 30.4 minutes a game, or 3rd most on the team. Think about that.
And it was all just for one reason: defense. While he learned a 3-point shot and slowly became more comfortable working the ball around and actually putting the ball on the floor, he was still a liability of sorts on the offensive end throughout the season. Yet there he was, always out there. Always. He played 40 minutes in Waco. Thank his shutdown D.
He was always, always matched up with the team's best perimeter player. Always. Sometimes, he had to slide up the height ladder and match up with the opposition's 4, like Raymar Morgan and Chris Wright.
And nearly every single time, that player was held under their average. Sometimes, a lot under the average. Nearly every time, Brady was overmatched physically, whether it be quicks-wise or height-wise or weight-wise or all three of 'em. Still, he nearly always bested his opponent.
He did it all using, more than anything, some of the quickest feet I've ever seen. Every coach I've ever had has always pounded into my mind: "you play defense with your feet, not your hands". I've never seen anyone, though, subscribe to this philosophy more than Brady. It was nearly impossible to drive on him. And yet, he was most often matched up against spot-up three-point shooters. Why? Because no one else could follow around Paul Velander or Matt Lawrence or Lucca Staiger so efficiently, running through screens and double-screens and elevator-screens and illegal, moving-screens. Nearly every three-point shooter he was matched up with had an uncharacteristically bad day. And again, quick feet. He would get there in time to throw up a hand in the face, throwing off their rhythm. Really, it was incredible to watch.
Now, what should be interesting is how he's used next year. With more athleticism and ability coming in, his minutes will assuredly go down. And yet, I still get this feeling that he will consistently play. Bill Self loves his defense, and that was never more evident than in Brady's playing time this season.
When you play D like Brady does, you'll always get on the floor. Always, always, always.
Honorable Mention -- C Cole Aldrich
Yes, I know that Cole was the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Since he didn't share the award with Brady, it would be natural to assume that he should get this RCT award. And yes, Cole might be the best shot blocker I've ever seen in college. But what Brady gave us was more important, I think. And, in lots of ways, more representative of just how this team managed to win the Big 12 and make the Sweet 16. So, some congrats still do go out to Cole. He deserves it, just as much. But I just had to give it to Brady.
Next Up: Sixth Man of the Year, Friday PM