BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Murray State sophomore basketball guard Ja Morant has been selected as the Ohio Valley Conference Male Athlete of the Year for 2018-19 in voting by the league’s athletics directors and communications directors.
Morant will receive his award at the League’s annual Honors Brunch on May 31 in Nashville. The Female Athlete of the Year (Belmont guard Darby Maggard) was announced on Wednesday.
Morant, a projected top three NBA Draft Pick, earned first-team consensus All-American honors from the NCAA for being selected by the AP, NABC, Sporting News and USBWA. Overall Morant is the third OVC student-athlete to earn first-team consensus All-American honors joining Western Kentucky’s Clem Haskins (1967) and Jim McDaniels (1971).
He earned 13 total All-American honors this season, including first-team honors from the Associated Press, Basketball Times, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lute Olson, NABC, Sports Illustrated, USBWA and the Wooden Award and second-team honors from NBC Sports, Sporting News, Stadium and USA TODAY Sports.
Morant also won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard and earned the Lute Olson National Player of the Year Award from CollegeInsider.com while also being a finalist for the Oscar Robertson, Naismith and Wooden National Player of the Year honors.
Morant, the OVC Player of the Year, led Murray State to a 28-5 overall and 16-2 OVC record, a share of the OVC regular season championship and the program’s second-straight and record 17th OVC Tournament Championship. He guided the Racers to an 83-64 win over No. 5 seed Marquette in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament; that marked the second-biggest win for a No. 12 seed over a No. 5 seed in tournament history.
He finished the season with 331 assists, the sixth-most in NCAA single-season history. He averaged 24.5 points and 10.0 assists/game making him the first player to average 20/10 in a season since the NCAA began to officially recognize assists in 1983-84.
Morant’s 10.0 assists/game were 2.3 assists/game more than second place. He also ranked eighth nationally in scoring (24.5 points/game), ninth in double-doubles (20) and 83rd in steals (1.76/game). He recorded three triple-doubles (including only the ninth in NCAA Tournament history), which led the country (he was one of only two people with multiple triple-doubles in 2018-19).
His 18 assists in a game against UT Martin were the most by a Division I player this year and the second-most in OVC single-game history. His 20 double-doubles were just four off the nation’s lead and he is the only player in the top 30 nationally in double-doubles under 6’6″ tall.
In January Morant became the first Division I player in 20 years to record 40 points, 11 assists and five steals in a regulation game (doing so vs. SIUE). In that contest he hit 21-of-21 free throws, establishing a new OVC single-game record (just three off the NCAA mark); he was the first Division I player with 21 or more made free throws in a game without a miss in the past 20 years.
He was named MVP of the OVC Tournament after averaging 32.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists/game while hitting 55.4 percent from the field and 79.2 percent from the free throw line. He had 29 points, eight assists and six rebounds in a semifinal win over Jacksonville State, including converting a traditional three-point play in the final 10 seconds to give him team the win. He followed that with 36 pointss, seven rebounds and three assists in a title game win over Belmont. Those two wins helped MSU avenge its only two OVC losses of the season.
Morant had 17 points, 16 assists and 11 assists in the First Round NCAA Tournament win over Marquette, marked just the ninth triple-double in NCAA Tournament history (since assists became an official stat in 1983-84). The 16 assists tied a first round NCAA record and were the second-most ever in a NCAA Tournament game.
Morant is the ninth different Murray State student-athlete to be named OVC Male Athlete of the Year and second in as many years (Jonathan Stark was last year’s winner).. All the winners (who have won 11 combined awards) have been men’s basketball players. Overall it marks the sixth time in the last nine years that the OVC Male Athlete of the Year has been a men’s basketball player.
Other male nominees for the award included Austin Peay sophomore guard Terry Taylor, Belmont senior forward Dylan Windler, Eastern Illinois senior wide receiver Alexander Hollins, Eastern Kentucky senior forward Nick Mayo, Jacksonville State junior wide receiver Josh Pearson, Morehead State senior rifle athlete Brandon Bryer, Southeast Missouri junior linebacker Zach Hall, Tennessee State sophomore track and field athlete R’Lazon Brumfield, Tennessee Tech senior outfielder Kevin Strohschein and UT Martin freshman track athlete Tyreke Sapp.
The OVC first awarded a Male Athlete of the Year award in 1977.