Denzel Valentine edges Buddy Hield for AP Player of Year

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Friday, April 1, 2016

HOUSTON -- The names Denzel Valentine and Buddy Hield have been virtually inseparable during college basketball's postseason.

The national player of the year awards have gone to one or the other without anybody else getting any hardware.

Valentine was selected Thursday as The Associated Press' Player of the Year, taking it in a close vote over Hield.

Bill Self of Kansas was chosen the AP's Coach of the Year with Xavier's Chris Mack finishing second.

"We spent time together this summer at a basketball camp, and we built a relationship,'' Valentine said of his fellow senior.

"During the season we would give each other words of encouragement,'' Valentine said. "He was first person to text me when I got hurt, and I thought that was pretty big time of him. He deserves everything he's getting.''

Valentine, who missed four games after having minor knee surgery, received 34 of 65 votes from the national media panel that selects the weekly AP Top 25. Hield was the only other player to receive votes. Hield and Valentine were the only unanimous selections to the AP All-America team.

The 6-foot-5 Valentine led Michigan State (29-6) to a second-place finish in the Big Ten regular season and was the conference player of the year. He averaged 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.6 assists while directing the Spartans' offense. He shot 44.7 percent from 3-point range and 85.3 percent from the free throw line.

The Spartans were ranked No. 1 for four weeks and finished second in the final AP Top 25. They lost to Middle Tennessee State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"The last two weeks have been tough and it's hard to duck the tournament. It's wherever you go,'' said Valentine, the first Michigan State player to win the award. "You go into a restaurant and a game's on. You just can't duck it.''

Both Valentine and Self said they would give up their awards to be on a team playing at the Final Four where they were presented their trophies.

"You want to get here,'' Valentine said. "You talk about it all season, and it's what every team plays for.''

Voting was done prior to the NCAA tournament.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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