Caldwell-Pope wins SEC's top honor

ATHENS, Ga. -- Typically conference players of the year come from teams whose league records are better than .500, but Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s performance this season was apparently too good for the SEC’s coaches to ignore.

They voted him as SEC Player of the Year, making the sophomore the first Bulldog to win the award from the SEC coaches and just the second UGA player -- joining Dominique Wilkins in 1981 -- to win any sort of SEC player of the year award since 1965.

“I was really shocked,” said Caldwell-Pope, whose Bulldogs (15-16, 9-9 SEC) face LSU on Thursday in their first SEC tournament game. “There are a lot of great players for Florida and whoever. I was really shocked to have won. Now that I’ve won, it’s a joyful feeling just knowing I won it.”

Considering the number of ways in which Caldwell-Pope affected the game this season, perhaps he should not have been so surprised.

He ranks second in the league in scoring at 18 points per game and ranks among the league’s top 10 players in nine of the 13 categories for which individual statistics are kept -- including rebounding (6.9 rpg), field-goal percentage (43.2 percent), free-throw shooting (80.9 percent), steals (2.1 spg), three-point shooting (37.1 percent) and minutes played (33.8 mpg). He’s also one of only 10 players in NCAA Division I to have scored in double figures in each of his team’s games.

“It really didn’t surprise me,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “I think he’s had a tremendous year. I did not get to vote for him because you can’t vote for your own players. I would have voted for him because I think he’s had that kind of season. But to be recognized by the other league coaches I think is the highest compliment, and I’m really proud of Kentavious for earning the award.”

Caldwell-Pope said he has not yet given serious thought as to whether he will return to Georgia for his junior season.

“Whenever the season’s over with, that’s when I’ll start thinking about it and just play it from there,” Caldwell-Pope said.

ESPN’s Chad Ford recently listed him as the No. 29 overall prospect among draft-eligible players and he’s the No. 8 shooting guard on ESPN’s draft tracker, which projects him as a late-first-round pick. But Fox said he would make sure to sit down with his star once the season is over and provide the best possible information on which to base his decision.

“This is Kentavious’ life and career we’re talking about and so I take that very seriously. And I’ll make sure that Kentavious has accurate information from the right sources,” Fox said. “He has been very focused on his season. We have had conversations about this for the last year. He knows that I will get him that information and we will discuss things at the right time. It’s not something that has to be done anytime soon and he’s aware of that and he’s just trying to play basketball.”

Caldwell-Pope was not the only Georgia player recognized on Tuesday’s all-conference lists. Point guard Charles Mann was one of nine players named to the SEC All-Freshman Team.

“I had my ups and downs freshman year, but I just feel more confident and more comfortable with the team, running the team and just playing now and not worrying about much,” said Mann, who is averaging 6.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Along with Caldwell-Pope, the SEC’s other award winners were Florida’s Billy Donovan (Coach of the Year), Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel (Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year), Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer (Sixth Man of the Year) and Florida’s Patric Young (Scholar-Athlete of the Year).

First Team All-SEC

G Trevor Releford, Alabama

F/C Erik Murphy, Florida

G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia

F Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

F Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU

G Phil Pressey, Missouri

G Jordan McRae, Tennessee

G Elston Turner, Texas A&M

Second Team All-SEC

F Marshawn Powell, Arkansas

G BJ Young, Arkansas

G Kenny Boynton, Florida

G Mike Rosario, Florida

C Patric Young, Florida

G Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss

F Murphy Holloway, Ole Miss

F Laurence Bowers, Missouri

F Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee

SEC All-Freshman Team

G Michael Frazier II, Florida

G Charles Mann, Georgia

F Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky

G Archie Goodwin, Kentucky

F Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

F Alex Poythress, Kentucky

G Craig Sword, Mississippi State

F Gavin Ware, Mississippi State

F Michael Carrera, South Carolina

SEC All-Defensive Team

G Trevor Releford, Alabama

G Scottie Wilbekin, Florida

C Patric Young, Florida

F Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

G Anthony Hickey, LSU

F Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss