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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.
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Wednesday / March 20.
  • Big East coaches favor Marquette’s Markus Howard for Conference Player of the Year

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    It’s just past the midway point of the Big East Conference schedule but Marquette junior Markus Howard has emerged as the frontrunner for Big East Player of the Year.

    The 5-foot-11 Howard is averaging 24.6 points, 4.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds for a Marquette team that is 19-4, 8-2 in the Big East. He has scored 30+ points six times, 40+ three times and went for a career- and Big East-record 53 points in an overtime win at Creighton on Jan. 9.

    “Yeah, you’ve got to look at what he’s done, and what the team’s done,” Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose No. 14 Wildcats face No. 10 Marquette on Saturday, said Thursday on a conference call when I asked if he thought Howard was the frontrunner. “We always try to look at the best player on the best team so you’ve gotta say he’s definitely up there.”

    Among the league’s leading scorers, Seton Hall’s Myles Powell ranks second at 21.6 ppg, St. John’s Shamorie Ponds is third at 20.8 and Villanova’s Phil Booth and Georgetown’s Jessie Govan are tied for fourth at 18.3. Only Villanova and Marquette are above .500 in the league, while St. John’s and Georgetown entered Thursday at 5-5 in league play.

    “I think Markus Howard has had a spectacular season up to this point,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “I think Markus Howard’s having a phenomenal season.”

    When Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing was asked for a midseason vote on Player of the Year race, he said, “Maybe Howard. He is having a remarkable year for Marquette, the way he’s been putting up big numbers.”

    Wright, a 2019 Naismith Hall of Fame nominee and one of only three active coaches with more than one NCAA championship ring, also sang Howard’s praises.

    “He’s got all of the qualities of a great offensive player,” Wright said. “Some guys are good at moving without the ball and coming off screens, which he’s great at, but they can’t create their own shot. Or vice versa, some guys are good off the dribble but they don’t move well without the ball. And some guys are just scorers, they can’t find the open man, they can only get thrown a shot.

    “He does everything. He’s got every aspect of the game. He’s got deep range, he’s got a mid-range game, he can get to the rim. He’s complete. He has every aspect of all the offensive skills. That’s special.”

    Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said it was too early to pick a Player of the Year, but he had no trouble praising Howard’s contributions this season.

    “I think Markus has had a great year,” he said. “We’ve shouldered him with a lot of responsibility, not just scoring the basketball but being a leader and improving in areas that he really wants to focus and get better at. “I think he’s gotten better as a player and he’s handled the responsibility that we’ve asked him to carry at a high level. And he’s just a joy to coach.”

     

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.