A day after earning spots on All-BIG EAST teams, Posh Alexander and Julian Champagnie garnered additional recognition from the league on Monday, as Alexander shared BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors and Champagnie also shared Most Improved Player honors.
Alexander shares his award with University of Connecticut’s Isaiah Whaley while Champagnie’s accolade is split with Xavier’s Zach Freemantle.
Alexander, the league leader in steals at 2.6 per game, is the first freshman in more than two decades to take home BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year honors. Overall, Alexander is the fourth freshman in league history to win the conference’s top defensive accolade and joins an elite fraternity by doing so, etching his name alongside Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers Allen Iverson (1995), Alonzo Mourning (1989) and Patrick Ewing (1982).
Through games played on Sunday, the Our Saviour Lutheran product ranks eighth nationally in steals per game and is the only freshman to occupy a spot in the top 25. Employing a relentless, all-out brand of defensive intensity, Alexander has recorded five or more steals three times in 24 appearances, including a season-high six against Marquette on Jan. 31 in Milwaukee. Three days later at Carnesecca Arena, Alexander finished with just three thefts but solidified his reputation as the league’s toughest defender against then-No. 3 Villanova, helping force First Team All-BIG EAST selection Collin Gillespie into six turnovers during the Red Storm’s 70-59 victory.
Alexander becomes the fourth player in St. John’s history to take home the BIG EAST’s top defensive honor. Justin Simon accomplished the feat most recently in 2019, four years after Sir’Dominic Pointer shared the award with Providence’s Kris Dunn in 2015. Mark Jackson was the first Johnnie to win BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1987.
On Sunday, Alexander was unanimously selected to the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team.
A member of the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team in 2020, Champagnie claims his Most Improved Player honor one day after earning a spot on the All-BIG EAST First Team. After averaging 9.9 points as a newcomer last season, the Bishop Loughlin product has transformed himself into one of the league’s most reliable and most prolific scorers. Entering the postseason, Champagnie is averaging exactly 10 points more per game than he did a year ago, leading the BIG EAST and ranking 27th nationally with 19.9 points per outing. Only four other high major players rank above Champagnie in that regard: Luka Garza (Iowa), Cameron Thomas (LSU), Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois) and Scotty Pippen Jr. (Vanderbilt). He has scored 12 or more points in all 24 of his appearances with 11 20-point performances, including a career-best 33 points against Creighton on Jan. 9. Champagnie recorded seven double doubles during the regular-season tying Freemantle for the league lead in that category.
Champagnie became just the fourth player in program history to lead the league in scoring during conference play, joining Chris Mullin (1983-84), Walter Berry (1985-86) and Marcus Hatten (2001-02).
In addition to leading the league in scoring, Champagnie also tops the conference in free throw percentage (88.7%) while ranking sixth in 3-pointers made (2.4) and 13th in 3-point field goal percentage (38.7%). Far from just a scorer, Champagnie also leads the team and ranks seventh in the BIG EAST with 7.3 boards per contest while placing fourth in the league in steals (1.4) and ninth in blocks (1.0).
Champagnie becomes the third St. John’s player to be named the conference’s most improved since the award was established in 1997. Pointer won Most Improved and Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, four years after Dwight Hardy captured the honor at the conclusion of the memorable 2010-11 season.
The No. 4 Red Storm enters the 2021 BIG EAST Tournament at Madison Square Garden with its highest seed since winning it all as the three seed in 2000. The Johnnies will open post action on Thursday afternoon against No. 5 Seton Hall. Tip off from “The World’s Most Famous Arena” is set for 3 p.m. on FS1.
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