Players from the Rutgers men's basketball team were awarded with Big Ten honors on Monday. The Big Ten committee unveiled its postseason awards. Junior guard Geo Baker, sophomore guard Ron Harper Jr. and graduate student forward Akwasi Yeboah were all recognized. Baker and Harper Jr. received All-Big Ten honors along with many talented Big Ten athletes. Yeboah was awarded the sportsmanship award for his leadership and gamesmanship throughout this season.
Baker has put the NCAA world on notice with countless clutch shots and highlight plays. His biggest games of the year were against Niagara, Wisconsin, Northwestern and, most recently, Purdue. In those games he either hit a clutch shot or scored more than 19 points. He has been the team's co-captain this year and has been the closer in tight games. He has the respect from his coaches and teammates when they need him most.
Baker spoke to the media regarding his performance in the clutch against the Boilermakers (16-15, 9-11).
"It's amazing. It's not even really putting the team on my back," Baker said. "That's my role. Everyone has a role on this team and my role is to get the ball at the end of thegame and make a play. I'm very comfortablein that role, win or lose. I want that. I want the ball at the end of the game."
Harper Jr. has been one of the surprises on the Scarlet Knights' (20-11, 11-9) roster this season. He is the team's leading scorer, averaging 12.1 points per game (PPG) while shooting 45.2 percent from the field. His biggest scoring outbursts came in matchups against NJIT (25 points), Seton Hall (18 points), Penn State (22 points), Illinois (27 points) and Iowa (29 points). He has been one of the main options for Rutgers this year. Head coach Steve Pikiell shared his thoughts on Harper Jr.'s career-high performance against the Hawkeyes (20-11, 11-9) and what he brings to the table.
"He felt good today, he wanted the ball," Pikiell said. "He was calling his number too a few times. He has games like that, practices like that. He's a three-way scorer, he can score in the post, he can handle it, he can shoot threes. He had a really good night."
Being awarded with the sportsmanship honors, Yeboah has been the most effective addition this past offseason for the Knights. The team's co-captain is averaging 9.8 PPG while shooting 43.5 percent from the field. He has also reached the 1500-point mark for his career. The night he reached that milestone, he scored a season-high 20 points. True freshman guard Paul Mulcahy shared his thoughts on Yeboah's sportsmanship and leadership.
"He's one of the best leaders I've ever been around. Akwasi is one of my favorite teammates ever," Mulcahy said. "We've gotten here at the same time and both have been here a couple of months. He's a better person than he is basketball player. He looks out for me on and off the court, I really appreciate him and I am really proud for him."
All three players honored have impacted Rutgers in a positive way this season.They all helped accumulate the program's best record in more than 15 years. They also helped achieve a program record 18 home wins, the most in country. The Knights will look to achieve more than individual awards this upcoming month with the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments on deck.
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