Clyburn named Big 12’s top newcomer
IRVING, Texas There weren’t any Iowa State men’s basketball players on the Phillips 66 all-Big 12 Conference first team, but the Cyclones were well-represented when the league announced the teams and awards Sunday.
Senior Will Clyburn, a former star with Marshalltown Community College, was one of three Cyclones to earn an individual award as he was nabbed Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Senior Tyrus McGee was the league’s Sixth Man of the Year and junior Melvin Ejim was named Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Clyburn, Ejim, McGee and Korie Lucious also were named to the all-conference squads for their stellar seasons on the court.
Clyburn was named to the second team, Ejim made the third team and McGee and Lucious were both honorable mention selections. Clyburn and freshman Georges Niang were listed on the all-Rookie Team and senior Chris Babb landed on the all-Defensive Team.
The former MCC Tiger Clyburn averaged a team-best 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds in his first and only season at Iowa State after transferring from Utah and Marshalltown. Clyburn was the second consecutive Cyclone to win Newcomer of the Year after Royce White picked up the honor last season.
Clyburn was the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the top-five in the Big 12 in scoring (fifth) and rebounding (fifth). The senior leads the team in 20-point scoring games with seven and his seven double-doubles ranks second on the team.
McGee could make a case for being the nation’s best bench player this year after scoring 13.5 points per game while scoring in double-figures 23 times this season. Only Syracuse’s James Southerland (13.6 ppg) has a better scoring average among players from a “power six” conference who have started less than 25 percent of their team’s games.
The Cyclone six man leads the conference in both 3-pointers made per game with 2.8 and 3-point percentage at 40.7. That percentage also is second nationally. McGee, a Stringtown, Okla., has 87 3-pointers, which ranks fifth best in school history.
Ejim, a native of Canada, is leading the Big 12 in rebounding at 9.3 and double-doubles with 13. He is averaging 10.6 ppg and has excelled off the court at the highest level.
Ejim was recently inducted into the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi Academic Honor Society and was named to the Capital One Academic All-District VI squad.
Babb has been the Cyclones’ primary lock-down defender for the past two seasons, guarding the opposing team’s top offensive backcourt threat. He leads the team in steals with 34 and has held the Big 12’s top scorers in check on a game-by-game basis. Babb also has 59 3-pointers on the season.
Niang is one of the Big 12’s top freshmen and is a big part of the Cyclones’ future success. He is averaging 11.8 points and shooting 50 percent from the floor, which ranks fifth in the league. Niang has hit double-figures in 20 games and is trying to become the 13th rookie in Iowa State history to end his freshman season averaging in double-digits.
Lucious currently ranks second in the Big 12 in assists at 5.5 per game and has handed out five or more helpers 21 times this season. He has buried 60 3-pointers and his 172 assists this year ranks 10th in school history.
Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart became just the third freshman in conference history to be named the league’s Player of the Year as well as its Freshman of the Year. The 6-4 guard joins Michael Beasley of Kansas State (2007-08) and Kevin Durant of Texas (2006-07) in that distinction.
Smart was joined on the all-Big 12 first team by Kansas senior center Jeff Withey, Kansas State senior guard Rodney McGruder, Oklahoma senior forward Romero Osby and Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore.
Smart also gained selection to the Defensive Team and the All-Rookie Team.
Withey was selected as the Defensive Player of the Year, and Kansas State’s Bruce Weber was picked as Coach of the Year.