St. John's coach Steve Lavin and leading scorer Dwight Hardy were honored by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association today for their contributions in returning Red Storm basketball to prominence. Lavin was named District II coach of the year, and Hardy received the District II player of the year award and a place on the All-District team.
Under Lavin's leadership St. John's jumped from 13th in the Big East to a tie for third and earned its first NCAA Tournament bid since the vacated 2002 bid. The Red Storm (21-11) currently is ranked 18th in the Associated Press poll and 19th in the ESPN/USA Today poll and meets Gonzaga tonight at about 9:45 ET in a second-round tournament opener for both teams in the Denver sub-regional.
Hardy previously was named the Most Improved Player in the Big East, was selected first-team All-Big East and is one of 20 finalists for the Wooden Award as national player of the year. He's averaging 18.0 points per game, while he has averaged 1.8 three-pointers per game, the most impressive thing he did under Lavin is change his game to get to the basket more often and develop a mid-range presence.
In the Red Storm's six wins over ranked opponents, including NCAA No. 1 seeds Pitt and Duke, Hardy elevated and averaged 23.3 points in those games. The last St. John's player to make the All-District II team was Lamont Hamilton after the 2006-07 season. Five other Big East players joined Hardy on the team, including Pittsburgh's Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker, Syracuse's Rick Jackson, Georgetown's Austin Freeman and Villanova's Corey Fisher.