Georgia sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was named Tuesday by Southeastern Conference basketball coaches as the league player of the year.
Caldwell-Pope is second in the SEC in scoring (18 points per game) and third in steals (2.1), and he is among just 10 NCAA Division I players to score in double figures in every one of their team's games this season. The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder from Greenville, Ga., is the first UGA player to win the award from coaches since such balloting began in 1987.
The only other Georgia selection as SEC player of the year was Dominique Wilkins in 1981, recognized by The Associated Press and United Press International.
"Every night he usually plays well, because you can't stop a guy from everything," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "He may not shoot it in some nights, but he will rebound and he will defend. There may be a night when he shoots it in and gets some steals. He's just very diverse in the things he can do, so he's usually able to make a lot of really good plays."
Florida's Billy Donovan was elected coach of the year, with Kentucky forward Nerlens Noel the top freshman. The 6-10 Noel suffered a season-ending knee injury Feb. 12, but not before blocking 106 shots in 24 games, including a school-record 12 in a win at Ole Miss.
Caldwell-Pope has led Georgia (15-16, 9-9) in scoring 28 times, and he has averaged 5.4 points in the last five minutes of SEC games, when he has shot 65 percent from the field, 63 percent from 3-point range and 83 percent from the free-throw line. He had a combined 49 points in two meetings with Tennessee as the Bulldogs swept that season series for the first time since 2001.
"He's a big-time ballplayer," Volunteers coach Cuonzo Martin said. "Whenever he decides to advance to the next level, he's going to do it for a long time, barring any major injury."
The Bulldogs are seeded eighth in the league tournament that begins with two games tonight.
Donovan has led the Gators to five outright or shared SEC regular-season titles, but this is just the second time he has won the league coaching honor. The first was in 2011.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...