Jensen wins USBWA's 2024 Jim O'Connell Award

INDIANAPOLIS (USBWA) – The U.S. Basketball Writers Association is pleased to honor Mike Jensen, longtime college basketball writer and columnist for the Phildelphia Inquirer, as the winner of the Jim O'Connell Award for excellence in beat reporting. Jensen will be recognized April 8 at the association's annual awards luncheon in Glendale, Ariz., site of the Men's Final Four.

Originally from Peekskill, N.Y., Jensen covered basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer for 35 years, first on the high school beat, then colleges for 30 years as a beat writer and then a columnist. His 2017 Year of Philly Hoops Inquirer series spanned 55 parts with roughly 2,000 words appearing every Sunday in the Inquirer. He left the paper at the end of 2023 and now is writing a book on Philadelphia basketball.

“I’m way beyond honored by this," Jensen said. "Jim O’Connell was a special man and a guiding light for how to conduct yourself in this business, in addition to being one of the funnier people on the planet.”

Jensen, a Vanderbilt graduate, won first-place Eclipse Awards for best enterprise or feature story in 2004 and '06 for the sport of horse racing in a newspaper or magazine. He also covered soccer for the paper from 1989-2002, traveling to nine countries on five continents. Jensen recalls his best assignment, covering Temple under John Chaney for nine seasons, calling it "stealing money."

"Mike is an original," said USBWA President Brendan Quinn of The Athletic. "He arrived in Philadelphia as an outsider and ended up as a definitive voice on the city's most parochial sport. No small task. Mike's career combined dogged reporting with incredible writing and a high-level understanding of the game. He's not only one of the best in the business, but also a better friend."

The USBWA has annually recognized exemplary beat reporting each year since 2020 in the name of the late legendary Associated Press writer Jim O'Connell. The award is part of the association's annual Best Writing Contest. Affectionately known as "Oc," O'Connell was a USBWA president, is a member of the USBWA Hall of Fame and earned the Curt Gowdy Print Media Award, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's award given to media.

O’Connell served as the AP’s national college basketball writer from 1987 until shortly before his passing in 2018. He was a fixture at all the sport’s major events, from the Final Four to the Big East Tournament to the Maui Invitational. He covered eight Olympics and worked as a desk supervisor, overseeing the entire sports operation for the world’s largest news-gathering organization.

Jensen joins a list of other outstanding writers as a winner of this award that includes the late Terry Hutchens, Mike Waters, Emily Giambalvo and Geoff Grammer.

The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential organizations in college basketball. It has selected an All-America team since the 1956-57 season. For more information on the USBWA and its award programs, contact executive director Malcolm Moran at 814-574-1485.

2020: Terry Hutchens
2021: Mike Waters
2022: Emily Giambalvo
2023: Geoff Grammer
2024: Mike Jensen