Just two days after UConn held its senior night, two of their celebrated seniors received prestigious individual awards from the Big East conference. Forward Isaiah Whaley was named the Co-Defensive Player while forward Tyler Polley won Sixth Man of the Year.
During his most productive season in a UConn uniform, Whaley was a key cog in UConn’s 29th ranked defense in adjusted defensive efficiency and finished the season with an 11.2% block percentage, which was the 18th best in the nation according to KenPom.
The North Carolina native finished the season averaging six rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. Whaley blocked at least one shot in every contest except one, which happened all the way back in November against USC. He has swatted five or more shots in a game three times this season, including a seven-block performance against Butler. He also recorded four double-doubles this season, averaging one for every five games played.
After starting all of last season, Polley’s role changed considerably during his senior year. He was coming off a serious injury and found himself vying for minutes on a more-talented team, eventually landing as a reserve. While it would have been easy for Polley to let this change affect his game, he embraced his new role and became a dangerous scoring threat off the bench.
He put up six double-digit scoring performances, including a 23-point game against Marquette during UConn’s 18-point comeback win in January. While he only shot 35.9% from 3-point range, he ended up leading the Huskies in made three’s with 33. The stretch-four also featured the fifth-best turnover percentage in the country this season, coughing up the ball on just 5.6% of possessions. No other UConn player finished below 15% in the category.
Tyler Polley points in the second half: 23— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) January 6, 2021
Marquette total team points in the second half: 23
Polley and UConn won 65-54 to move to 5-1 on the season pic.twitter.com/OP5kXUCh6B
Here’s a complete breakdown of the conference awards announced on Monday morning:
Big East Defensive Player of the Year
Isaiah Whaley, Connecticut
Posh Alexander, St. John’s
Big East Most Improved Player
Julian Champagnie, St. John’s
Zach Freemantle, Xavier
Big East Sixth Man Award
Tyler Polley, Connecticut
Big East Sportsmanship Award
Mitch Ballock, Creighton