Fab Melo, Dion Waiters earn Big East awards

After an unprecedented 30-1 record, the Syracuse Orange are starting to reap the benefits of the best regular season in team and conference history with an armful of awards and honors.

The Big East announced Monday morning that sophomore Fab Melo has been named the Defensive Player of the Year, and fellow sophomore Dion Waiters has been selected as the 6th Man Award winner. Both were chosen in a poll of conference coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own players.

Melo, a 7â??0â?? center from Brazil, led the conference with 3.7 blocks per game in league play and 3.1 overall. He pulled down 6.1 rebounds per league contest, according to SU Athletics, and unofficially led the team in charges taken with well over 20.

Waiters, a 6â??4â?? guard from Philadelphia, came off the bench in all 31 games and racked up an 11.9 PPG average in Big East play. His team-high 1.9 steals per game led to many fast break points, often punctuated by his signature one-handed swooping dunk.

Forward Jack Cooley of Notre Dame was named the league's Most Improved Player, and Georgetown's Jason Clark won the Sportsmanship Award.

These awards come on the heels of news over the weekend that Waiters, senior forward Kris Joseph, and senior guard Scoop Jardine were named to the 2012-12 All-Big East teams. Joseph was named to the first team, Jardine to the second team, and Waiters to the third team.

The awards for Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year will be announced Tuesday.

The Orange next play on Thursday at noon in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. They have earned a double-bye after winning the regular season title and the #1 seed.