UK Men’s Basketball leads league in end-of-season SEC Awards

(Photo: UK Athletics)
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Capping a strong regular season that ended with a 26-5 record and No. 4 national ranking, four Kentucky men’s basketball players were honored by the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday with the league’s end-of-the-season awards. Sophomore PJ Washington and freshmen Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans earned All-SEC awards, headlined by Washington making the All-SEC First Team (coaches and Associated Press), Johnson winning SEC Freshman of the Year (coaches), Herro earning SEC Newcomer of the Year (AP) and Hagans shared Defensive Player of the Year honors (coaches).

The Wildcats littered the All-SEC teams with eight coaches honors and 10 total between the coaches and AP, more than any other school:

· Washington – All-SEC First Team (coaches/AP)
· Johnson – Freshman of the Year (coaches), All-SEC Second Team (coaches), All-Freshman Team (coaches)
· Herro – Newcomer of the Year (AP) All-SEC Second Team (coaches), All-Freshman Team (coaches)
· Hagans – Co-Defensive Player of the Year (coaches), All-Defensive Team (coaches)

All 14 conference head coaches voted on the league’s All-SEC squads. Ties were not broken. A media member that covered each school made up the voting for the AP’s All-SEC awards.

Washington was joined on the coaches’ first team by Daniel Gafford (Arkansas), Tremont Waters (LSU), Breein Tyree (Ole Miss), Quinndary Weatherspoon (Mississippi State), Chris Silva (South Carolina), Admiral Schoefield (Tennessee) and Grant Williams (Tennessee). Washington, Gafford, Waters, Weatherspoon and Williams were on the five-man media first team.

Joining Herro and Johnson on the coaches’ second team was Bryce Brown (Auburn), Jared Harper (Auburn), Nicolas Claxton (Georgia), Skylar Mays (LSU), Terence Davis (Ole Miss) and Jordan Bone (Tennessee). Bone, Harper, Schofield, Tyree and Silva made up the AP second team.

A full list of the conference’s SEC awards are below.

Johnson became the 10th Wildcat to win SEC Freshman of the Year and the ninth player in 10 seasons under John Calipari. Herro is the eighth winner – all under Calipari – to win Newcomer of the Year.

With three Wildcats on the coaches’ All-SEC teams, Calipari has now coached 26 players who have earned All-SEC accolades. At least one player has been named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in each of Calipari’s 10 seasons, including 26 total, and in nine of the 10 seasons multiple players have been tabbed to the squad.

Hagans, in sharing the Defensive Player of the Year award with Waters, becomes the first Wildcat to win the league’s top defensive honors since Tyler Ulis in 2016 and the sixth overall. He’s also the first on the All-Defensive Team since that season.

PJ Washington

Washington has scored 20 or more points in eight of the last 14 games and has been at the center of Kentucky’s national surge. The Wildcats have won 16 of their last 18 and are firmly in the discussion for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Washington is averaging 18.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 blocks over the last 14 games. During that stretch, he’s shooting 52.8 percent from the floor and 45.2 from 3-point range. That span also includes three straight double-doubles vs. then-No. 9/10 Kansas, at Vanderbilt and at Florida.

Overall, Washington leads the Wildcats in both scoring (14.9 points per game) and rebounding (7.5 rpg). After mulling a decision to turn pro after last season, Washington is enjoying career highs in virtually every statistical category in his return for his sophomore season, including a team-high seven double-doubles.

For the season, Washington is shooting 52.1 percent from the floor and 42.3 percent from 3-point range. A year after hitting just five 3s in 37 games at a 23.8-percent rate, he's already drained 30 this season.

Perhaps the truest indicator of Washington’s worth this season is his impressive play vs. Kentucky’s best competition. In UK’s eight games vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams, Washington is averaging 16.1 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent.

Washington has also been named to the Sporting News All-America Third Team, is one of 15 candidates for the Wooden Award, one of 10 semifinalists for the Citizen Naismith Trophy and one of five finalists for the Karl Malone Award, which honors the nation’s best power forward. He won SEC Player of the Week twice in the regular season and was also tabbed the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week (U.S. Basketball Writers Association) in February.

Keldon Johnson

Johnson is averaging a team-best 16.3 points per game on 52.3-percent shooting and 45.5 percent from behind the arc, in addition to 5.1 rebounds per game, in UK's eight matchups with AP Top 25 foes. That includes a 19-point outing in the win over top-ranked Tennessee on Feb. 16.

But Johnson's ability to step up when needed doesn't just pertain to matchups vs. AP Top 25 opponents. Take, for instance, the first half of the season. As Kentucky searched for an identity, Johnson was UK's most consistent scorer. He scored in double figures in 13 of the Wildcats' first 14 games, including four games of 20 or more points during that stretch.

Overall, Johnson is averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds on the season. He's shooting 46.6 percent from a guard position and he's one of Kentucky's most consistent 3-point shooters with a 39.0-percent clip. Johnson is second on the team with 39 3-pointers, and UK is 5-0 this season when he makes at least three 3-pointers in a game.

Included in Johnson’s spectacular season are 23 double-figure scoring games, six games with 20 or more points, three double-doubles and a monster 17-rebound game vs. Auburn, UK’s first game without Reid Travis (sprained right knee). It was the most by a Wildcat in an SEC game under Calipari.

