Billy's Pick: Nic Moore
SMU's "little guard" was right behind Nick Russell in minutes, averaging over 32 a game while leading the team in scoring and assists. SMU's offense often fell apart without Moore on the floor and he always hustled back on what appeared to be easy layups, often stripping the ball from opponents to prevent the layup. Although he got in foul trouble sometimes, Moore took a few charges this year and drew other fouls by almost toying with bigger players by having them run up on the back of him and thus fouling him. Against Cal, everyone knows the shot Moore hit sent the team to New York, but it came on a night when he was struggling. Yet Moore still stepped up, likely exhausted after playing 37 minutes, and wasn't afraid if he would've missed the shot. Moore could be found diving all over the floor on the defensive end and making other little plays that make him my Heart & Hustle Player of the Year.
Omar's Pick: Sterling Brown
Every player on SMU played hard this season, and you could give this award to a guy like Ben Moore, but I think Sterling Brown deserves the Heart and Hustle award for how consistently he brought it every night. Brown averaged 4.5 points, 3.8 rebounds (third highest on the team), and 1.1 assists per game on 48 percent shooting this season, but his impact on the defensive end and on the glass was especially huge for the Mustangs. Brown's game against Clemson in the NIT semifinals was a good example of the type of player he could be. Brown fought for every loose ball, played terrific defense, and helped SMU spread the floor on offense by being aggressive. Before the season, Brown compared his game to Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard and now I can see that resemblance much more. Brown's impact may not show up on a box score every night, but his professionalism, heart, and energy was a big reason SMU over-achieved this season by most people's standards. I'm excited to see where Brown's development goes in the next couple years because he has a chance to be the best player from SMU's class of 2013 down the road.
Scott's Pick: Nick Russell
Larry Brown has always said that former SMU coach Matt Doherty left him with a great group of kids. One of those "kids" is senior guard Nick Russell. Russell, who led the team in minutes played (32.5), is one of two captains, and has been someone the younger guys can look to as a role model all season long. Russell has also said that since this is his last season, he wanted to leave everything on the court, and you can't argue he hasn't. Whether it was diving for loose balls or just his hard-nosed defense, you could see through his play that Russell truly wanted to finish off his career the right way.
Adam's Pick: Sterling Brown
When Larry Brown inserted Sterling Brown into the starting lineup, he was trying to give the team a boost. The Hall of Famer almost never trusts freshmen with that much responsibility, but Sterling gave the coach exactly what he was looking to get. Brown's long arms disrupted opposing offenses and also gave him an edge on the boards. On offense, the frosh set screens to free up his teammates and was always ready to take a shot when the situation called for it. He gave the Mustangs' starting unit more energy and did whatever it took to win.
Beionny's Pick: Sterling Brown
This is an easy decision for me because Brown cracked the starting lineup solely because of his hustle. He wasn't a consistent force from a scoring perspective, but he always made an impact. Crashing the boards, playing solid defense, doing dirty work in the paint, battling for loose balls, all of these things are what made Sterling Brown a key contributor in his freshman year. His grind and hustle all over the court made him more useful and less of a liability than fan favorite Keith Frazier. Brown earned every minute he played this season and his metamorphosis in the coming years will be exciting for SMU fans to watch.