SEC Men's Basketball Honors Announced
March 7, 2001
By PAUL NEWBERRY
ATLANTA (AP)-Tayshaun Prince heard plenty of criticism this season directed at both himself and his team.
No one is complaining now.
Prince, whose smooth style led Kentucky to a share of the Southeastern Conference title, was an overwhelming choice Tuesday as player of the year on The Associated Press All-SEC team. Mississippi's Rod Barnes received coach of the year honors after guiding the Rebels from worst to first in the West Division. One of his players, freshman Justin Reed, was named newcomer of the year.
In addition to Prince, the first team also included two Florida players, Udonis Haslem and Brett Nelson, along with Alabama's Rod Grizzard and Georgia's D.A. Layne.
Prince and the Wildcats were hurting in December after losing five of their first nine games. Coach Tubby Smith was under fire, with his star forward seen as lackadaisical.
"I'm a smooth-type player and sometimes it looks like I'm not going that hard," Prince said. "There are people who don't think I play hard or don't think I want to be out there the whole time."
By the end of the season, the 6-foot-9 junior forward had silenced his critics. He scored 16.2 points per game, ranking sixth in the SEC, and led the Wildcats in rebounding average at 6.3.
"I try to take over the game when I need to," Prince said. "I think that's part of how I became SEC player of the year. I did a great job showing leadership down the stretch. In a close ballgame, I tried to make sure my team came out on the right end."
Kentucky (19-9, 12-4 SEC) put together winning streaks of seven and eight games to share the conference championship with Florida. The Wildcats are the No. 1-seeded team for this week's SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn.
"This is something very special, especially the way this Kentucky team started off real slow," said Prince, who hasn't decided if he will return for his senior season or enter the NBA draft.
Barnes was a clear choice as the top coach for the job he did with a team that had just five SEC victories a year ago. This season, Ole Miss claimed the West title with an 11-5 mark and set a school record with 23 victories overall.
At the outset, Barnes was merely hoping his team could contend for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
"I didn't think in terms of winning the Western Division and ranking in the top 15 in the country," he said. "I didn't anticipate that at all."
But winning is certainly more commonplace at Ole Miss, which has won the West three of the last five seasons - even with a coaching change in 1998, when Barnes took over for the popular Rob Evans.
"We're to the point now where we feel like we have a good program," Barnes said. "We're not to the great stage yet. We can get better. But we have to be considered one of the up-and-coming programs in the country."
Prince and Haslem were the only unanimous choices to the first team.
Haslem, a 6-7 junior center, is the league's most dominating inside player. He made more than 60 percent of his shots to lead the SEC, while ranking fourth in scoring (16.7) and 10th in rebounding (7.1).
Nelson, his 6-3 teammate, was equally lethal on the outside for the Gators, who repeated as SEC champs after reaching the national championship game last season. The sophomore point guard was second in the league in assists (4.37), steals (1.96) and 3-point percentage (.458), and also placed ninth in scoring (15.3).
The 6-8 Grizzard struggled down the stretch but still was the SEC's second-leading scorer (17.2) and top free-throw shooter, making 85.4 percent.
Layne helped Georgia exceed expectations while playing the nation's toughest schedule. The 6-0 junior guard was the league's third-leading scorer (16.9) and ranked seventh in assists (3.59). In addition, he placed among the leaders in free-throw and 3-point shooting.
Layne was the only second-teamer from 2000 who moved up to the first team this year.
Tennessee forward Vincent Yarbrough held his spot on the second team for the second season in a row. He was joined by LSU forward Ronald Dupree, the league's top scorer (17.3) and Alabama forward Erwin Dudley, the leading rebounder (9.3) in the SEC.
Also making the second team: Kentucky guard Keith Bogans and Ole Miss forward Rahim Lockhart.
Lockhart teamed with Reed, a 6-8 freshman, to give the Rebels one of the strongest front lines in the conference. Reed averaged 11.4 points and 5.7 rebounds in his inaugural season.
"He has a special passion for winning that you just can't teach," Barnes said.
Reed was among 10 players named to the third team, which also included Arkansas forward Joe Johnson, a second-teamer last season.
Tennessee guard Tony Harris, a first-teamer last season, didn't receive a single vote after a thoroughly disappointing senior year.
The 53nd annual AP All-SEC team was chosen by a regional media panel.
Player of the Year Tayshaun Prince, Kentucky
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