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Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner wins 3rd straight Big East Defensive Player of the Year award

NEW YORK (AP) — Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner was chosen Big East Defensive Player of the Year for the third consecutive season on Monday.

The 7-foot-1 senior joined former Georgetown big men Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning as the only players to win the award three times. Ewing won four straight years from 1982-85, and Mourning took the honor in 1989, '90 and ’92.

Desmond Claude of Xavier was selected Most Improved Player in voting by the league's coaches. UConn guard Hassan Diarra won the Sixth Man Award, and Creighton point guard Steven Ashworth was given the Sportsmanship Award.

Kalkbrenner ranks third in the nation with 2.97 blocked shots per game for the eighth-ranked Bluejays (23-8, 14-6), the No. 2 seed in this week's Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. He averaged 3.4 in conference games, which led the league.

Claude, a sophomore guard, averaged 16 points and 4.1 rebounds after averaging 4.7 points and 2.5 boards as a freshman last season in a sixth-man role. He also boosted his free-throw shooting from 57.1% to 79.2%.

Diarra, a 6-foot-2 senior and top defender, averaged six points, 2.9 rebounds and two assists in 19.1 minutes per game for the second-ranked Huskies (28-3, 18-2). After winning the regular-season conference title, the reigning national champions will be the top seed in the Big East Tournament.

Ashworth, a transfer from Utah State, averaged 10.5 points and 4.1 assists this season.

The conference's head coaches make the selections and are not allowed to vote for their own players.

The league's Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year will be announced Wednesday during a news conference at Madison Square Garden, a couple of hours before the Big East Tournament tips off.

The award for Player of the Year will go to one of the six All-Big East first-team selections announced Sunday: Tristen Newton and backcourt mate Cam Spencer from UConn, Providence's Devin Carter, Marquette point guard Tyler Kolek, Seton Hall's Kadary Richmond and Creighton's Baylor Scheierman.

Carter, Kolek, Newton and Scheierman were unanimous picks. Kalkbrenner was a member of the second team.

Kolek, the 2023 Big East Player of the Year, missed the final three games of the regular season with an oblique injury.

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