As satisfying as it was for Virginia Tech's Erick Green to learn he'd made first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference, he wasn't afraid to admit he had his fingers crossed for an even loftier distinction.
He wanted to be recognized as the best. He got his wish Tuesday afternoon when he was named the ACC's men's basketball player of the year by voters from the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.
"This is a dream come true for me, since I was a little kid," Green said.
Green won the award by a surprisingly comfortable margin. Green received 38 votes for the award, while Miami's Shane Larkin had 23, Duke's Mason Plumlee had 12, Virginia's Joe Harris had two and Florida State's Michael Snaer had one.
"I feel like me, Plumlee and Larkin, we were all up there," said Green, who has established a school single-season scoring record with 786 points, one more than Bimbo Coles had in the 1989-90 season. "Any of us could've won it."
Though he plays for the worst team in the ACC, Green leads the nation in scoring with an average of 25.4 points per game. He's the first player to win the conference's player of the year award while playing for a team with a losing record.
He's also the first player to win the award while playing for a team with a losing conference record since '86, since the late Len Bias won the award while playing for Maryland, which went 6-8 in ACC play.
Green is on the verge of becoming the first player from a major conference to lead the nation in scoring since '94, when Purdue's Glenn Robinson accomplished the feat. Green also could become the first player from the ACC to lead the nation in scoring since '57, when Grady Wallace was atop the scoring list. Wallace played for South Carolina, which was a member of the ACC at the time.
While talking about earning first-team All-ACC honors Monday afternoon, Green left no mystery about the honor he was really seeking.
"I've kind of got this hunger in me," said Green on Monday. "I really would like to be player of the year."
Green said Tuesday he now hopes to pick up All-America honors. He's one of 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, which is given to the nation's top player.
Tech (13-18 overall, 4-14 ACC) opens the ACC tournament on Thursday as the No. 12 seed. It'll play No. 5 seed North Carolina State at 2:30 p.m. in Greensboro, N.C.
Just as he has all season, Green will draw nearly all of the attention of opposing defenses in the tournament. As Tech's point guard, it was routine for the 6-foot-3 senior from Winchester to dribble up the floor and see two or even three defenders waiting to pressure him past midcourt.
"I think that was a big, big challenge for him," said Tech coach James Johnson, who started recruiting Green when Johnson was still an assistant coach in 2006 at George Mason. "For him to do it every night against defenses when the defense was definitely keying on him, putting together game plans for him and for him to stay with it mentally and have a positive attitude … at any point he could've packed it in, as our team could have, but he never did and the team went on him. That says a lot about him as a kid and a player."
Green, who was joined on the All-ACC first team Monday by Harris, Plumlee, Larkin and N.C. State's Richard Howell, is shooting 48.2 percent from the floor, which is second in the conference among ACC guards and eighth overall.
"I shoot the ball 17 times a game, and I make almost 50 percent from the field," Green said. "I mean, I think that's pretty impressive. It shows that I'm not just throwing up any shots. Also, I really take pride in my assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8-to-1, sixth in the ACC). I know my assist numbers (3.9 per game, sixth in the ACC) aren't really high this year, but I still feel like I still made the right plays. I really feel like I handled the ball and made the right decisions."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times