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March 4, 2012
The Big East coaches acknowledged two key Notre Dame players in its unexpected third-place finish in the conference.
Jack Cooley, the 6-foot-9, 245-pound junior who never played more than 19 minutes in a game during his first two seasons with the Irish, was one of five players selected to the all-Big East second team while 6-foot-5 red-shirt freshman/sophomore Jerian Grant was one of seven first-year players chosen for the league’s all-rookie team.
“I’m extremely excited and happy,” said Cooley Sunday afternoon, just prior to Notre Dame’s practice on the Purcell Pavilion hardwood. “To think that this would happen at certain parts earlier in the year is just incredible.”
Cooley scored just 39 points in Notre Dame’s first eight games this season (4.8 per game), missed game No. 9 due to illness, and then exploded. He averaged 15.3 points per game the rest of the way, and also grabbed 184 rebounds in 18 conference tilts. He recorded 10 double-doubles against Big East competition and shot 62.1 percent from the field.
“To be a second team all-league guy, I’m very, very proud of him, and I know he’s proud of himself,” Brey said. “He earned it.”
Cooley joined Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, Seton Hall’s Jordan Theodore, Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine and Villanova’s Maalik Wayns on the second team.
Grant averaged 12.5 points per game while leading the Irish in assists with 4.9 per game. He seldom came off the court in Big East play, averaging 37.8 minutes while converting .831 from the line.
“I was excited,” said Grant when he was informed earlier Sunday of the award. “It was one of my personal goals coming into the season. I know a lot of guys put up better numbers. But we led the team and our team finished third in the toughest conference in America.”
Brey saw Grant’s emergence coming last season when his first year of eligibility was preserved.
“He’s a fearless guy who wants to take big shots in the last couple minutes of the game and make plays for us,” Brey said.
Brey also credited Grant’s teammates.
“(It helped) having teammates like Eric Atkins and Scott Martin that continually helped him understand college basketball,” Brey said. “The pace of it, not to get down on himself, not to pout when he missed his shot . . . Eric Atkins has been a really good big brother and roommate.”
Other all-rookie selections included Connecticut’s Andrew Drummond, Louisville’s Chane Behanan, Providence’s LaDontae Henton, Moe Harkless and D’Angelo Harrison of St. John’s, and South Florida’s Anthony Collins.
First-team selections included Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut, Jason Clark of Georgetown, Marquette’s Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, Syracuse’s Kris Joseph and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones.
“I’m disappointed in myself (for not making first-team),” Cooley said. “But looking at the first team, the people there are incredible. I wouldn’t consider myself better than any of those people. The choices that were made for the first team were great. They all are justified. I use it more as motivation than disappointment. I’m looking forward to having a good year next year.”
The fact that Cooley achieved what he did in 2011-12 surprised most, but not all.
“The only person that really called it was Ben Hansbrough,” Cooley said. “He Facebooked me before the season started and said I should be really disappointed if I didn’t get a Big East team. Then this happens.”
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