Valentine, Banham win 2016 Big Ten men's, women's athlete of the year

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Valentine, Banham win 2016 Big Ten men's, women's athlete of the year

Michigan State men’s basketball player Denzel Valentine was named the 2016 Big Ten Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year and Minnesota women’s basketball standout Rachel Banham was tabbed the Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year, the conference announced on Wednesday.

Valentine is the third Michigan State player to win Male Athlete of the Year accolades, after ice hockey standout Ryan Miller claimed the honor in 2001 and men’s basketball’s Draymond Green won the award in 2012. Valentine capped off his senior season by winning six National Player of the Year honors, earning the awards from the Associated Press (AP), National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), Basketball Times, Sports Illustrated, USA TODAY and NBC Sports. The Lansing, Mich., native was named the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year and was a consensus first team All-American. In addition, Valentine earned Big Ten Player of the Year plaudits.

Banham is the third Golden Gopher to claim the award, following swimming & diving standout Gretchen Hegener in 1997 and ice hockey player Amanda Kessell, who claimed the honor in 2013. She ascended in both the NCAA and Big Ten record books during the 2015-16 season, setting the conference career scoring record and climbing to sixth-place all-time on the NCAA scoring list with 3,093 career points. In Big Ten games, she also set records with 30.6 points per game, 75 three-point field goals and 354 total points. The Lakeville, Minn., native was a first team All-America selection by the AP, the United States Basketball Writers’ Association (USBWA), espnW and the John R. Wooden Award. Banham was also named the Big Ten Player of the Year by both the coaches and the media.

Banham and Valentine were among a field of nominees that included 10 individual national champions, 23 All-Americans, 14 individual Big Ten Champions, three 2016 Olympic qualifiers and eight National Player of the Year recipients.

The Big Ten Conference has recognized a Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year since 1982 when Indiana’s Jim Spivey earned the inaugural award. The conference first honored a Female Athlete of the Year in 1983, with Michigan State’s Judi Brown collecting the initial award. The Big Ten Athletes of the Year are selected by a panel of conference media members from nominations submitted by each institution.

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