ND's Hansbrough voted Big East player of the year

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Notre Dame guard Ben Hansbrough talks to the fans following his final home game. Hansbrough, a native of Poplar Bluff, Mo., was named the Big East player of the year Tuesday. (JOE RAYMOND ~ Associated Press)

NEW YORK -- It was almost a green sweep for the Fighting Irish when the Big East announced its biggest awards.

Notre Dame guard Ben Hansbrough was selected conference player of the year and Mike Brey also was honored Tuesday as the league's coach of the year during a news conference at Madison Square Garden on the opening day of the Big East tournament.

Hansbrough, a native of Poplar Bluff, Mo., averaged a team-high 18.5 points per game during the regular season, good for third in the conference. He and Brey led the surprising Irish (25-5) to a 14-4 Big East record and a second-place finish behind No. 3 Pittsburgh.

"This will forever be a memory of my life that I will forever cherish," Hansbrough said. "It's been an unbelievable ride."

This sort of success runs in the Hansbrough family, too. Older brother Tyler was the national player of the year at North Carolina in 2008, and their parents were on hand to see Ben pick up his own trophy Tuesday.

Not bad, little bro.

"He has a big trophy room. It's at my folks' place," Ben Hansbrough said. "Once my college career is done and I'm finished chasing the things I want to chase as a team, we'll look into getting a trophy room."

Tyler Hansbrough now plays in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers.

"He's always been a great role model to me," said Ben Hansbrough, who transferred to Notre Dame from Mississippi State. "Me and Tyler always played together at a young age and I think we both kind of thrived off each other."

In addition, Notre Dame senior forward Tim Abromaitis was a repeat winner as Big East scholar-athlete of the year. The only trophy from Tuesday's ceremony that isn't heading back to South Bend went to DePaul freshman Cleveland Melvin, the league's rookie of the year.

Picked to finish seventh in the preseason coaches' poll, Notre Dame set a school record for regular-season wins. The fourth-ranked Irish won 11 of their last 12 games and received a double bye into Thursday's Big East quarterfinals.

"Certainly when you have guys like Ben and Tim, you look like a better coach," said Brey, who won the award for the third time in five years. "Guys like this make coaches look real good."

An emotional leader for the Irish, Hansbrough switched to point guard this season and helped turn Notre Dame into a national power. He averaged 4.2 assists, ranked third in the league in 3-point shooting (45.1 percent) and made 81.8 percent of his free throws.

The 6-foot-3 senior also picked up his play in Big East games, averaging 20.7 points. With jaw-dropping range on his jumper and a knack for sinking clutch shots, he beat out some stiff competition in the nation's most rugged conference, including Connecticut's Kemba Walker and Dwight Hardy of St. John's.

Hansbrough was the only unanimous selection to the all-Big East team, announced on Sunday. That's when Brey told him he was the player of the year as well -- but Hansbrough immediately had a question.

"'You got coach of the year though, too, right?"' Hansbrough said. "That's what this team is all about. Nobody expected this. Nobody expected us. ... There's no egos on this team."

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