Rickert freshman of the year in Big Ten

Knight Ridder Newspapers

MINNEAPOLIS -- Good news takes awhile to travel at the University of Minnesota these days, maybe because those roads have been a bit underused lately.

Rick Rickert didn't find out he was the first Big Ten Conference freshman of the year in school history until teammate Dusty Rychart called him with the news about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. Travarus Bennett didn't find out he was the school's first defensive player of the year until he walked into the locker room for practice. "I got a call, and Dusty was like, 'Congratulations,' " Rickert said. "I was like, 'For what?' "

This batch of good news befell the Gophers as the conference doled out its annual awards, providing a bit of a breather from the NCAA tournament ringer they inhabit. Rickert also was selected to the All-Big Ten second team, and Rychart, the senior stalwart, made the all-conference third team.

"I think it's great," Gophers coach Dan Monson said. "I'm not about individual awards, but obviously when it comes to that, you want to be represented because it means the team did well."


Bennett's was the more feel-good award, one he shared with Indiana's Dane Fife. The 6-foot-7 senior led the Big Ten in steals (2.30 a game) but isn't the flashiest of defenders -- unlike former Ohio State center Ken Johnson, the winner the past two years, whose shot-blocking prowess opened everyone's eyes.

Big Ten tournament schedule, Page 2D

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