On Sunday, Jorge Gutierrez had just completed his worst two-game stretch of the season. A day later, he became the first player to win both Pac-12 Player of the Year and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
The sting of a squandered conference title still fresh after a loss at Stanford, the senior guard is now his program’s sixth-ever conference MVP and the first since Jerome Randle in 2010.
“This is just an honor,” he said. “It’s not even something that I can explain with words but I feel like my hard work has paid off, somehow. It’s an honor.”
Gutierrez, the conference’s best perimeter defender, is the first Player of the Year to not lead his team in scoring since Arizona’s Mike Bibby in 1998. Ranked outside the top 10 in conference scoring, his 12.9 points per game is eclipsed by teammate Allen Crabbe’s average of 15.4.
“I think every coach in the league would love to have Jorge on their team and for all the intrinsic things that he does for you,” said Cal head coach Mike Montgomery. “Certainly, we’ve been the beneficiary of his services. We’ve finished first, second, third, and fourth, in the four years I’ve been here. He’s been here for all four of those years and has been a big part of that.”
The award comes despite the lackluster end to Gutierrez’s final regular season. As Cal skidded in consecutive losses for the first time all winter, its defensive anchor went scoreless in one game (Colorado) and was limited by fouls in another (Stanford).
His eventual victory was helped in part by the lack of standout players in the Pac-12′s inaugural season. In a conference unlikely to produce a first-round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, no Player of the Year candidate was heads and shoulders above any other.
Prolific scorers such as Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham and Washington State’s Brock Motum — the league’s Most Improved Player — were mired on bad teams. Regular-season champion Washington, helmed by Coach of the Year Lorenzo Romar, had two viable options in Terrence Ross and Freshman of the Year Tony Wroten — likely leaving Husky-leaning voters paralyzed by choice.
After the Bears’ loss against the Cardinal last Sunday, one which cost them a share of the Pac-12 Championship, Montgomery said that Gutierrez, who can get frustrated on offense, has been “battling some demons.” Cal will hope the pair of awards can help ease the pressure on its star player as the team heads into the Pac-12 Tournament. Long considered a safe bet for the NCAA Tournament, the Bears have fallen into bubble territory.
Other Cal honorees are Crabbe (first team), Harper Kamp (second team), Justin Cobbs (honorable mention) and David Kravish (All-Freshman team).
The full list:
Allen Crabbe (Cal, sophomore guard)
Jared Cunningham (Oregon State, junior guard)
Kyle Fogg (Arizona, senior guard)
Jorge Gutierrez (Cal, senior guard)
Solomon Hill (Arizona, junior forward)
Devoe Joseph (Oregon, senior guard)
Brock Motum (Washington State, junior forward)
Andre Roberson (Colorado, sophomore forward)
Terrence Ross (Washington, sophomore guard)
Tony Wroten (Washington, freshman guard)
Carlon Brown (senior guard)
Lazeric Jones (senior guard)
Harper Kamp (senior forward)
Josh Owens (senior forward)
E.J. Singler (junior forward)
Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado guard)
Nick Johnson (Arizona guard)
David Kravish (Cal forward)
Chasson Randle (Stanford guard)
Tony Wroten (Washington guard)
Aziz N’Diaye (Washington, junior center)