The Syracuse Orange snagged two of the three Big East Conference player awards announced on Monday. Dion Waiters won the Big East Sixth Man Award while Fab Melo won the Defensive Player Award.
Waiters was basically a shoo-in for the nod considering he contributed at the level of a starter on the league's best team. In 28 minutes a night, Waiters averaged 11.9 PPG, second on the team behind Kris Joseph. Waiters also provided 2.6 APG, 2.4 RPG and 1.9 SPG in his sophomore season.
Waiters did so much more than stats, however. He was at times a leader, at other times a sparkplug and often a human highlight reel to boot. He hit a mid-season slump but seems to be re-emerging just in time.
Some may quibble that Waiters wasn't a "true" sixth-man and was more of a "sixth-starter" but the rules are the rules. I mean, he's not a starter and he's the first guy off the bench. Whaddya want?
As for Fab, it's a well-deserved nod and the second-straight win in this category for Syracuse (Rick Jackson). Melo was absolutely transformed this year. Gone was the sluggish freshman who could barely run up and down the court a few times. He was replaced with a lean, fit defensive machine that averaged 3.1 BPG, 5.8 RPG and 7.7 PPG.
Like Waiters, there's so much more to Fab's game than stats. He changes the course of a play almost every time the ball enters the paint. He's become a master at drawing charges and blocking shots. And we forgive him for his 1-2 goal-tends per game because better he be over-aggressive than the opposite.
As for the third award of the day, the Most Improved Player went to Notre Dame's Jack Cooley. Now, you could make a pretty solid case that Fab should have won that award as well. However, I'm guessing because he won DPOY, they decided to share the wealth. So long as Fab received an honor for his work this year, I'm pleased.
The good news is, if Syracuse plays Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament, it's one more thing to add to the pile in the mythic Cooley vs. Fab Battle.