Villanova's Gillespie repeats as POY in Big East awards

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NEW YORK (AP) — Villanova guard Collin Gillespie won his second consecutive Big East player of the year award Wednesday, and Ed Cooley was selected coach of the year after guiding Providence to its first regular-season championship.

Injured point guard Ryan Nembhard of Creighton took freshman of the year honors in announcements made at Madison Square Garden a couple of hours before the start of the conference tournament.

Below is the list of individual award winners:

Team Player/Coach Award 
Providence Ed Cooley Coach of the Year 
Villanova Collin Gillespie Player of the Year 
Creighton Ryan Nembhard Freshman of the Year

Big East head coaches pick the award winners and cannot vote for their own players.

Gillespie shared the league's player of the year prize last season with Wildcats teammate Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Seton Hall forward Sandro Mamukelashvili. But the steady senior missed both postseason tournaments after tearing a ligament in his left knee during Villanova's home finale.

He returned to school for a fifth season, taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic.

Gillespie was chosen preseason Big East player of the year and did not disappoint. He led the eighth-ranked Wildcats (23-7, 16-4) to a second-place finish, ranking fourth in the conference in scoring at 16.3 points per game and first in 3-pointers with 93.

The 6-foot-3 Gillespie, a freshman reserve on Villanova's 2018 national title team, also topped the league in 3-point shooting (43.1%) and free-throw percentage (91.5%). He was the only unanimous pick on the all-Big East squad and is set to break the school record for games played Thursday night with 149.

Cooley gives Providence its first Big East coach of the year after 43 seasons in the conference. Pretty notable at a school where Rick Pitino, Rick Barnes, Pete Gillen and Tim Welsh all enjoyed success.

Picked seventh in the preseason poll, the 11th-ranked Friars (24-4, 14-3) rode a veteran group of players and a string of close wins to their first No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament. They play Thursday afternoon in the first quarterfinal.

Cooley is 218-139 in 11 seasons with his hometown team.

Nembhard was chosen Big East freshman of the week a league-high six times before getting hurt Feb. 23 in a victory at St. John's. He had season-ending surgery on his right wrist two days later.

A unanimous selection as one of three Bluejays on the Big East all-freshman team, Nembhard averaged 11.3 points while starting all 27 games he played in. He led fourth-seeded Creighton (20-10, 12-7) in assists (4.4), steals (1.3) and minutes (34.8) per game.

The 6-foot, 167-pound guard from Ontario, Canada, is the younger brother of Andrew Nembhard, the senior point guard for top-ranked Gonzaga. Andrew Nembhard was chosen MVP of the West Coast Conference Tournament on Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

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Villanova's Gillespie repeats as POY in Big East awards
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