Johnston wins OVC Freshman of the Year

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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Eastern men’s basketball guard Cornell Johnston was named Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year Tuesday.

The Ohio Valley Conference released their list of award winners in men’s basketball on Tuesday. First year Eastern forward Trae Anderson and Johnston were both named to the all-newcomer team, with Anderson also being named to the all-OVC second team.

Johnston broke the school’s freshman assist record a few weeks ago and said he is not too worried about the accolades.

“I try not to pay attention to the numbers or awards,” he said. “I just want to go out there and help our team get a ‘W.’”

Johnston finished the regular season averaging 8.7 points per game, including a season-high 22 points in a 65-62 win at Morehead State on Jan. 17. He was also 4-for-4 from three-point range in that victory. His .582 shooting percentage from that range ranks first in the OVC.

The five-foot-seven-inch freshman from Ladue, Mo. averaged 34.4 minutes per game this year and played every minute of the Panthers’ last three regular season games.

“Our offense is great,” Johnston said. “It puts our players in position to succeed and helps the guards penetrate the basket and our post players.”

He finished the season ranked third in the OVC with 74 assists, behind red-shirt senior Reece Chamberlain of Belmont and sophomore Cameron Payne of Murray State, who finished with 91, apiece. Payne was named OVC Player of the Year, after averaging 20 points and nearly six assists per game.

Johnston’s teammate Anderson joined him on the all-newcomer team in his first season, after transferring to Eastern from Southwestern Illinois College this year.

Anderson finished the year ranked in the OVC’s top 10 in scoring, averaging 15.2 points per game in conference play. He placed eighth in the top 10, ahead of Murray State senior Jarvis Williams and senior Marshun Newell of Tennessee-Martin.

Newell was also named to the OVC’s second team.

Anderson also finished in the top 10 in field goal percentage, finishing seventh with a .524 shooting percentage. He finished the season averaging 12.5 points in the last four games for the Panthers, totaling 30 points in the final two games of the season.

Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour said Anderson makes a lot of plays.

“He’s way better now than when he first came here,” he said. “He’ll gradually get more and more confidence and know what he can do. He’ll help us win a lot.”

Joining Johnston and Anderson on the all-newcomer team were Tennessee Tech junior Charles Jackson and senior Deville Smith and junior Twymond Howard of UT-Martin. Smith also made the all-OVC second team with Anderson and Newell, with that trio being joined by Belmont freshman Evan Bradds and senior Jarekious Bradley of Southeast Missouri.

Murray State’s Steve Prohm was named the OVC Coach of the Year for the second time in his career. Prohm led the Racers to an unbeaten OVC season, which hasn’t occurred in almost a decade. The Racers ended the season on a 24-game winning streak, and were rewarded with a double-round bye in this week’s OVC Tournament in Nashville.

Oroszova gets OVC First Team

On the women’s side, Eastern senior forward Sabina Oroszova was named to the OVC women’s basketball first team All-OVC for the first time in her career.

She ranks second in the league with 10.1 rebounds per game, while also putting up 16.2 points a game. She is the only player in the league that is averaging a double-double. Also, she is the OVC leader in blocked shots averaging near two blocks per game.

In other awards, Tennessee-Martin coach Kevin McMillan won OVC Coach of the Year after leading his Skyhawks team to a 16-0 conference record.

Murray State freshman Ke’Shunan James was named the OVC Freshman of the Year. Austin Peay junior Tiasha Gray was named OVC Defensive Player of the Year.

Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].