UConn's Diarra earns Big East Sixth Man Award

Mar. 11—Few players mean more to this UConn basketball team than senior Hassan Diarra.

Diarra is a valued teammate, respected leader and productive contributor off the bench.

The Big East coaches recognized Diarra's importance to the Huskies by naming him the Big East Sixth Man Award winner.

Diarra is the second UConn player to receive the honor since its inception in 2007-08. Tyler Polley won the award in 2020-21.

He's enjoying a terrific season, helping the second-ranked Huskies (28-3, 18-2) go a program best 28-3 during the regular season and set the mark for best Big East regular season record.

A 6-foot-2 guard, Diarra is averaging 5.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 31 games. He has career best for field goal percentage (48.1), 3-point field goal percentage (38.0) and free throw percentage (77.8).

Quite an improvement from last year when he shot 30.1% from the field, 18.9% from three and 51.4% from the foul line.

Diarra also provides a strong defensive presence.

In perhaps his best game as a Husky, Diarra had a season-high 14 points, six assists and five rebounds in a win over No. 4 Marquette on Feb. 17 in Hartford.

"We wouldn't be here in this position without Hass taking a big jump and becoming a vital cog here," coach Dan Hurley said recently. "He's a player that is a fan favorite because they love to watch him play. They love what he brings to the table for this team.

"... He's been huge for us this year. He has had games where he has made threes for us. He has finished at the rim. He has been disruptive defensively with great spirit. He plays with a swagger. He is able to create for others. He has done a little bit of everything the whole year."

The Big East handed out some other individual awards on Monday, selecting Creighton senior Ryan Kalkbrenner the league's defensive player of the year for the third straight season and Xavier sophomore Desmond Claude of New Haven the Most Improved Player. Creighton's Steven Ashworth is the Big East Sportsmanship Award winner.

Prior to Big East tournament action beginning on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York, the league will announce the awards for top player, coach and freshman as well as scholar-athlete of the year.

Top-seeded UConn opens tournament play on Thursday at noon in the quarterfinal. The Huskies will face the winner of Wednesday's first round game between No. 8 Butler and No. 9 Xavier.