Villanova junior Ryan Arcidiacono had his mind on basketball and not on awards when associate head coach Baker Dunleavy approached Wednesday and told him he had been named Big East co-player of the year.
"I was kind of shocked," Arcidiacono, a 6-foot-3 guard, said by telephone after the announcement was made at Madison Square Garden. "I was like, 'Really? Are you sure about that?' I wasn't expecting anything. So it's a great honor."
Arcidiacono's coach, Jay Wright, captured the conference's coach-of-the-year award for the second straight year and the fourth time since 2006.
Sophomore guard Kris Dunn of Providence, who led the Big East in assists and steals, shared player-of-the-year recognition with Arcidiacono.
The selection of Arcidiacono, who starred at Neshaminy High School, was a bit of a surprise. Teammate Darrun Hilliard was considered one of the favorites after having been named a unanimous All-Big East selection on Sunday, along with Dunn and the Friars' LaDontae Henton.
But there is no arguing Arcidiacono's value to the Wildcats. He overcame a nagging right wrist injury that affected his shooting just before Big East play started in December, and averaged 12.9 points and 3.6 assists while making 45.5 percent of his attempts from the floor and 44.4 percent from beyond the arc in conference play.
"We were surprised," Wright said of Arcidiacono's honor. "But as I talked to some of the coaches, everybody was talking about how [Arcidiacono and Dunn were] impactful in every category, then on top of it being a clutch player. You know what? It makes sense."
Arcidiacono said his role was to "try to be the team leader on and off the court, set the tone in practice, and have that tough-guy mind-set and always try to take charges and dive for loose balls."
Wright said he was humbled by his rival coaches honoring him. "I have great respect for the coaches in this league, and the fact that they vote for me means a lot," he said. "A lot was expected of us this year, and [the players] came through. I think that's really what the coaches voted on." - Joe Juliano