March 14, 2006

Head coach Bruce Pearl was named the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year while the Tennessee Vol basketball tandem of Chris Lofton and C.J. Watson picked up All-SEC honors, the Associated Press announced. Lofton made the first team, while Watson was placed on the second team.

Pearl guided his squad to the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title and its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2001. With Pearl at the helm, the Volunteers led the conference in six statistical categories, including points (81.7), 3-point field goal percentage (.394), steals (10.26), assist-turnover ratio (1.37), turnover margin (+5.89) and three-pointers made (8.81).

Lofton leads the Vols at 17.3 points per game to go along with 3.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He set the school records for most 3-point field goals made in a game with nine against Georgia (2/11) and in a season with 106. He leads the Southeastern Conference with 3.78 3-pointers per game.

Watson scored his 1,000th point and dished out his 500th career assist already this year and ranks among Tennessee's top 25 all-time scorers and is second in assists and steals. He is averaging 15.3 points and 4.07 assists per game this season.

LSU doubled up again at the top of the All-Southeastern Conference team.

Glen Davis was named player of the year by The Associated Press on Tuesday, while teammate Tyrus Thomas was honored as the top newcomer.

For the second year in a row, the Tigers claimed both awards. In 2005, Davis was named newcomer of the year and Brandon Bass was picked as the top player.

Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, who guided the Volunteers to their first NCAA appearance since 2001, was honored as coach of the year, preventing an LSU sweep of the individual awards.

Last season, Davis played a supporting role to Bass, who was the SEC's second-leading rebounder and third-best scorer. Bass moved on to the NBA after his sophomore year, allowing Davis to step into a starring role.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward has done even better than his predecessor, leading the conference in rebounding (9.9 per game) and coming out of the SEC tournament just three points shy of the scoring title.

Arkansas' Ronnie Brewer is averaging 18.55, with Davis right on his heels at 18.45.

The Tigers (23-8) won the SEC's regular-season championship and received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, largely because of the big numbers put up by the imposing player known as "Big Baby."

"I've never seen a guy who's almost 6-feet-9 and 310 pounds that has the quickness of foot and the ability to catch the ball that he has," LSU coach John Brady said. "He has had a year worthy of the rewards he is receiving as he helped our team to an SEC championship."

Pearl was lured to Tennessee after leading Wisconsin-Milwaukee on a surprising run to the round of 16 in last year's NCAA tournament. He inherited a program that endured four mediocre seasons under Buzz Peterson, but quickly turned things around.

The Vols (21-7) won the SEC Eastern Division title and were seeded second in their region of the NCAA tournament.

"In his first year at Tennessee, Coach Pearl accomplished more than we could have hoped for," athletic director Mike Hamilton said. "His energy and enthusiasm have brought new life to Tennessee basketball."

Pearl said it's only the beginning. He already was rewarded with a new contract, which raised his annual salary from $800,000 to $1.1 million and extended his tenure two more years through 2012.

"We will win more championships during my time here," Pearl said. "This one is going to be significant and it's going to be special because it was so unexpected and accomplished with a lot of obstacles and a lot to overcome."

Davis was the only unanimous choice to the first team, joined by Brewer, Florida's Joakim Noah, Alabama's Ronald Steele and Tennessee's Chris Lofton. It's a youthful group - Brewer is a junior, the other four are sophomores.

Brewer was a major part of the resurgence at Arkansas, which made the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years. In addition to being the conference's leading scorer, the 6-7 guard claimed the top spot in steals (2.61).

The 6-11 Noah, son of former French tennis star Yannick Noah, was part of a super class of sophomores that led Florida to its second straight SEC tournament championship and an eighth consecutive trip to the NCAAs. He had the league's best shooting percentage (64.5) and was third in blocked shots (2.0).

Steele, a 6-3 guard, was an iron man for the Crimson Tide, another of the six SEC teams that made the NCAA field. He averaged 38.4 minutes per game - nearly two minutes more than anyone else in the league - and was the the best free throw shooter (89.8 percent) as well.

Lofton was a major reason for Tennessee's success. The 6-2 guard ranked third in the league in scoring (17.3), second in 3-point percentage (45.3), fourth in steals (2.04) and fifth in field goal percentage (47.9).

Thomas was an overwhelming choice as the top newcomer and made the second team. The 6-9 freshman forward averaged 12.7 points, led the SEC in blocked shots (3.04) and finished just behind Davis on the rebounding list (9.3).

LSU has benefited from a steady stream of local high school talent that decided to stay close to home, beginning with Bass and followed by Davis and Thomas.

According to Brady, that "says a lot not only about the LSU basketball program, but it also says a lot about the high school basketball programs in this area. All three have come from different high school programs in Baton Rouge."

Thomas did not play in the SEC tournament because of a sprained left ankle, and the Tigers were knocked out by Florida in the semifinals. But Brady expects the freshman to be back on the court Thursday, when LSU opens the NCAA tournament against Iona.

"Tyrus' athleticism and shot-blocking abilities have been an important part of our success," Brady said. "We look forward to him rejoining our team."

The rest of the second team included yet another LSU player, senior guard Darrel Mitchell, along with Alabama's Jermareo Davidson, Florida's Taurean Green, Vanderbilt's Shan Foster, Tennessee's C.J. Watson and Charles Rhodes of Mississippi State.

The 58th annual AP All-SEC team was chosen by a dozen sportswriters who cover the league.

The 2006 Associated Press All-SEC men's basketball team

First Team
u-Glenn Davis, LSU, F, 6-9, So.
Ronnie Brewer, Arkansas, G, 6-7, Jr.
Joakim Noah, Florida, F-C, 6-11, So.
Ronald Steele, Alabama, G, 6-3, So.
Chris Lofton, Tennessee, G, 6-2, So.
(u-unanimous choice to first team)

Second Team
Darrel Mitchell, LSU, G, 5-11, Sr.
Jermareo Davidson, Alabama, F, 6-10, Jr.
Tyrus Thomas, LSU, F, 6-9, Fr.
Shan Foster, Vanderbilt, G-F, 6-6, So.
C.J. Watson, Tennessee, G, 6-2, Sr.
Charles Rhodes, Mississippi St., F, 6-8, So.
Taurean Green, Florida, G, 6-0, So.

Honorable Mention
Corey Brewer, Florida, G-F, 6-8, So.
Dwayne Curtis, Mississippi, C, 6-8, So.
Al Horford, Florida, F, 6-8, So.
Tarence Kinsey, South Carolina, G, 6-6, Sr.
Jonathon Modica, Arkansas, G, 6-5, Sr.
Randolph Morris, Kentucky, C, 6-10, So.
Rajon Rondo, Kentucky, G, 6-1, So.

Player of the Year _ Glenn Davis, LSU
Coach of the Year _ Bruce Pearl, Tennessee
Newcomer of the Year _ Tyrus Thomas, LSU





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