HILADELPHIA - Temple point guard Pepe Sanchez needed a little help on his way out of the Atlantic 10's annual men's basketball award banquet Tuesday. The senior walked away with trophies for Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Scholar Athlete of the Year as well as plaques for being a member of the all-conference first team, defensive team and academic team.
His coach, John Chaney, probably wasn't able to help, since his own hands were full with his fifth Coach of the Year trophy. Temple's Mark Karcher (first team) and Lynn Greer (Sixth Man of the Year) also were honored for the Owls, which finished 14-2 in the conference and 23-5 overall. Fordham's Duke Freeman-McKamey (Chris Daniels Award for most improved) and George Washington guard SirValiant Brown (Rookie of the Year) rounded out the individual awards.
Three University of Massachusetts players were honored at the event. Monty Mack upgraded from second team last year to first team all-conference this year. Chris Kirkland was named to the third team. Mike Babul was named to his third straight all-defensive and all-academic team. Mack said that making the first team hadn't been a priority for him.
"Awards don't really mean much to me," Mack said. "Just going out there and playing the game I love to play, that means a lot to me."
Mack was happier for Kirkland than he was for himself.
"He's been through a lot," Mack said. "I've seen him improve. I told everybody he was going to be a late bloomer. That's what happened."
When Mack was announced, he was mistakenly listed as a junior. While he is technically a senior, he plans to take advantage of an NCAA rule that allows players who were partial qualifiers as freshmen to gain back their missed year of eligibility. Chaney, who thought Mack was leaving, hoped he would anyway.
"Is Mack coming back?" he asked during his coach of the year acceptance speech. He then joked, "Tell him to take the money and run."
Mack appreciated Chaney's remarks.
"I was very surprised," Mack said. "I think it's an honor for a coach like that to talk about me."
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Several teams enter the Atlantic 10 Tournament shorthanded. Fordham, which opens against Virginia Tech at noon today, will be without junior guard Bevon Robin, who was suspended for violating team rules, while teammate Alejandro Olivares has left the team for personal reasons. Virginia Tech will be shorthanded as well. Dennis Mims was suspended indefinitely for the ever-popular team rules violation.
A Philadelphia television station reported that Temple center Kevin Lyde, who had been out of action during an NCAA investigation of a potential violation that occurred while the sophomore was still in high school, has been reinstated for Temple's game Thursday against the winner of the Virginia Tech/Fordham game.