SEC Player of the Year: Jodie Meeks (Junior, Kentucky)
This was a tough decision between three players. In the end, Meeks’ ability to drain crucial shots from the perimeter and inordinate knack for getting to the charity stripe garnered him the honor of this year’s Player of the Year.
Meeks led the SEC this year in scoring with 23.7 points per game. Only he and Marcus Thornton from LSU were able to average more than 20. Meeks’ 117 three-pointers easily eclipsed any other player in the SEC while his 40.7 percent average from long-range also led the conference.
Added to this impressive resume was Meeks’ 263 field goals made this season, seven more than anyone else in the league. Meeks’ overall 46.3 percent effort from the floor was 10th best in the SEC, and third amongst the league’s guards.
It’s not all about the pure scoring numbers, and Meeks is not one-dimensional. He also shot 90.2 percent from the charity stripe to lead the league in that category. He also attempted 234 shots from there—12 more than anyone else in the SEC.
The junior, who has announced he will be testing out the NBA draft this offseason, also averaged 1.33 steals per contest (good for 13th in the league) and 34.36 minutes per game (1st).
If Meeks returns to UK for his senior season, Kentucky will have a heck of an offensive weapon.
SEC Freshman of the Year: Dee Bost (Freshman, Mississippi State)
This contest was clearly between two individuals, as Terrico White of Ole Miss was a better pure scorer than Bost. Bost, however, brings a much more well-rounded and complete game to the floor and is arguably better at on-ball defense. There is no doubt, however, that Bost is a far better leader on his team.
Bost filled the rather enormous shoes of outgoing junior Jamont Gordon very well. He took an MSU team picked fourth in the SEC West to a tie for second in the division, an SEC Tournament title, and an NCAA Tournament bid. Bost did so by averaging 4.33 assists per game, which is fourthth in the conference and second among freshmen.
While the assist-to-turnover ratio is a category in which nearly every freshman struggles, Bost did not. He registered a 1.53 mark, seventh in the league and best among freshmen.
Bost did what every great point guard should do: hand the ball out, take care of the ball, and defend. The lattermost was demonstrated by his average of 1.44 steals per game which also ranked best among the league’s freshmen and 12th overall in the conference.
Bost was no slouch at scoring either, finishing with a 10.9 points per game average. He also shot 71.8 percent from the charity stripe, good for 12th in the SEC and again first among freshmen.
While both Bost and White will be outstanding players in their SEC careers, it seems that Bost will prove to be a much more potent all-around player for opposing SEC squads.
SEC Coach of the Year: Trent Johnson (First Year, LSU)
Unlike many of the other awards this offseason, this one was very clear-cut. Johnson took a very talented but horribly-coached program under John Brady and destroyed the SEC with it the following year.
LSU, just two years removed from a Final Four, was in disarray in 2007-08. The Tigers won just 13 games while losing 18 and went 6-10 in the conference.
Johnson came in and instilled an intense in-your-face defense that finished 2008-09 ranked 17th in the nation, easily claimed the overall SEC season title after going 13-3 in-conference, and finished 27-8 overall.
Johnson was an outstanding choice by LSU’s athletic department, and it seems the Tigers will be a force with which to be reckoned for many years to come.
SEC Defensive Player of the Year: Jarvis Varnado (Junior, MSU)
Words can hardly describe the defensive power, presence, and ability of Jarvis Varnado. After shattering the single-season and career blocks records at MSU, he has gone on to surpass Shaquille O’Neal’s single-season SEC block record. He is now on pace to shatter not only the SEC career block record, but the NCAA one, as well. In fact, Varnado had more blocks in 2008-09 than nine of the teams in the SEC and over 300 teams in NCAA Division One basketball.
Varnado reigns as the two-time National Defensive Player of the Year, and one could hardly keep him from the title of SEC Defensive Player of the Year. If he returns, he could very well be a favorite for the 2009-10 SEC Player of the Year.
