Monday’s Big Five banquet at the Palestra was dominated by awards honoring NCAA champion Villanova, and also highlighted by one of the great Big Five Hall of Fame classes.
Given that Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson swept national player-of-the-year awards, adding Big Five men’s player of the year was a no-brainer. Jay Wright is the Big Five coach of the year. Omari Spellman is Big Five rookie of the year. Eric Paschall is the most improved Big Five player.
Temple’s Tanaya Atkinson was named Big Five women’s player of the year, and Villanova’s Harry Perretta coach of the year. Penn’s Eleah Parker is rookie of the year, and Villanova’s Kelly Jekot is the most improved player. Sarah Veilleux of St. Joseph’s is scholar-athlete of the year.
Each Big Five team was represented by a player on the first-team all-Big Five women’s team: Temple’s Atkinson, Penn’s Michelle Nwokedi, Villanova’s Alex Louin, La Salle’s Amy Griffin, and Chelsea Woods from St. Joseph’s. The second team had six players: Jekot, Mary Gedaka and Adrianna Hahn from Villanova; Parker and Anna Ross from Penn; and Veilleux from St. Joe’s.
The all-Big Five men’s first team includes four Villanova players plus B.J. Johnson of La Salle. Brunson, Spellman, expected NBA lottery pick Mikal Bridges and NCAA title-game hero Donte DiVincenzo are on the first team. The second team is Temple’s Quinton Rose, James Demery and Shavar Newkirk of St. Joseph’s, and Penn’s AJ Brodeur and Ryan Betley. Brunson also was named scholar-athlete of the year.
A historically significant Big Five Hall of Fame class was inducted Monday, with Candice Dupree from Temple, Don DiJulia and Pat Calathes from St. Joseph’s, Natasha Rezek from Penn, Curtis Sumpter from Villanova, and the late Rasual Butler from La Salle.
“His life was basketball,” Raven Butler said in accepting the honor for her father.
DiJulia said he had worked with 25 different Big Five athletic directors during his time as St. Joe’s athletic director.
“The great experiment worked,” DiJulia said of the Big Five itself.