MACON, Ga. – In the lead up to the beginning of the 2011 General Shale Brick Atlantic Sun Men’s Basketball Championship, the conference announced its end-of-year awards.
ETSU’s Mike Smith became the third Buccaneer to win the Player of the Year. Jacksonville’s Ayron Hardy joined Gardner-Webb’s Tim Jennings as the only players in A-Sun history to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year honors. Torrey Craig won the first A-Sun superlative award in USC Upstate history and Belmont head coach Rick Byrd won his second Coach of the Year honor.
Lipscomb’s senior teammates, Adnan Hodzic and Josh Slater, represent the only school with multiple players on the First Team. Hodzic becomes only the eighth player in league history named to the First Team three times. He needs only seven points to become the fifth player in league history to reach 2,000 points. Slater, who also made the FirstTeam in 2009-10, has recently moved into top five in the country in steals per game, thanks to turning a triple double of 10 points, 12 assists and 10 steals against USC USC Upstate on Feb. 17.
"I think those are great for both of those kids who have been first team all-league for two years in a row," Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. "I think those are tremendous compliments to those guys, but I think if you ask both of them, they would turn both of those things in for an opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament."
Smith joins former teammate Courtney Pigram and Buccaneer all-time leading scorer Tim Smith as the Buccaneers to garner the top individual honor. Only four other schools in A-Sun history have ever produced at least three Players of the Year, Centenary, College of Charleston, Georgia Southern and Mercer. Smith won four Player of the Week honors during the season and won the award by a unanimous vote. One year after playing only four games because of knee injury, Smith finished second in scoring in conference play, averaging 17.7 points per game while ranking sixth in rebounding. Smith’s teammate and 2010 Tournament MVP Micah Williams landed on the Second Team.
Belmont, the regular-season champion, featured a total of four student-athletes on the postseason All-Conference teams. Ian Clark earned First-Team honors a year after earning Freshman of the Year. Bruin post players Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders each made the Second Team and J.J. Mann landed on the All-Freshmen squad. Clark finished the regular season as the Bruins top scorer while Hedgepeth and Saunders combined to average better than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Byrd, who won his 500th game at Belmont and 600th game overall during the 2010-11 season, led the Bruins into the A-Sun Championship as the No. 3 team in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major top 25, the conference’s first team in the top five in seven years.
In addition to winning his second Defensive Player of the Year award, Ayron Hardy earned First-Team All-Atlantic Sun honors for the first time in his career. He scored a career-best 12.6 points per game and joins Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried, Virginia Tech’s Jeff Allen and Duquesne’s Damian Saunders as the only active players to have accumulated 1,000 points, 200 steals and 100 blocks. His freshman Dolphin teammate, Keith McDougald made the All-Freshmen Team, becoming the fifth Dolphin to make the team in the six-year tenure of head coach Cliff Warren.
USC Upstate’s Torrey Craig made program history as he captured the Freshman of the Year accolade. He earned the first superlative award for the Spartans’ men’s basketball team since joining the conference in 2007. He paced A-Sun freshmen in scoring and rebounding. His scoring average, 14.4, ranked among the ten best in the nation. Craig, and fellow unanimous All-Freshman choice Christophe Varidel ranked among the nation’s 10 most prolific freshmen 3-point shooters. Varidel closed the season with the second-most 3-point field goals by any freshmen and by averaging 14.6 points per game over his final 18 games.
Mercer’s Brian Mills rounded out the First Team, becoming the 23rd All-Atlantic Sun performer in Mercer history. He boasted the highest scoring increase in the conference from a season ago. After averaging 7.8 points per game in 2009-10, he more than doubled his production, netting 15.7 points per game. The Bears’ Langston Hall earned All-Freshmen honors. He enters the A-Sun Championships ranking eighth in the country, among freshmen, in 3-point field goal percentage, having connected on close to 41 percent of his attempts.
A pair of sophomores, Kennesaw State’s Markeith Cummings and FGCU’s Anthony Banks, rounded out the Second Team. Cummings, the conference’s leading scorer, surpassed the 1,000-point in February and closed out the season averaging 20.8 points per game in his final 13 games. Banks finished the season with 106 offensive rebounds, becoming just one of seven players in the country to have grabbed at least 100 offensive rebounds in each of the last two seasons.
Two members of Stetson’s acclaimed freshmen class, Corey Walden and Luis Jacobo, made the All-Freshmen team. Walden, a unanimous choice of the coaches, averaged close to 14 points and collected 2.5 steals per game in league play while Jacobo averaged 11.4 points and connected on 38 percent of his 3-point tries in A-Sun games. The Hatter teammates become just the third pair of teammates to make the All-Freshmen team in the last seven years. Jacksonville’ duo of Ben Smith and Lehmon Colbert made the five-man squad in 2006-07. One season later, Hodzic and Slater made the team from Lipscomb.
The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts five of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.