March 11, 2009
UCF senior guard Jermaine Taylor has been named the Conference USA Player of the Year for the 2008-09 season, while Memphis head coach John Calipari has been named the league's Coach of the Year, it was announced today prior to the opening of the 2009 Conference USA Men's Basketball Championship.
Taylor became the first player in UCF history to be named to the USBWA District IV team and also earned first team All-Conference USA honors. He averaged a league-record 29.1 points in C-USA play and has moved into fourth place on the conference's all-time scoring chart. He has led the Knights in scoring in 29 of the team's 30 contests in 2008-09. On nine occasions, Taylor has scored more than 30 points and he also posted one 40-point showing.
Taylor has been one of the most accurate shooters in the country this season. He is shooting 48.5 percent overall and his 3-point field goal percentage (38.4) is good for 51st in the nation. Taylor has knocked down 91 triples this season.
The senior closed the regular season in strong fashion, averaging 35.1 points in UCF's final seven contests. He leads all active UCF players on the glass, grabbing 5.3 rebounds per contest. Taylor, who is listed at 6-foot-4, is also first on the team with 24 blocks. Taylor becomes the first Conference Player of the Year from UCF since Mark Jones was named the 1998 Atlantic Sun Player of the Year.
Calipari was named the C-USA Coach of the Year for the second year in a row and the third time in four seasons. On Tuesday, he was also named the USBWA District IV Coach of the Year. Calipari is a finalist for both the Henry Iba Award and Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year award.
In his ninth season at the helm of the Tigers, Calipari led Memphis to its fourth consecutive Conference USA regular season championship, going undefeated in league play for the third-straight year. The Tigers have won 58 straight games against C-USA opponents, the third-longest streak in NCAA history. The team's 104 overall wins over the past three years are tied with the 1994-96 Kentucky squads for the most ever and the 132 wins over the past four years are one shy of tying the 1998-2001 Duke teams for the most in that period.
The Tigers (28-3 overall) enter the Conference USA Championship with a nation's-best 22-game winning streak. Memphis is ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press poll and No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
2008-09 CONFERENCE USA PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jermaine Taylor, UCF, G, 6-4, 210, Sr., Tavares, Fla.
2008-09 CONFERENCE USA COACH OF THE YEAR
John Calipari, Memphis (247-68 at Memphis; 440-139 career)
Memphis Head Coach John Calipari- Conference USA Coach of the Year
John Calipari Quotes
"First of all, let me congratulate Jermaine (Taylor). He is a terrific player. He played well against us. I will also tell you that the players on that first and second team, you are talking about guys that are going to be playing professionally. Some of them in the NBA and some of them will play overseas, but they are going to play professionally, which talks about the strength of our league. For this award, I have the best the team. Hopefully we play well in the tournament, but I feel that we have the best team, which means you win these type of awards. But several other coaches in this league have done great things. When you look at the job that Dave Dickerson has done, I am amazed at what he has done. I look at Doug Wojcik. When you look at what Tony (Barbee) has done to get his team back on track these last couple of games. Mike (Davis) and what has happened where he lost players and is short-handed. Kirk (Speraw) who does a great job ever year. There are many great coaches in this league who did a better job than I did with mine, except I have a talented group. I have a really good team. Hopefully because of that we win the tournament, but it doesn't always happen that way. As you saw yesterday Butler lost and some other teams have lost. It is just hard and this league is hard."
What is the biggest challenge that you have faced this year with this group of players?
"First it was trying to get them to come together as a team and truly respect and trust each other. That was the first challenge. The second challenge became figuring out how we have to play with this group and getting away from last year's team. This group has to play differently than last year's team. That is a challenge. You want to plug guys into the spots vacated by Derrick (Rose) and Chris (Douglas-Roberts) and Joey (Dorsey). But that isn't what this team is. This is a totally different team. We had good players coming back. But those were the major two challenges. The third challenge was to get them to understand that we were somebody's Super Bowl every game we played. Every team it was their biggest game. We had to come every week to practice and play to be able to compete with that and they did."
What happened to Butler and Cleveland State, do you put the tape of that on in your locker room?
"No, because I don't want them to have that thought in my mind. Every team (that) is the way they are going to make their mark. It is going to be their legacy. If you aren't challenged by that or ready for that, you get beat. Our whole team is, we know teams are going to play well. We just have to make sure we are playing well. If another team can play 40 minutes of basketball, it is going to be their game. They are going to win. But here is the thing, we are not allowed to lose. Again, is it paranoia, or am I telling the truth? If Kansas loses to Texas Tech it would be like us losing at Marshall. Marshall is good, Donnie (Jones) has done a great job. They are just the same power ranking as Texas Tech. But we are not allowed to lose and if we do lose, well oh my God.