Mass men's basketball held their annual team banquet on Thursday night. Juniors Rashaun Freeman and Stephane Lasme shared the team's George "Trigger" Burke Team MVP award. The Mullins Center's PA announcer Jack O'Neill was honored with the Milt Cole Award for contributions to the program. Senior Jeff Viggiano earned several honors as well with more than 100 in attendance.
Here is a breakdown of the honors.
MILT COLE AWARD - Each year the Court Club, along with Nancy Cole, presents the Milt Cole Award - named for the longtime sports editor of the Daily Hampshire Gazette. The award honors someone who has made a major contribution to the UMass Basketball Program. This year's winner was Jack O'Neill, the long-time pubic address announcer at the Mullins Center and former sports anchor in local area television and radio.
JULIUS ERVING SCORING AWARD - Is named for one of the best basketball players of all-time. Erving played two seasons at UMass, averaging 26.3 points...in fact his two seasons are the top two single scoring marks, too.
Our winner led the team in scoring 11 times this season. He scored in double figures 18 times and scored more than 20 points on seven occasions. With his team-high average of 13.6 points, he would finish 15th in the Atlantic 10 in scoring.
The Julius Erving Scoring Award went to Rashaun Freeman.
RICK PITINO ASSIST AWARD - Is named after UMass alum and the current Louisville coach, who also coached Travis Ford at Kentucky and became the first coach ever to lead three different schools to the Final Four. He played for UMass from 1971-74, and averaged 5.2 assists, which is the third best career average in school history.
Our winner led the team in assists 21 times this season, including the last 11 games. He racked up five or more, 13 times. With his 4.9 assists per game, he not only led the Minutemen but the entire A-10, too.
The Rick Pitino Assist Award went to Chris Lowe.
JIM LAUGHNANE FREE THROW AWARD - Is named for Jim Laughnane, who lettered as a player in the early 60's and was the team's athletic trainer for many years.
Our winner was in his first season at UMass and his strength is shooting the ball. He was good not only at the foul line, but behind the three point arc, leading the team with 61 makes there. At the foul line, he would have finished third in the Atlantic 10 in free throw percentage, had he had enough attempts. This player made 82 percent from the line.
The Jim Laughane Free Throw Award went to James Life.
LOU ROE REBOUNDING AWARD - Is named for UMass' all-time leading rebounder Lou Roe, who finished his career with 1,070, and was a first team All-American in 1995.
Our winner led the team in rebounding in 21 games this season. He had 10 or more in 13 different games, collecting a season high 15 against Rhode Island. Averaging 9.3 rebounds a game, he finished second in the A-10.
The Lou Roe Rebounding Award went to Rashaun Freeman.
SKIP CONNORS ACADEMIC AWARD - Is named for Skip Connors, who lettered in both 1983 and 1984 and goes to the top student athlete on the team. This year's winner is a junior, who is majoring in Sport Management. He's done well in the classroom, averaging better than 3.0 every semester he's been here at UMass. On the court, he's a walk-on, who served as a team manager and then became a player this season...he provided one of the most exciting moments of the season...putting the exclamation point on the 60-34 win over Temple by nailing a three pointer from the corner.
The Skip Connors Academic Award goes to Matt Pennie.
DERRICK CLAIBORNE MR. HUSTLE AWARD. - Is named for Derrick Claiborne who played from 1974-78 and finished his career as a 1,000 point scorer. The award goes to the only senior on the team, a player who could be counted on in so many different ways. He finished fourth on the team in scoring and rebounding, second in assists and blocks, and first in steals.
The winner of the Derrick Claiborne Mr. Hustle Award was Jeff Viggiano.
JOHN MURPHY MOST INSPIRATIONAL AWARD - Named for John Murphy, who averaged 15 points a game and is one of UMass' 1,000 point scorers. This award goes to a player, who became eligible at the end of the first semester...who proved to be very valuable coming off the bench. He would average four rebounds a game in 14 minutes of action a contest. His best games of the season came against Saint Joseph's where he scored 11 points, making all five shots...along with four rebounds and three blocks and then hit all five shots again at Florida State and scoring 10 points and getting seven rebounds.
The winner of the John Murphy Most Inspirational Player Award was Dante Milligan
JIM MCCOY MOST IMPROVED AWARD - Named for UMass' all time leading scorer with 2,374 points. He was Coach John Calipari's first recruit and was instrumental in UMass' rise in the 90's. Our winner was brought along slowly coming off the bench in his first 13 games, as he gained experience. He moved into the starting lineup for the Fordham game, scoring 14 points along with seven assists...and never came out of the lineup. He dished out nine assists in wins over Temple and Charlotte...and eight against Rhode Island and Dayton and had three or less turnovers in each of those games.
