Seniors Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom were the big winners at last Wednesday’s men’s basketball awards banquet, held at Milwaukee’s Renaissance Place.
The night, hosted by former MUTV Sports reporter Brad Galli, celebrated both individual performances and the team’s 27-win, Sweet 16 season.
Each player was awarded at least one of the 16 individual awards, most of which were presented by assistant coaches. Crowder took home four awards and shared the Most Valuable Performer award with Johnson-Odom.
Crowder also won the Rebounding Effort, Most Valuable Performer and the Dwyane Wade Legacy of Leadership awards and shared the Defensive Player of the Year award with sophomore forward Jamil Wilson. The duo was thrust into a difficult role after junior center Chris Otule was lost to a torn ACL just eight games into the season.
Facing talented Big East forwards and centers every night, Crowder and Wilson averaged over 12 rebounds and two blocks per game as the Golden Eagles’ only two front court players much of the conference season. Wilson finished 10th in blocks per game and Crowder second in steals per game.
“In our league, you have to play against NBA draft picks,” said director of basketball operations Bart Lundy, who presented the award. “But these two guys whipped their tails.”
Five awards named after former players were also handed out. Williams has named one award per year after the player who was selected for the honor. Wesley Matthews, Lazar Hayward, Joe Fulce and Jimmy Butler were recorded on video presenting their awards. Former walk-on Rob Frozena presented his “We Are Marquette” award in person.
Junior guard Junior Cadougan was the recipient of the Lazar Hayward “Everyday Tough” award.
When Hayward won the award two years ago, he brought Cadougan, then a freshman, onto the stage to accept the award with him.
That year, Cadougan returned to action just over three months after tearing his Achilles’ tendon, in part to help Hayward and fellow seniors Maurice Acker and David Cubillan make the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m very appreciative of the man you’ve become,” Hayward said in the video.
The Golden Eagles’ point guard also received the “Creates for Others” award. He averaged a team-best 5.5 assists per game and assisted on over 32 percent of Marquette’s made baskets when he was on the floor.
Soft-spoken sophomore forward Davante Gardner provided some humor in his acceptance speech after winning the Jimmy Butler “Only Now Exists” award.
“I want to thank the coaches for staying on me,” Gardner said. “Because they know I’m lazy.”
The last award of the night, “Sacrifice for the String,” was presented by Williams to Johnson-Odom.
Williams cited Johnson-Odom’s unlikely path to Marquette — he attended junior college as a freshman and committed to Marquette without having ever set foot on campus. He offered consistent performances last year, though this was somewhat overshadowed by Crowder’s historic season.
Johnson-Odom was second in the Big East in scoring and was named an honorable mention All-American, but rarely shared the spotlight with Crowder, who was named a second team All-American. Johnson-Odom’s sacrifices, Williams said, led to the success the Golden Eagles enjoyed last year.
It was a bittersweet evening as the players and coaches relived their record-breaking season for the last time as a team.
“I always say this is the worst night of the year,” Williams joked, “because it’s the last time this group is going to be together.”