Most Improved Player of the Year

The staff picks SMU basketball's Most Improved Player of the Year!

Billy's Pick: Markus Kennedy

Not only did Markus Kennedy's game improve this year, but when Kennedy came into the starting lineup, the team changed dramatically it seemed. The team tore through conference play, reaching the Top 25 and it Kennedy seemed to shine in some of the team's biggest matchups. Kennedy played with energy down low and looked like a completely different player from the 300-pound Villanova player he was. With Kennedy stepping up in a big way, SMU's depth in the front court was a huge strength for the team. Look for him to pick up right where he left off next year as pairing him with Emmanuel Mudiay will only make him better.

Omar's Pick: Markus Kennedy

Sophomore big man Markus Kennedy is my most improved player of the year this season for the Mustangs. Kennedy finished the year averaging 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 54 percent from the field. The transfer big man from Villanova used the offseason to drop about 50 pounds after only averaging 3.0 points and 4.4 rebounds under Jay Wright his freshman year. Kennedy also improved a lot on defense as the season went a long and replaced starting center Yanick Moreira as the anchor in the middle. After Moreira's injury, Kennedy was left with the responsibility of guarding the opposing team's best big man, which he responded to very well. Kennedy should also get credit for his maturity and leadership this season. There were some whispers about possible academic and attitude problems with him, but Larry Brown didn't have to stay on him very often this year. As the season went along, Kennedy became much more vocal in practices as a leader and learned how to dominate games more consistently on both ends. Everyone knew he was going to have an impact at SMU, but I think Kennedy should also get credit for how much he improved this season.

Adam's Pick: Markus Kennedy

Hands down this has to go to Villanova transfer Markus Kennedy. While sitting out a season, the redshirt sophomore dropped close to 60 pounds and transformed his game. He was able to stay in the game longer and was able to move around defenders as well as over-power them. He was able to get up after rebounds that previously alluded him as he led SMU in boards. He also proved himself to be a capable passer, especially when working with big men Shawn Williams and Ben Moore inside. Kennedy was the biggest surprise of this SMU season and that is why he deserves most improved.

Scott's Pick: Markus Kennedy

As a freshman at Villanova, Markus Kennedy weighed nearly 300 pounds and averaged just 3 points, 4.4 rebounds in 15 minutes of play. After sitting out a year, and losing 50 pounds, Kennedy took the Hilltop by storm, averaging 12.4 points and 7 rebounds and becoming one of the stars on the SMU basketball team. Thanks to his new body, Kennedy's play improved on both sides of the ball, as well as his overall athleticism and conditioning. Having locked up the starting job since Yanick Moreira's unfortunate injury, this off-season will be key for Kennedy to polish his game.

Beionny's Pick: Cannen Cunningham

Being a holdover from the Matt Doherty years, I'm sure Cannen Cunningham assumed that at this point he would be holding down a permanent starting role on the team. But with the additions on the interior of Kennedy and Moreira, Cunningham was relegated to a reserve role that he shined in. Cunningham's ability to consistently make mid-range jump shots, play solid defense and make momentum shifting blocks and dunks helped the team more than the stat sheets may indicate. This season Cunningham was more aggressive and assertive than he has ever been in a Mustangs uniform. He looked comfortable in the offense and seldom made poor decisions. He displayed a great attitude and accepted his role with pride and dignity and should be even better next year, even though his minutes may suffer at the hands of newcomer Jordan Tolbert.


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