Jodie Meeks (Kentucky—Junior—23.7ppg—3.4rpg—46.3% FG—40.6% 3PT)
Meeks was possibly the most dangerous and hot-handed scorer in the conference this year. His excellent driving ability sends him to the charity stripe more than any other player in the league. Meeks was more valuable to Kentucky this season than any player was to any other team in the SEC.
Marcus Thornton (LSU—Senior—21.1ppg—5.5rpg—47.2% FG—38.8% 3PT)
Thornton was in a close battle with Meeks for Player of the Year honors throughout the season, and is a very similar player to him. Thornton has more muscle and is a better rebounder, but not quite as strong of a shooter. Thornton was one of the most dynamic players in the league, and LSU will have a huge hole to fill on his graduation heading toward the 2009-10 season.
Jarvis Varnado (Miss. State—Junior—12.9ppg—8.8rpg—4.72bpg—54.9% FG)
Varnado is destroying block records around the league and soon across the nation, assuming he returns. What most don’t know, however, is his well-rounded game, as Varnado is a potent scorer under the basket and one of the best rebounders in the league. Varnado could challenge for 2009-10 SEC Player of the Year.
Devan Downey (South Carolina—Junior—19.8ppg—2.8rpg—4.52apg—2.87apg)
Downey was the best defending guard in the SEC for the 2008-09 season, as he finished almost a whole steal more than any other player in the league. Downey’s small size and tremendous speed led to nearly impossible matchups for most guards in the league, and Downey knows how to attack the basket. Ranked third in the conference, he also knows how to score. If he returns, South Carolina could be very, very good next year.
Nick Calathes (Florida—Sophomore—17.2ppg—5.3ppg—6.4apg—1.94 a/to)
This was a difficult decision between Calathes, Tennessee’s Tyler Smith and Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson for the final First-Team position, but I have a weakness for good ball-handling and smart-playing point guards. Calathes, last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year, has everything that makes an outstanding point guard—and he can score. Averaging 17.2ppg and still handing out 6.4 assists per outing is no small feat.
Tyler Smith (Tennessee—Junior—17.4ppg—5.8rpg—3.4apg—76.6% FT)
Tyler Smith is one of the most dynamic big-men in the conference. He is amazing under the basket and is still quite dangerous from behind the arc. He can also drive the basket and—get this—he can dish the ball. 3.4 assists per game is outstanding for a forward. Smith is a great scorer with an NBA body. I’d be surprised if he returns in 2009-10.
Patrick Patterson (Kentucky—Sophomore—17.9ppg—9.3rpg—2.1bpg—60.3% FG)
Keeping Patterson from the First-Team was a very difficult thing to do considering his page-filling stat sheet. As a sophomoren this young man has an enormous amount of potential. Patterson is an absolute force for the Wildcats, as there is likely not a better interior scorer than him in the entire league. He is also one of the league’s best rebounders and is better defensively than anyone in the league not named Jarvis Varnado.
Korvotney Barber (Auburn—Senior—12.8ppg—9.6ppg—1.2bpg—54.5% FG)
Barber is outstanding from within five feet of the basket, as his impressive field-goal percentage indicates. Don’t move him outside of that range, however—he’s just 47.3 percent from the free throw line. That aside, Barber nearly averaged a double-double for the surprising Tigers and was likely the SEC’s best rebounder last year.
Michael Washington (Arkansas—Junior - 15.5ppg—9.8rpg—1.3bpg—55.1% FG)
Washington is yet another surpemely talented big-man on the SEC Second Team. For a while, Washington looked like the best in the league, and he would clearly win a “Most Improved” award for the SEC. Washington had the misfortune of playing for one of the SEC’s worst teams, but could lead a susprising Razorback team next year.
Alonzo Gee (Alabama—Senior—15.0ppg–7.2rpg—44.2% FG—36.5% 3PT)
Alonzo Gee was one of the league’s most dynamic overall players last season, as he was unstoppable while driving to the basket. His athletic body and sheer mass proved a difficult matchup for his defenders. He was also one of the league’s most talented rebounding guards—although, that term could be used lightly for high-flying Gee. The Crimson Tide will sorely miss his presence in 2009-10.