Rice Named Most Outstanding Player at Illinois Basketball Banquet
April 14, 2014
Champaign, Ill. - More than 500 Fighting Illini fans attended the 92nd annual Illinois Men's Basketball Banquet, sponsored by the Champaign-Urbana Kiwanis Club and held Monday evening at the I Hotel and Conference Center. The Fighting Illini went 20-15 overall, recording the 31st, 20-win season in program history and second in as many years under Head Coach John Groce. The Illini entered the season with just three returning scholarship letterwinners to go along with nine newcomers, but ended up earning a No. 2 seed in the NIT where they advanced to the second round. And Groce's UI squad once again played its best basketball at the end of the year, winning four of its last five regular season games and six of its last nine overall.
Receiving special recognition at the banquet were seniors Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey. Bertrand ranked third on the Illini in scoring with an average of 8.5 points and was fourth on the team in rebounding with an average of 3.8 boards. Ekey, meanwhile, was the team's fourth-leading scorer with an average of 7.3 points and third-leading rebounder with an average of 4.8 boards. The two seniors were co-recipients of the 6th-Man Award. In addition, Ekey won the Orange Krush 3-Point Shooting Award for leading the Illini with 36.6 percent accuracy from behind the arc, making a team-high 59 treys in 161 attempts.
Ekey, Nnanna Egwu and Malcolm Hill received the TNT Award, given to the players who grade out at 70 percent or better over the course of the season on defense and rebounding. This marked the second consecutive season that Egwu has earned the TNT Award.
Rayvonte Rice was named Most Outstanding Player. An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, Rice led the Illini and ranked eighth in the league in scoring at 15.9 points per game. He scored in double figures 31 times with 10, 20-plus point performances, led by a career-high 29 points vs. Indiana (Dec. 31). Rice also was 11th in the league in rebounding (6.0 rpg) and sixth in the conference in steals (1.7 spg).
Egwu won the Illini Rebounding Award, presented by the Rebounders booster club, for leading the team with 211 boards. Egwu edged out Rice by a mere one rebound over the course of the 35-game season to win the award.
Tracy Abrams earned the Ralf Woods Free Throw Trophy, presented by the UI Alumni Association, for ranking first on the team in free throw shooting during conference play at 78.7 percent, making 48-of 61-from the stripe.
Three players shared the award for Most Improved Player: Hill, Kendrick Nunn and Aaron Cosby. Hill moved into the starting lineup for the last 12 games, averaging 6.5 points over that stretch. Nunn was a Big Ten All-Freshman selection who also started the final 12 games, averaging 10.3 points as a starter. Cosby, meanwhile, made significant strides in practice while sitting out the season as a transfer.
Rounding out the hardware, Egwu and Ekey received the Matt Heldman "Matto" Award, Egwu earned the Kenny Battle Leadership Award and Abrams took home the Lou Henson Courage Award.
2013-14 Fighting Illini Basketball Awards