CINCINNATI - Xavier University held its annual men's basketball awards banquet Thursday night at the James and Caroline Duff Banquet Center at Cintas Center, honoring a Musketeer squad that finished 23-13, reached the NCAA Tournament for a seventh straight season and the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the fourth time in five years.
Third-year head coach Chris Mack had plenty of other highlights to talk about. Xavier is now one of only four teams that have made the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 four times in the last five years (2008-12). That list includes Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina and Xavier. Xavier is one of only eight schools that have made at least seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including 2012: Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Marquette, Michigan State, Texas, Wisconsin and Xavier.
Xavier was ranked 24th in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. This marked the fifth straight year XU has appeared in the final Associated Press and/or Coaches Poll. XU, Duke and Kansas are the only schools that have been in one or both of the two major final polls each of the last five years. Xavier, 23-13, secured its seventh straight 20-win season and its 15th 20-win season in 16 years.
Xavier honored a number of players who earned awards this season, including four players that earned All-Atlantic 10 Conference honors. Senior Tu Holloway earned a spot on the Atlantic 10 Conference First Team for the second straight year in addition to a place on the 2012 A-10 All-Championship Team. The A-10 coaches voted junior Mark Lyons to the Atlantic 10 Conference Third Team and freshman Dezmine Wells as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie Team.
Senior Kenny Frease and junior Mark Lyons received painted balls commemorating their entry into the Xavier 1,000 Point Club.
The first special award of the night was the Ernest A. Staak Memorial Award, which went to graduate student Andre Walker. Walker, a transfer from and graduate of Vanderbilt University, started 33 games in his one and only season as a Musketeer. The Staak Award goes annually to the player who best exemplifies the life of former XU head coach and athletic director Bob Staak's father, including Ernest Staak's unselfish dedication and love of the game of basketball.
Freshman Dezmine Wells earned the Connie Brown Award, which is given annually to the team's most inspirational player. Wells, a 2012 A-10 All-Rookie Team selection by the A-10 coaches and the 2012 Sporting News A-10 Freshman of the Year, started all 32 games he played in as a freshman.
Junior Mark Lyons won the Gordon E. Nead Award, which is given annually to the team's most improved player, for the second straight year. Lyons was second on the team in scoring (11th in the A-10) at 15.1 ppg. Lyons, who now has 1,194 career points, is 28th on XU's all-time scoring list.
Senior Kenny Frease took home the Lew Hirt Society Coach's Award, which is given annually to the player the coaching staff feels stood out in some significant way during the season. Frease led the team in rebounding at 6.1 rpg. (15th in the A-10) and was third on the team in scoring at 10.2 ppg. Frease finished 37th on XU's all-time scoring list with 1,103 career points, 14th on XU's all-time rebounding list with 723 rebounds and fourth on XU's all-time blocked shots list with 130. Frease averaged 17.7 points and 6.0 rebounds, while shooting 71.0 percent from the field, in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
The final special award given on the night was the George E. "Skip" Prosser Award, which was presented to senior Tu Holloway for the second straight year. The award is presented annually to the player who exemplifies the qualities that Coach Prosser admired. Like Coach Prosser, Holloway showed great toughness, an untiring work ethic, a burning competitive spirit, and he never backed down from a challenge.
Holloway earned a spot on the CollegeInsider.com All-America Team for the second straight year and earned honorable mention All-America honors from selected other national outlets, while also being named First Team All-Jesuit for a second straight year. Holloway, who was named First Team All-Atlantic 10 Conference for a second straight year, was a consensus 2011 Third Team All-American. Holloway averaged 22.7 points for Xavier's three games, which was ranked fourth in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and first in the tournament among players who won at least one game in the tourney.
Holloway finished third on XU's all-time assist list with 550 assists and dished off 100 or more assists and led the team in assists for three straight seasons. Holloway finished sixth on XU's all-time scoring list with 1,833 career points. Holloway led the team in scoring as a senior at 17.5 ppg. (second in the A-10) and assists at 4.9 apg. (fourth in the A-10). He was the only player in the top five in the A-10 in both scoring and assists. He also led the team in steals (eighth in the A-10 at 1.5 spg.) and free throw percentage (second in the A-10 at .862).
Xavier also heard from its three departing seniors: Kenny Frease, Tu Holloway and Andre Walker. Xavier won 100 games during the four-year careers of Holloway and Frease. In addition, XU earned four NCAA Tournament appearances, including three Sweet 16s. XU also won three Atlantic 10 regular season titles in four years.