Tigers Take Two Awards On American’s Big Day

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Memphis, TN-Two University of Memphis men’s basketball players took home some of the American Athletic Conference’s top hardware, the league office announced prior to the start of its postseason championship in the Bluff City Wednesday.

Freshman Austin Nichols was named the league’s Rookie of the Year, and senior Michael Dixon Jr. was picked as the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year.

Nichols is the seventh Tiger since 2000-01 to earn a league Rookie/Freshman of the Year honor. The six other Memphis players to take home the award since 2000-01 were Dajuan Wagner (2001), Sean Banks (2004), Darius Washington Jr. (2005), Shawne Williams (2006), Derrick Rose (2008) and Tyreke Evans (2009).

Dixon Jr. is the first player in NCAA Division I high-major basketball (includes ACC, The American, BIG EAST, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) to win the Sixth Man of the Year honor in two different leagues.  In addition to taking The American’s award this season, he also received the same honor from the Big 12 Conference in 2011-12.

The 6-foot-1 guard is the fourth Tiger in the last eight seasons to earn a Sixth Man of the Year award. The other three to receive a similar honor were Jeremy Hunt (2007), Wesley Witherspoon (2009) and Chris Crawford (2013).

For Nichols, the league’s Rookie of the Year award was his second honor in as many days. On Tuesday, he was announced as the lone unanimous pick to The American’s All-Rookie Team. During the season, Nichols earned the league’s Rookie of the Week award four times, including the last three in a row.

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. He leads the squad in field goal percentage (60.0) and is second in blocked shots (41). The Collierville, Tenn., native ranks among the league’s statistical leaders in field goal percentage (2nd) and blocked shots (9th).

Dixon Jr. is the Tigers’ second-leading scorer (12.2 ppg) and leads the squad in free throw percentage (84.3). The Kansas City, Mo., native has 77 assists and 38 steals and is shooting 48.1 percent from the field. He ranks among the conference’s statistical leaders in scoring (17th), field goal percentage (11th), free throw percentage (5th) and three-point field goal percentage (9th).

UConn guard Shabazz Napier, a unanimous American Athletic Conference First Team selection and a finalist for the top individual honors in college basketball, was named as the first American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

Cincinnati, which won a share of the first American Athletic Conference regular-season title, had three individual award winners as forward Justin Jackson was named Defensive Player of the Year, guard Sean Kilpatrick was the recipient of the conference’s Sportsmanship Award, and coach Mick Cronin earned Coach of the Year honors from his counterparts.