LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Marquette junior guard Dwyane Wade, considered one of the top all-around players in college basketball this season, was chosen as the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, the league office announced Tuesday. Wade's teammate, freshman Steve Novak was tabbed as the conference's Sixth Player of the Year, while Louisville forward Francisco Garcia received C-USA Freshman of the Year accolades.
Novak and Garcia are joined on the All-Freshman team by Charlotte forward Curtis Withers, Louisville guard Taquan Dean, Memphis forward Rodney Carney and UAB forward Demario Eddins.
Wade, who is acknowledged for his offensive abilities, has proven that he can be a defensive stopper this season. He is second in C-USA in steals with 61 and he has recorded 35 blocks, tied for seventh in the league. Wade's Marquette team is holding the opposition to just .402 percent shooting from the field, tied for third in Conference USA. He is a finalist for the Naismith and Oscar Robertson Trophies, both honoring the nation's top collegiate player, and he was among the Top 30 players on the Wooden Award mid-season checklist, also reflective of the country's best player. Wade's defensive efforts helped Marquette clinch the Conference USA regular season crown.
With Novak earning the C-USA Sixth Player Award, it marks the back-to-back years that a freshman has won the honor. Last season, Cincinnati's Jason Maxiell became the first newcomer to do so. Novak has become the conference's top three-point threat coming off the Golden Eagle bench, shooting .488 (39-of-80) from three-point range. At DePaul on Feb. 12, Novak scored a career-high 17 points, hitting four consecutive treys in a 73-60 victory.
Garcia has established himself as one the top young stars in Conference USA, starting 17 of 27 contests this year. He has also emerged as one of the league's top long-range marksmen, second only to Novak in three-point percentage, hitting .455 (51-of-112) from behind the arc. In the U of L 77-71 home win over Cincinnati on Feb. 5, Garcia connected on a school record tying eight threes en route to a career-high 24 points. In the game prior, he had 23 points in a 95-76 victory over Indiana on Feb. 1, and tied his career best with 24 in a 78-73 home loss to Marquette on Feb. 27. He is the second U of L player to receive Freshman of the Year honors. Nate Johnson captured the second honor in 1997.
2002-03 CONFERENCE USA SIXTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Steve Novak, Marquette, G, 6-9, 200, Fr., Brown Deer, Wis./Brown Deer
2002-03 CONFERENCE USA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Dwyane Wade, Marquette, G, 6-4, 210, Jr., Robbins, Ill./Richards
2002-03 CONFERENCE USA FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Francisco Garcia, Louisville, F, 6-7, 190, Fr., Bronx, N.Y./Winchendon Prep
2002-03 CONFERENCE USA ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
Rodney Carney, Memphis, F, 6-7, 205, Indianapolis, Ind./Northwest
Taquan Dean, Louisville, G, 6-2, 175, Neptune, N.J./Neptune
Demario Eddins, UAB, F, 6-7, 190, Chicago, Ill./Winchendon Prep
Francisco Garcia, Louisville, F, 6-7, 190, Bronx, N.Y./Winchendon Prep
Steve Novak, Marquette, G, 6-9, 200, Brown Deer, Wis./Brown Deer
Curtis Withers, Charlotte, F, 6-8, 230, Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte
Garcia named C-USA Freshman of the Year
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