MANHATTAN, Kan. – Head coach Jerome Tang was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Coach of the Year, while senior Keyontae Johnson was selected unanimously as the league’s Newcomer of the Year as well as All-Big 12 First Team, along with senior Markquis Nowell, as the conference office announced its annual men’s basketball awards on Sunday afternoon (March 6).
Tang becomes the seventh head coach in school history to earn conference Coach of the Year honors, including the third in the Big 12 era (joining Frank Martin and Bruce Weber). He joins Bruce Weber (2013) as the only coaches to be chosen for the distinction in their first seasons. He joins a list that includes Tex Winter (1958, 1959, 1960), Cotton Fitzsimmons (1970), Jack Hartman (1975, 1977) and Dana Altman (1993).
Picked 10th in the preseason Big 12 poll and armed with just two returning players, Tang has guided the Wildcats to 23 wins so far this season and a tie for third place with an 11-7 record in the nation’s toughest conference. His 23-8 record currently ties Missouri’s Dennis Gates, Xavier’s Sean Miller and Duke’s Jon Scheyer for the best mark by a first-year Division I head coach this season. His 23 wins tie Bob Huggins for the second-most by a first-year head coach in school history, while he is the fifth K-State head coach to win 20 games in his first season.
Johnson and Nowell are the 14th duo in school history to both be selected first team all-conference, including just the second in the Big 12 era, joining Barry Brown Jr. and Dean Wade in 2018-19. They are just the seventh and eighth K-State players in the Big 12 era to earn First Team honors by the league coaches.
The tandem was joined on the Coaches’ First Team by unanimous selections Kansas’ Jalen Wilson and Baylor’s Adam Flagler as well as Texas’ Marcus Carr.
It is the second all-conference honor for Johnson after he was named First Team All-SEC at Florida in 2019-20. Nowell earns his second Big 12 accolade after being named honorable mention in 2022. He was also named First Team All-Sun Belt in 2020 while playing at Little Rock.
Johnson is the 13th Wildcat since 1970 to be voted as the league’s Newcomer of the Year and the second in the Big 12 era to be selected for the honor by the league coaches, joining Denis Clemente in 2009.
In addition, Johnson was named to the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team while Nowell was chosen to the All-Defensive Team for the second consecutive season.
Big 12 regular-season champion Kansas headlined the individual awards, as Jayhawk junior Jalen Wilson was the unanimous Player of the Year, while senior Dajuan Harris Jr. and junior K.J. Adams Jr. were named winners of the Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player Awards, respectively. Baylor’s Keyonte George was selected as the Freshman of the Year and Texas’ Sir’Jabari Rice won the league’s Sixth Man Award.
The All-Big 12 awards are selected by league’s 10 head coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own players.
Johnson and Nowell have been named to various Midseason Watch Lists for Player of the Year, including the Oscar Robertson Trophy, John R. Wooden Award and the Naismith Award presented by Jersey Mike’s, while Johnson was recently named one of 15 players to the national ballot for the Wooden Award.
They have combined for eight Big 12 weekly honors, including three Player of the Week accolades for Nowell and five Newcomer of the Week distinctions by Johnson, as well as two National Players of the Week. The five Newcomer of the Week awards are the most by a Wildcat since Michael Beasley in 2008.
A 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward from Norfolk, Va., Johnson is currently averaging a team-best 17.8 points on 51.9 percent (203-of-391) from the field, including 42.4 percent (42-of-99) from 3-point range, and 72.5 percent (103-of-142) from the free throw line, to go with a team-best 7.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 34 minutes per game. He is one of only two players (Kansas’ Jalen Wilson) to rank in the top-5 in the Big 12 in scoring and rebounding both in overall and league-only games.
A 5-foot-8, 160-pound point guard from Harlem, N.Y., Nowell is averaging 17 points on 37.6 percent (146-of-388) from the field, including 35.6 percent (74-of-208) from 3-point range, and 88.5 percent (162-of-183) from the free throw line to go along with a Big 12-best 7.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals in 36.4 minutes per game. He ranks in the Big 12’s top-3 in 13 categories, including tops in assists (238), assists/game, free throws (162) and free throw attempted (183), free throw percentage, steals (76), steals/game and minutes.
Nowell finished Big 12 play ranking first in 6 categories, including scoring (19.5 ppg.), 3-point field goals/game (2.8), assists (7.2 apg.), steals (2.8 spg.), free throw percentage (91.1) and minutes (38.8 mpg.).
Nowell ranks third nationally in assists/game (7.7 apg.) and total assists (238), while he is among the top-20 in 5 other categories, including fifth in steals (76), eighth in steals/game (2.5 spg.), 13th in free throws made (162), 19th in minutes/game (36.3) and 20th in free throw percentage. He has 8 games of 10 or more assists this season, while he has 7 double-doubles (points/assists), including the school’s first 30-10 double-double with 32 points and 14 assists in the win at No. 19/16 Baylor on Jan. 7. He became the first Wildcat to post consecutive 30-point games since Michael Beasley in 2008 with his 36 and 32-point efforts at No. 6/6 Texas and No. 19/16 Baylor.
K-State has clinched a bye to the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship as the No. 3 seed and will play No. 6 seed and No. 22/22 TCU (20-11, 9-9 Big 12) at 8:30 p.m., CT on Thursday, March 9. The tournament begins Wednesday, March 8 with two first-round games.
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