Denzel Valentine Named Big Ten Player of the Year

Denzel Valentine vs Nebraska 2016.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard
Denzel Valentine vs Nebraska 2016. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State senior guard Denzel Valentine was selected Big Ten Player of the Year by the conference’s media and coaches, the Big Ten office announced Monday, March 7. Matt Costello and Bryn Forbes both earned second-team honors from the media, while the coaches selected Forbes to the second team and Costello to the third team. Colby Wollenman was selected as MSU’s recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.

Valentine is the eighth Spartan to earn Big Ten Player of the Year honors, joining Jay Vincent (1981), Scott Skiles (1986), Shawn Respert (1995), Mateen Cleaves (1998, 1999-coaches), Morris Peterson (2000-coaches), Kalin Lucas (2009) and Draymond Green (2012).

“There were some other great candidates especially Yogi Ferrell and Jarrod Uthoff, but I think Denzel is very deserving of the award,” said MSU head coach Tom Izzo. “If you look at all categories, Denzel had a tremendous year. What’s really impressive about his season is that not only did he miss some games due to injury and come back at a higher level, he also had teammates miss time because of injury and he was able to excel while playing a completely different position. As impressive as Denzel’s stats are, when you take into account his leadership, which has always been a strength, and his defense, which has greatly improved, he’s really the complete package.”

“I’m extremely blessed to receive this award,” said Valentine. “It’s an award for an individual, but I wouldn’t be receiving it without all the help and support from my teammates and coaches. So many people have helped me along the way, and helped me improve as a player. I can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done for me.

“It’s a tremendous honor just for me to be mentioned with all the greats that have won this award before me, both here at Michigan State and across the Big Ten. I’ve certainly dreamed about this, but an even bigger goal is winning the Big Ten Tournament, making a Final Four and then winning a National Championship. That’s where all of my focus is over the next month. I’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the individual awards after that.”

Valentine is having a historic season, as he is on pace to become the first player to average 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists since the NCAA first recognized the assist as an official stat in 1983-84. He currently leads the Big Ten in overall scoring (19.6 ppg) and assists (7.5 apg), looking to be the first Big Ten player to do that since Iowa’s Andre Woolridge in 1997. He finished Big Ten play averaging 20.5 points and 7.8 assists, becoming just the fourth player to pace the conference in both categories in Big Ten games since 1975, joining Woolridge (1997), Michigan State’s Marcus Taylor (2002) and Michigan’s Trey Burke (2013). Valentine also leads the Big Ten in 3-point field goals made, both overall (3.4) and in conference games (3.8). He is the first Spartan to lead the conference in scoring in Big Ten games since Taylor in 2002, and just the ninth Spartan all-time to accomplish that feat.

Earlier this season, Valentine became just the fourth Spartan to record a triple-double when he totaled 29 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists against Kansas and one of three Spartans with more than one when he followed nine days later with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against Boston College. His five games of 25 points, 10 assists and five rebounds are the most in the nation since 2010-11. In games which he has started, Valentine has either made or assisted on 50.2 percent of MSU’s baskets.

He is the only Spartan to rank in the Michigan State Top 10 in both career assists (3rd, 600) and career rebounds (10th, 824). In addition, he ranks 13th in career scoring (1,580), fourth in career 3-point field goals made (254), and fourth in career 3-point field-goal attempts (621). He also ranks tied for sixth in career games played (140).

Last season, Valentine earned third-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior, following a sophomore season in which he earned honorable mention accolades.

Forbes leads the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage (.505) and ranks ninth in 3-point field goals made per contest. In Big Ten games, he shot 51.2 percent from behind the arc, and averaged 3.7 made 3-pointers per contest, ranking second in both categories. He ranked second on the team and tied for 11th in the Big Ten in scoring in conference games (15.8). Overall, his 15.1 points per game scoring average ranks 13th.

Costello is just the second Spartan under Izzo to post a double-double in conference games (12.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg). He ranked tied for fourth in the conference in field-goal percentage (.575) and seventh in blocked shots (1.3). He led the Big Ten with eight double-doubles in conference games and 10 overall.

It is the first Big Ten honor for both Forbes and Costello.

Valentine was a unanimous selection to the All-Big Ten First Team, as were Yogi Ferrell (Indiana) and Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa). Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin) and A.J. Hammons (Purdue) rounded out the first team. Malcolm Hill (Illinois), Peter Jok (Iowa), Melo Trimble (Maryland) and Forbes were second-team honorees for both the coaches and media. Costello was the fifth member for the media, while Shavon Shields (Nebraska) was the final selection for the coaches. Costello (coaches) and Shields (media) both appeared on one of the third teams, while Troy Williams (Indiana), Diamond Stone (Maryland) appeared on both. Brandon Taylor (Penn State) and Ethan Happ (Wisconsin) completed the media third team, while, due to a tie, Thomas Bryant (Indiana), Derrick Walton Jr. (Michigan) and Bronson Koenig (Wisconsin) finished off the third team.

Indiana’s Tom Crean was named Coach of the Year by the media and coaches, while Happ swept both Freshman of the Year Awards. The coaches also named Hammons Defensive Player of the Year and Indiana’s Max Bielfeldt was the Sixth Man of the Year.

The Big Ten coaches also selected an All-Freshman Team (Bryant, Stone, Happ, Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan) and an All-Defensive Team (Ferrell, Uthoff, Hammons, Happ and Purdue’s Rapheal Davis).