State players well-represented in Big Ten honors

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 8, 2011 - 7:40 AM

Jordan Taylor, Jon Leuer and Trevor Mbakwe were all honored; Purdue's JaJuan Johnson took home Player of the Year.

Trevor Mbakwe

Photo: Tsong-Taatarii, Richard, Dml - Star Tribune

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Who says you can't win with Minnesota talent alone?

Three Minnesotans earned spots on the All-Big Ten men's basketball teams announced by the league Monday.

Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe, a St. Paul native, was named to the second team by both the conference's coaches and media. Mbakwe, who led the league with 10.5 rebounds per game, is the first Gophers player since Vincent Grier (2004-05) to earn second-team honors; Grier was a second-team choice by the media and a first-team selection by coaches.

Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor, a former Benilde-St. Margaret's star and 2008 Minnesota Mr. Basketball, earned a spot on both All-Big Ten first teams. Badgers teammate Jon Leuer, a former Orono standout, made the coaches' first team and the media's second team.

Gophers senior guard Blake Hoffarber, who averaged 13.7 points per game this season, was named an honorable mention by the media. He also was one of the league's Sportsmanship Award honorees.

Mbakwe has recorded 18 double-doubles this season. He's on the verge of becoming the first Gophers player since Kris Humphries (2002-03) to average a double-double during a season.

Mbakwe recently said he is ready to help his team make a run at an unlikely NCAA tournament berth in this week's Big Ten tournament. The Gophers will face Northwestern in Thursday's opening round at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

"We're still pretty high. ... Teams in the Big Ten tournament are going to be down on us ... overlooking us," Mbakwe said after the Gophers' 66-63 loss to Penn State on Sunday at Williams Arena. "I think that we should be able to surprise some teams. We're just right there. We've had a lot of success in the past on neutral courts. ... I think we just gotta play hard and we have nothing to lose right now."

His selection to the second team wasn't much of a surprise. But the conference's Player of the Year pick might spur controversy.

Both coaches and media selected Purdue senior center JaJuan Johnson, who has averaged 20.5 points, 2.4 blocks and 8.1 rebounds per game this season, as Big Ten Player of the Year. Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger, who has averaged 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, joined him on the first team.

For a chunk of the season, Sullinger looked like the league's unanimous Player of the Year pick. But the Big Ten's top freshman scored 12 points or fewer in four of his past six games. Johnson scored 20 points or more in Purdue's past four games. That finish probably sealed the Player of the Year nod for Johnson.

"It's a good feeling right now," said Johnson, who also was named the coaches' Defensive Player of the Year, during an interview on the Big Ten Network.

Purdue guard E'Twaun Moore accompanied Johnson on both first teams, and coach Matt Painter was named Coach of the Year by both groups, too.

"Obviously, it's an honor," Painter said in a televised interview.

Penn State's Talor Battle, who scored a combined 50 points in a pair of victories over the Gophers, made the media's first team in place of Leuer.

Ohio State, the No. 1 team in the latest Associated Press poll, had four players -- Sullinger, David Lighty (second), William Buford (second) and Jon Diebler (third) -- on both first, second or third teams.

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