March 7, 2011
QUEENS, N.Y. - St. John’s senior guard Dwight Hardy and senior forward Justin Burrell, two team leaders who have guided the 2010-11 Red Storm to its best season in more than decade with 20 wins, a share of third place in the BIG EAST conference and Top 25 national rankings, were both honored by the conference on Monday, as Hardy was named the BIG EAST Most Improved Player and Burrell tabbed for the BIG EAST Sixth Man Award.
Already named to the All-BIG EAST first team, Hardy finished the 2010-11 campaign averaging a team-best 17.9 points per game, ranking fourth among all conference players. He also led the team in minutes played, averaging 33.9 minutes per game. In 2009-10, Hardy averaged 10.5 points per game and just 22.2 minutes per contest.
“With so many great players in the BIG EAST, it is a privilege to be considered the ‘Most Improved Player,” said Hardy. “I spent many hours in the gym working on my game, and this award recognizes the progress I’ve made. My coaching staff and teammates really believe in me, and have helped to make me a better player.”
Not only did Hardy vastly increase his scoring production and playing time, the senior guard became a distributor at the starting point guard position, dishing 1.9 assists per contest. Hardy also tallied 41 steals on the season, averaging 1.4 steals per game. Emerging as a clutch free throw shooter in late-game situations, Hardy shot an efficient 84.4 percent from the free throw line to finish fifth in the BIG EAST in that category. He was named BIG EAST Player of the Week a league-leading three times and earned weekly honors from the league on five separate occasions in 2010-11.
Coming off the bench as the team’s “Sixth Man,” Burrell averaged 6.6 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game. The Red Storm big man averaged 22.8 minutes per game against conference foes, and was a powerful force on both ends of the floor.
“This is really exciting, getting this award was one of the goals that Coach Lavin and I talked about from the beginning of the year,” said Burrell. “This could have never happened without my teammates and our unbelievable coaching staff. Coach Lav and Coach Dunlap have been with me from the beginning of the year, and they deserve the credit.”
Burrell tallied seven double-digit scoring games, four of which came on the road in BIG EAST play. Burrell leads the team, hitting at a 51.1 percent clip from the field. His double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds propelled St. John’s to victory over Marquette on the road. He followed that performance by scoring 15 points along with eight rebounds to help the Red Storm defeat then-No. 4/4 Pitt at Madison Square Garden.
Hardy is the first Red Storm athlete to be named as the BIG EAST Most Improved Player, while Burrell is the first player from St. John’s to win the Sixth Man Award.
St. John’s finished the regular season with an overall record of 20-10 and a conference mark of 12-6, tying for third but earning the No. 5 seed in the 2011 BIG EAST Championship Tournament, which begins Tuesday. St. John’s plays on Wednesday, March 9 at 2 p.m., facing the winner of the Tuesday matchup between local squads No. 12 Seton Hall and No. 13 Rutgers.