Oregon's Young, Altman, OSU's Payton garner top Pac-12 awards
SAN FRANCISCO — Oregon's Joseph Young has been named the Pac-12 player of the year and Ducks coach Dana Altman has been named coach of the year.
Arizona's Stanley Johnson was the freshman of the year, Oregon State's Gary Payton II the defensive player and Washington State's Josh Hawkinson was the most improved player.
Arizona, which won the Pac-12 regular-season title, was the only team with more than one player on the Pac-12 first team, with Johnson, point guard T.J. McConnell and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson earning honors.
Young and Payton also were named to the first team, with Washington State's DaVonte Lacy, UCLA's Norman Powell, Stanford's Chasson Randle, California's Tyrone Wallace and Utah's Delon Wright.
Young, a 6-foot-2 guard, leads the conference with 19.8 points per game and ranks sixth with 3.7 assists per game after moving to point guard in the middle of the season. He also leads the Pac-12 with a 91.8 free-throw percentage and 2.5 3-pointers per game. Young’s 36.4 minutes per game are second in the conference. His 115 assists and 72 turnovers rank 10th in the Pac-12 with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.6.
Young was a second-team all-conference selection last year.
Altman is in his fifth season with the Ducks. He led Oregon (23-8) to a tie for second place in the conference at 13-5. Oregon was picked to finish eighth in a preseason media poll after a tumultuous offseason that saw three players kicked off the team and two others transfer.
“It’s never about one person,” Altman said. “If you don’t have good players willing to work with you, you have no chance. If you don’t have a good staff believing in what you’re doing, you have no chance. It’s a lot of people trying to go in the right direction. I’ve been fortunate: I’ve had guys working for me that were really good. I’ve hired good assistants.”
Oregon returned just three scholarship players from last year, including one starter in Young. The Ducks had seven newcomers, including five freshmen, but are likely to make their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time in school history.
“I enjoy my job, I enjoy coaching,” Altman said. “The best part of the job is coming out and working with the guys, spending time with them. It’s fun watching them make progress. It’s a good group to work with. You’re fortunate when you enjoy your job and have a good group of guys to work with.”
Altman was the conference coach of the year two years ago.
Payton has joined his father, Gary, at another high point in Oregon State men’s basketball history. The senior Payton won the defensive award as a freshman in 1987. The conference discontinued the award in 1988 before reinstating it in 2008.
Earlier this season, the younger Payton became just the second OSU player to record a triple double, joining his father.
Payton II leads the Pac-12 with 92 steals, the fifth most in conference history and second in OSU history to his dad’s 100 in the 1989-90 season.
“It’s just all the hard work I put in the last couple years,” he said. “It’s mostly my teammates. Without them I wouldn’t be in those spots and in position to get the steals. It’s more a team award, so thanks to my coaching staff and my teammates.”
Payton’s defense has helped he Beavers (17-13, 8-10) give up just 58.5 points per game, second in the conference. He's also third in the conference in rebounds (7.5) and seventh in blocks (1.2). He set the single-game school record in blocks with seven against Colorado.
He’s the third OSU player to win the award. Seth Tarver was selected in 2010.
Payton is only the second Beaver to make the all-conference first team in the past 10 season. Jared Cunningham was selected in 2012.