The Jim McCoy Most Improved Award went to Chris Lowe.
RAFER GILES SIXTH MAN AWARD - Named after Rafer Giles, who scored over 1,000 points in his career. He got to the 1,000 mark while only starting 49 of 115 games in his career, which spanned from 1987-91. This year we had two winners.
Our first winner came off the bench all season...giving the Minutemen a spark with his three point shooting, leading the team with a 35 percent mark behind the arc. He was instrumental in the win over Temple, scoring a season high 17 points, making five of seven three point attempts...
The Rafer Giles Sixth Man Award goes to Lawrence Carrier.
Our second winner was one of the most versatile players on the team playing three different positions - point and shooting guard, along with small forward. He would score in double figures seven times...with four of those games coming against NCAA Tournament teams: scoring 22 against UAB early in the year and his 13 points against GW gave UMass the chance for the upset.
The Rafer Giles Sixth Man Award goes to Brandon Thomas.
ALEX ELDRIDGE COACHES AWARD - Named for another 1,000 point scorer, who was a mainstay from 1974-78....
When you are a new coach, you'd like to inherit a team with a lot of seniors who can help guide a young team. Coach Ford had just one of those players on his roster. He averaged 8.9 points and 3.5 rebounds. Some of his big games included, 17 points against both UConn and Temple and 15 against St. Louis and Fordham. On senior day, he helped lead the Minutemen to a win over Xavier, scoring 12 points, including go-ahead three pointer.
His all-around game...makes Jeff Viggiano, the winner of The Alex Eldridge Coaches Award.
JACK LEAMAN DEFENSIVE AWARD - Named for the winningest coach in UMass Basketball history...Jack won 217 games in 13 years as head coach and loved defense. His teams won eight Yankee Conference titles in an eight-year span. He also was the color commentator for 10 seasons on the radio broadcasts.
The winner was a force on the defensive end being named the Atlantic 10's defensive player of the year. He led the team and the A-10 with 108 blocks this season. He joined Marcus Camby as the only player in UMass history with more than 100 blocks and his 108 ranked as the second best total in a season to Camby's 128. He stands number two all-time to Camby in career blocks with 231 and would need a do-able 106 next year to be the all-time leader.
The Jack Leaman Defensive Award goes to Stephane Lasme.
MARK DONOGHUE MOST PRODUCTIVE AWARD - Named for Mark Donoghue who graduated in 1977. He was player who had numbers in every category. Averaging 14 points, eight rebounds, while shooting 52 percent from the floor.
This year's winner was always a force on the defensive end, but became one on the offensive end. He led the team in field goal percentage, making 61 percent of his shots. He finished third in scoring with 10.5 points a game, and second in rebounding with 7.0 per game. He had six double-doubles this year...and nearly had the school's second triple-double in school history, falling one block short, getting 10 points, 11 rebounds, and nine blocks at Davidson.
The Mark Donoghue Most Productive Award went to Stephane Lasme.
GEORGE "TRIGGER" BURKE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - Named for George Burke, who led the Minutemen in scoring in the 1954-55 season with 17.6 points...Burke's career best 34 against Rhode Island in 1955 still stands in the top-20 in single game points.
This year, two players will share this award....
This recipient was named to the Atlantic 10's first team for the second consecutive year. He was amongst the A-10 leaders, finishing 15th in scoring at 13.6 points, and was second in both rebounding at 9.3 boards and in field goal percentage, making 53 percent of his shots. He would have 11 double-doubles this season, highlighted by three very dominating performances...a 21 point, 13 rebound effort against Fordham, a 21 point, 15 rebound game in a win over Rhode Island, and a monster effort, with a season high for points with 25 and rebounds with 19 at St. Bonaventure.
The first George Trigger Burke MVP was Rashaun Freeman.
The second recipient gave UMass two outstanding front court players. He was a force on the defensive end really helping out the UMass team by being the last line of defense blocking shots and forcing opponents to change shots or think twice about taking them. He finished the year by averaging 7.0 rebounds far and away the most in his UMass career to date. He would average in double figures for the first time in his career finishing the year at 10.5. He had six double-doubles and six times he had seven or more blocks. His most memorable games included a 21-point, 14-rebound, eight-block game at Madison Square Garden against St. Peter's and an 18-point, 11-rebound effort in the win to close the regular season against Xavier.
The second George Trigger Burke MVP went to Stephane Lasme.