SEC Superlatives: The Non-Traditional EditionPosted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on March 11th, 2014
The SEC’s long (and often bumpy) basketball road has finally led to Atlanta. There were some memorable performances as the season unfolded, and players stood out in a number of ways. Before we unveil the RTC SEC microsite’s predictable year-end superlatives, here are players that made impressions in less traditional ways:
Most Exciting Player Award
This isn’t necessarily the player you know will consistently produce. In fact, it might be a player that spends most of his time maddening you. But every so often this guy will throw down a dunk or hit a crazy three that gets you out of your seat like no one else.
- Brian Joyce (@bjoyce_hoops): For me, there is no one more exciting than Marshall Henderson. You don’t have to like him, but you have to appreciate what he is able to do on the court. Henderson single handedly shot Ole Miss into contention during several games this year (and subsequently shot the Rebels out of many games too), so he is nothing if not entertaining.
- David Changas (@dchangas): Marshall Henderson. Sure, he didn’t recreate the magic or draw the attention of last season, either on or off the court, but anyone who shoots so often (12.2 threes attempted per game) and from so many spots on the floor and keeps his team in games they otherwise wouldn’t be in is fun to watch. And there’s still time for the senior guard to do something special and go out with a bang at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta.
- Christian D’Andrea (@TrainIsland): Marshall Henderson. Come on – like it could be anyone else? Henderson misses way more shots than he makes, but the ones he hits have kept us all coming back for more. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get at least one Land Shark moment in Atlanta this week.
- Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell): Alex Poythress. He doesn’t have big numbers, but there are times Poythress looks like he’s on a pogo stick. Poythress had an incredible, soaring offensive rebound to set up James Young’s game-tying three that was eventually erased by Michael Qualls’ (another candidate for this award) putback dunk in Fayetteville. This was a largely forgotten play, but when I think “exciting highlight” that is what comes to mind. If a rebound is burned into your mind, how can the guy that grabbed it not be the most exciting player?
Most Frustrating Player Award
The name of this “award” says it all. So much was expected, what happened?
- BJ: Andrew Harrison was the most frustrating player on the SEC’s most frustrating team. Harrison was overrated coming out of high school, but regardless was asked to run the point and never quite caught on. Kentucky’s offense has come to a screeching halt, looking disjointed for the latter half of the regular season. It’s looking more and more like Harrison may be back in Lexington to try again to facilitate a college offense next season.
- DC: Willie Cauley-Stein‘s production doesn’t match the obvious raw potential he has. The sophomore is projected to go in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft, assuming he declares, and anyone who has seen him in his better moments can see why. But there were too many times he didn’t play to his potential – he scored in double figures only four times in 18 conference games – and his team certainly could have used more consistency.
- CD: Willie Cauley-Stein. Big Willie looked primed to capitalize on his potential this winter and develop into an efficient two-way player in the paint. Instead, he’s picked up a penchant for disappearing in UK losses and been a disappointment on the glass. Cauley-Stein has the size and skill to start for any team in the SEC. Instead, he’s struggling to make an impact as his talented Wildcats seemed destined for another year of postseason disappointment.
- GM: Andrew Harrison. It begins and ends with the point guard. Harrison has decent numbers for a freshman tasked with running the show in a pressure cooker. But there are a litany of freshman point guards that have been way better than decent under John Calipari. Harrison certainly didn’t ask for the lofty standards set by Derrick Rose, John Wall, and his recruiting rankings. But fair or not, he’s been judged by them. The Wildcats have looked disjointed on offense at times this season, and part of that falls on Harrison.
Mr. Big Shot Award
This guy has proven that with the clock winding down and the game on the line, he’s the guy you want firing away.
- BJ: Trevor Releford won’t be a first round NBA draft pick, but he’s one heck of a college guard. He hit the game winner a couple of weeks ago against Ole Miss, and if I needed a shot to go down I would look to Releford to knock it down.
- DC: Rod Odom. Sure, Vanderbilt finished in the bottom third of the league, but that is a result of losing its final four games. Prior to that, the Commodores overachieved with their roster of seven scholarship players, and the senior forward hit plenty of big shots to allow them to win several games they otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s too bad the much-improved Odom won’t be able to show his wares in meaningful postseason games.
