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Jan. 27, 2010

BOSTON (MA) -- CollegeInsider.com will honor former Illinois and New Mexico State head coach Lou Henson with the creation of the Lou Henson National Player of the Year Award. The award will be presented annually to the top mid-major player in division I college basketball.

“Coach Henson is one of the finest people you could ever hope to meet,” says Joe Dwyer, co-founder of CollegeInsider.com. “His accomplishments as a coach should have gotten him enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame a long time ago, but he is certainly a hall of famer as a person.”

The 78-year old Henson coached for 41 years. When he retired in 2005 he was the sixth all-time in career Division I wins with 779.

Henson is the winningest coach in Illinois basketball history with 423 victories. During his 21 seasons (1975-1996), Henson led the Fighting Illini to 16 postseason appearances, including 12 NCAA tournaments and a Final Four appearance in 1989.

Henson, who is also the all-time winningest coach in New Mexico State history with 289 victories, is one of only 11 coaches to take two different schools to the NCAA Final Four. His teams have made 19 NCAA appearances and four NIT appearances.

“I am happy to receive the prestigious honor of having this award in my name,” says Henson. “Furthermore I am very pleased to have my name associated with CollegeInsider.com. This is a great honor.”

Following his graduation, Henson immediately landed a coaching position at Las Cruces High School. After two years as the junior varsity coach, he became the head coach. He posted a record of 145-23 and won state championship in 1959, 1960 and 1961.

At the age of 30, Henson moved into the collegiate ranks as head coach at Hardin-Simmons University in 1962. In four years, he compiled a record of 67-36 with a pair of 20-win seasons, each of which represented the school record for victories in a season.

Henson then returned to his alma mater, New Mexico State, in 1966 and became the head coach of the Aggies for the next nine seasons. During that time, Henson led the Aggies to six NCAA appearances, including five straight from 1966-71. The 1969-70 season was a special year for Henson and the Aggies as NMSU made their first and only Final Four appearance, tallying a 27-3 overall record in the process.

After retiring from Illinois, Henson returned to New Mexico State as he was named the Aggies' interim head coach on October 17, 1997, just two days before the start of preseason practice. In a rare move, Henson originally agreed to coach the team on a pro bono basis, and later settled on a salary of $1 a month during the 1997-98 season. After leading the Aggies to an 18-12 record, Henson had the interim lifted from his title as he accepted a four-year contract.

Henson is a member of the New Mexico State, Illinois and Hardin-Simmons Halls of Fame. In 2002, New Mexico State honored Henson by naming the Pan American Center’s parquet floor, ‘Lou Henson Court’.

“Coach Henson’s achievements rank among the all time greatest coaches,” says La Salle head coach John Giannini who began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Henson at Illinois. “For many people who have played and coached with him, he is known as a family man and mentor. He embodies the dedication to excellence and personal character that defines what is best about college basketball. Any award bearing his name is a great honor.”

Giannini is one of the 21 members of the voting panel, which will determine the Lou Henson Award recipient. Others on the panel include former players and coaches like Stephen Bardo (ESPN), Jimmy Collins (Illinois-Chicago), Rob Evans (Arizona State), Steve Fisher (San Diego State), Marvin Menzies (New Mexico State) and Scott Nagy (South Dakota State).

Players eligible for the award will consist of teams from the following conferences: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Great West, Horizon, Independents, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt, West Coast.







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