Clemente named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year

IRVING, Texas Junior guard Denis Clemente was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year as well as a second team All-Big 12 selection, as the league office announced the 2008-09 Phillips 66 All-Big 12 Men’s Basketball Awards.


In addition, Clemente was a unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 Rookie Team, while teammate Jacob Pullen was named All-Big 12 honorable mention.


The official All-Big 12 awards are selected by the league’s head coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own players.  Oklahoma sophomore Blake Griffin was named the Big 12 Player of the Year, Kansas sophomore Cole Aldrich and Missouri junior J.T. Tiller were selected as the Defensive Players of the Year, Oklahoma’s Willie Warren was the Freshman of the year and Missouri senior Matt Lawrence and Baylor sophomore LaceDarius Dunn were the Sixth Man Award winners.  Kansas head coach Bill Self was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year for the second time in his career.


Clemente becomes K-State’s third major award winner since 2007, joining current NBA players Cartier Martin (2007 Sixth Man of the Year) and Michael Beasley (2008 Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year).  He becomes the 12th player in school history to be honored as the league’s Newcomer of the Year and the first by the league coaches in the Big 12 era.  He joins Bob Zender (1970), Steve Mitchell (1971), Lon Kruger (1972), Mike Evans (1975), Curtis Redding (1977), Ed Nealy (1979), Randy Reed (1981), Norris Coleman (1986), Jean Derouillere (1990) and Anthony Beane (1993) as Wildcats to be named to conference Newcomer of the Year.  Jeremiah Massey was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year by The Associated Press in 2004.    


Clemente, a transfer from Miami (Fla.), led the team in scoring (15.6 ppg.), double-figure scoring (21), field goals (156), field goals attempted (366) and free throw percentage (79.4), while he ranked second to Pullen in 20-point games (five), 3-point field goals (56), 3-point field goals attempted (142) and assists (96).  His scoring average was even better in Big 12 play, averaging 18.4 points per game.  He has the top single-game scoring effort in the league this season, scoring 44 points in a win against Texas on Jan. 31.  The total tied Beasley’s all-time single-game scoring record.


Pullen, who has seen action in all 64 games in his career with 45 starts, led the squad in 20-point games (six) 3-point field goals (66), 3-point field goals (200), steals (50), assists (103) and minutes (942).  He is second to Clemente in several other categories, including scoring (13.4 ppg.), field goals (137), field goals attempted (361), while he and Luis Colon are the only Wildcats to start in all 31 games.  His 66 3-pointers and 50 steals tie for 10th place on K-State’s single-season top-10 list, while he is just one trey short of tying Aaron Swartzendruber for 10th on the career list.  Pullen scored a career-high 26 points against Oakland on a career-best six 3-point field goals on Nov. 25, 2008.

Clemente becomes the 10th player since 1997 to be selected to one of the three all-conference squads, while he and Pullen are the 20th and 21st players to earn either first, second, third or honorable mention accolades since the league’s inception.  Clemente is the third Wildcat to be named to the All-Rookie Team, including the second consecutive unanimous pick, after Beasley and Bill Walker were named to the squad a year ago.


In addition to the awards handed out by the league office, Clemente and Pullen, along with senior Darren Kent, were named to speciality teams selected by a panel of sportwriters who regularly cover the Big 12.  Clemente was named to the all-newcomer, Kent to the all-improved and Pullen to the all-underrated squads.  Kent, who came into the season averaging 1.7 points and 1.6 rebounds in his career, improved his averages to 8.9 points and a team-best 5.6 rebounds per game this season.      


The trio helped Kansas State to a 21-10 overall record and a four-way tie for fourth-place in Big 12 play with a 9-7 mark.  The team has now posted three consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in over 25 years, while the 29 conference wins during that span are the most since the Wildcats had 32 during the 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77 seasons.    


Fourth-seeded Kansas State (21-10, 9-7 Big 12), which earned a bye to the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year, begins play at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship on Thursday when the Wildcats play either No. 5 Texas (20-10, 9-7 Big 12) or No. 12 seed Colorado (9-21, 1-15 Big 12) at 2 p.m. CT in the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Okla.