Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Creighton’s Justin Patton Named Big East Freshman of the Year
NEW YORK — Creighton big man Justin Patton was named Big East Freshman of the Year Wednesday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
The 7-footer from Omaha, Neb., averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds for the season. Patton ranks third in the country in field goal percentage with a remarkable 69.3 percent. Along with his national standing, Patton broke the Big East freshman field goal percentage record, connecting 66.3 percent of his shots in league play.
“After all the work I put in and all the tough stuff my team has been through and been able to overcome as a team, and myself personally, I just feel like it was well deserved,” Patton said about his reaction to winning the award.
Bluejays nation showed up all season for Patton and his team. Even though his time in college may be coming to an end, the freshman remains appreciative of all the support Creighton has received.
“First I just want to thank our fans, 18,000,” Patton said. “It’s fun playing in front of those people and they’re a big reason why we’re so successful, and why I’m so successful myself.”
Creighton rode the back of their rookie big man on the way to a 23-8 overall record, 10-8 in Big East play, after losing senior guard Maurice Watson Jr. to a torn ACL. A blow that big to the Bluejay lineup forced Patton and his teammates to step up in order to finish the season strong. After Watson’s injury, the big man wanted to put forth his best effort for his fellow starter.
“I just wanted to play for Maurice,” Patton said. “I just wanted to excel. He can’t be out there, so I wanted to be out there for him and do everything I can to make my team better. Someone had to step up and I think we’ve all done a good job of changing our roles, and becoming leaders.”
Patton is currently projected to go No. 16 in the 2017 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com. The high first-round projections show the long way Patton has come from his high school recruitment. But on the eve of his first Big East tournament action, Patton is focused on the here and now.
“If I was younger and not as experienced, I guess it would be hard,” Patton said. “But I’ve trained myself to pay attention to what’s right in front of me, and right now that’s winning the Big East tournament and having fun with my teammates, enjoying it while it’s here. It’s not hard at all.”
Photo: Nati Harnik
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