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AMES Melvin Ejim never wavered.
When former Iowa State men's basketball coach Greg McDermott left for Creighton in 2010, Ejim steadfastly stood by his commitment as then-new coach Fred Hoiberg took over at his alma mater.
"It was pretty easy," Ejim said late last week. "Fred's a great guy. They love him in this town."
They love and respect Ejim, too.
And not just in Ames, but throughout the Big 12.
Sunday, proof of at least the latter came from conference coaches, who voted the 6-6 senior forward from Toronto the league's player of the year.
Ejim scored a Big 12 record 48 points in a win over TCU and averages 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds, both of which rank second in the conference.
He became ISU's first player to earn the lofty honor since Jamaal Tinsley in 2001.
He's the third overall, as Marcus Fizer was dubbed the Big 12's premier player in 2000.
And he wasn't the only ISU player high-up on the conference's accolades list.
Transfer senior guard DeAndre Kane was tabbed as the league's newcomer of the year.
Kane gave the Cyclones their third straight top newcomer award, joining Royce White (2012) and Will Clyburn (2013).
He ranks among the top 11 in the league in four statistical categories with 17.1 points per game (sixth); 6.7 rebounds (11th); 49.3 percent field goal shooting (fourth); and 5.9 assists (second).
Both he and Ejim landed on the first team all-conference list, as well less than 24 hours after helping make their last memories of Hilton Coliseum happy ones via Saturday's 85-81 overtime win against Oklahoma State.
"Melvin had four years in this building, DeAndre had one," said Hoiberg, whose 17th-ranked team (23-7, 11-7) plays Kansas State at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in a Big 12 Championship quarterfinal at Kansas City. "Both had some pretty special moments in here, and you want to go out with a big one. Both those guys did that in a big way."
Ejim also is the second player in program history to notch at least 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds, joining Zaid Abdul-Aziz.
In four seasons, he's played in a school-record 129 games and plans to play in several more.
"I think we've done some great things here," Ejim said.
Now it's on to Kansas City with hopes of creating more both there, and in a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
ISU hasn't played in a conference title game since winning the championship in 2000, so a solid run at the Sprint Center could lead to bigger things as the last days of March fade toward April.
"It's win or go home," Ejim said. "It doesn't matter who won the game before, or no matter who has the better record if you lose, you're out. ... You've got to put (the regular season) behind you. It becomes a one-game tournament."
NIANG HONORED, TOO: Cyclone forward Georges Niang earned third team all-Conference honors. Niang, a 6-7 sophomore, averages 16.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
Read more: http://thegazette.com/2014/03/09/melvin-ejims-term-in-ames-garners-big-12-poy-honor/#ixzz2vWsQBHAJ
Read more: http://thegazette.com/2014/03/09/melvin-ejims-term-in-ames-garners-big-12-poy-honor/#ixzz2vWsGAQA4