- CD: Jordan McRae. McRae’s career has been building to a big finale with Tennessee. The senior guard has upped his game every season he’s played in Knoxville, and the gunner has made it clear that he wants the ball in his hands when it matters. McRae has a great supporting cast around him, but his scoring will be the key to a weekend appearance for the Vols at the SEC Tournament.
- GM: Trevor Releford. He probably won’t get on the lengthy All-SEC first team, and was the leader of a disappointing Crimson Tide team. Nonetheless, there’s no one I’d rather have with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line. The senior has made a living making tough shots in the paint over much bigger defenders throughout his career, and has been a threat from deep the last two years. He’s got the traditional ways to score covered. But if it’s the improbable you need, he also has a half court winner on his resume.
The End to End Award
No matter what end of the floor he’s on, this guy gets it done at an elite level. He’s the definition of balance.
- BJ: Scottie Wilbekin won’t lead the league in scoring, but nobody can discredit his impact. Wilbekin has been the most balanced player in the league on both ends of the court, playing lockdown defense on one end and serving as the undeniable leader on the other.
- DC: Scottie Wilbekin. Wilbekin is not only an efficient distributor on the offensive end, he can score when the Gators need him to make big shots. Defensively, he’s adept at shutting down opposing teams’ guards on the perimeter. He’s the clear leader of the league’s best team, on both ends of the floor.
- CD: Jordan Mickey. The four-star recruit has come on in a big way for LSU, helping to revive Tiger bouncyhoops on the Bayou. Mickey’s long arms and ridiculous hops have made him a fierce shot blocker who can clean up his teammates’ messes with his help defense. Offensively, he’s an efficient scorer who does the most with his touches around the rim – even if his jump shoot could still use some work. Of course, playing alongside Johnny O’Bryant III is going to help him get plenty of open looks as well.
- GM: Scottie Wilbekin, Florida. The Gators have a lot of nice pieces on offense, but Wilbekin is what makes them gel. He gets Michael Frazier the ball in deep in the corner when he’s open, and finds Patric Young in a sweet spot on the block. He’s also gotten to the free throw line twice as much as he did last season (4.5 FTA per game) and improved his three point shooting. But still, the phrase association I have when I hear the senior’s name is “tenacious defender.” He plays tough on ball defense, and is often the menace that causes turnovers at the bottom of Florida’s 1-3-1 zone.
The I’ve Got Next Award
He’s not in the All-SEC discussion this year, but there’s a good chance he’ll make that jump next year.
- BJ: Jordan Mickey of LSU wasn’t the most heralded freshman coming into the conference this season, but after a more than solid first year he leaves a lot to be excited about in Baton Rouge next year. He led the conference in blocks this season, and could lead the nation next year (finished 8th in NCAA this year).
- DC: Jordan Mickey. The 6’8″ freshman was highly acclaimed coming out of Dallas, but didn’t receive the fanfare many who headed to Lexington and Gainesville did. Still, playing alongside Johnny O’Bryant, Mickey was one of the league’s best post players, averaging 13.0 PPG and 7.6 RPG. If O’Bryant leaves early for the NBA, expect Mickey to become a premier player in the league. And if O’Bryant returns, he’ll continue to be the focus of other teams’ plans to stop the Tigers, and this will allow Mickey to continue to benefit, which would give LSU a lethal two-headed monster in the post.
- CD: Damian Jones. Vanderbilt’s freshman center has been one of the brightest spots of the team’s second-straight rebuilding year. He stepped into an immediate role in the team’s frontcourt and became Vandy’s undisputed starter when Josh Henderson went down with a knee injury this winter. Since then, he’s averaged 12 points, six rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game in 28 minutes per game. Jones has the length and hops to be a pesky defender now, but a summer in the weight room should make him a true post presence in 2015. Expect the young man to follow in the footsteps of A.J. Ogilvy and Festus Ezeli in the latest line of Vandy centers.
- GM: Jordan Mickey. This was a tough decision between Mickey and Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones. Both freshmen big men were heavily relied on by their respective teams this season and largely answered the call. Despite the Commodores shrinking roster, Mickey actually averaged seven more minutes per game (32.4). While their scoring and rebounding numbers are similar, Mickey is a more effective shot blocker and finished with the fifth most blocks (96) in the country. That’s a skill that should torment opposing offenses next season. Mickey will also assume a giant amount of offensive responsibility if Johnny O’Bryant declares for the draft, and if this season was any indication, he’ll be up to the task.