Johnson scored a career-high 27 points against Tennessee State, 21 in a signature win over then-No. 9/10 North Carolina, 20 at then-No. 14/12 Auburn and 19 in the win over then-top-ranked Tennessee.

He’s won SEC Freshman of the Week a league-high-trying three times.

Tyler Herro

Herro has been one of UK’s most important players this season. The proof: UK is 17-0 this season when he scores 15 or more points. The Wildcats are 9-5 when he doesn't.

The reigning SEC Freshman of the Week has proven to be much more than just a shooter, as many labeled him to be when he got to Kentucky. He's bucked those notions by becoming a lethal scorer from anywhere on the floor (second on the team in scoring), a much-improved defender (33 steals), an underrated rebounder (4.5 boards per game) and one of the nation's best at the free-throw line (93.9 percent).

Having made 60 of his last 61 foul shots, he's on the verge of having one of the best seasons in the history of the collegiate game from the line. With a 93.9-percent rate and a minimum of 50 attempts, not only would he rank first in school history for free-throw percentage for a season but also for the entire league (with players between 50 and 100 attempts). Kyle Macy holds the school record at 91.2 percent in 1979-80 and Paul Smith of Mississippi State owns the SEC mark (50-100 attempts) at 92.7 percent in 1965.

Overall, Herro is averaging 14.2 points per game with a team-best 53 3-pointers and team-high 25 games in double figures. On the road he's been even better. The freshman guard averaged 15.5 points on 50.5 percent from the field with 18 3-pointers in Kentucky's 10 true road games this season. He was one of only four players nationally to average least 15.0 points per game on the road, shoot at least 50 percent from the field, at least 35 percent from 3-point range and at least 90 percent from the free-throw line.

He tied Johnson with an SEC-best three SEC Freshman of the Week honors this season. He was named the USBWA Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week and NCAA.com National Player of the Week after his 24-point performance at Louisville.

Ashton Hagans

Arguably no Wildcat has had a bigger impact outside the scoring column than Hagans this season, especially defensively. He's averaging 7.8 points on the season, but he's been one of the most important players in Kentucky's defensive surge during the second half of the season.

Take, for example, the North Carolina win. Hagans scored seven points, but his fingerprints were all over the outcome, especially on the defensive end, where he tied a school record with eight steals (previously set by Wayne Turner on Nov. 24, 1997, vs. George Washington and Rajon Rondo on Feb. 19, 2005, vs. Mississippi State).

UNC head coach and Hall of Famer Roy Williams said it best: "Ashton Hagans is 2 for 6, seven points, and I thought in some ways he was more dominating in the game than anybody."

Hagans' 1.8 steals per game is ranked third in the SEC and eighth nationally among all freshmen. Prior to a two-steal night against Mississippi State at home, Hagans had corralled at least three steals in seven straight games. He's the only player in school history with such a streak (since steals became an official NCAA statistic in 1985-86). According to STATS, he was the first major-conference freshman with three or more steals in seven or more straight games since Wake Forest's Chris Paul did it 10 straight games in the 2003-04 season.

As Hagans' defensive stock went on the rise, his offensive numbers followed. He's scored seven or more points in 17 of the last 25 games, including back-to-back-to-back career-high scoring days vs. Louisville (11), Alabama (12) and Texas A&M (18), followed by a 15-point effort vs. Vanderbilt. Hagans then topped it with a career-high 23-point effort in his homecoming on the road at Georgia. He also leads the Cats with 4.2 assists per game, which is seventh in the SEC.

He's a Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist and won SEC Freshman of the Week twice during the season. On Monday he was named to the Athletic’s All-Glue Team.

2018-19 SEC Coaches’ Awards

All-SEC First Team
Daniel Gafford, Arkansas
PJ Washington, Kentucky
Tremont Waters, LSU
Breein Tyree, Ole Miss
Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi St.
Chris Silva, South Carolina
Admiral Schofield, Tennessee
Grant Williams, Tennessee

All-SEC Second Team
Bryce Brown, Auburn
Jared Harper, Auburn
Nicolas Claxton, Georgia
Tyler Herro, Kentucky
Keldon Johnson, Kentucky
Skylar Mays, LSU
Terence Davis, Ole Miss
Jordan Bone, Tennessee

All-Freshman Team
Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama
Isaiah Joe, Arkansas
Andrew Nembhard, Florida
Tyler Herro, Kentucky
Keldon Johnson, Kentucky
Naz Reid, LSU
Reggie Perry, Mississippi State
A.J. Lawson, South Carolina

All-Defensive Team
Donta Hall, Alabama
Daniel Gafford, Arkansas
Ashton Hagans, Kentucky
Tremont Waters, LSU
Chris Silva, South Carolina

Coach of the Year: Kermit Davis, Ole Miss
Player of the Year: Grant Williams, Tennessee
Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Skylar Mays, LSU
Freshman of the Year: Keldon Johnson, Kentucky
Sixth-Man of the Year: Hassani Gravett, South Carolina
Co-Defensive Players of the Year: Tremont Waters, LSU & Ashton Hagans, Kentucky

2018-19 SEC AP Awards

All-SEC First Team
Daniel Gafford, Arkansas
PJ Washington, Kentucky
Tremont Waters, LSU
Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State

All-SEC Second Team
Jordan Bone, Tennessee
Jared Harper, Auburn
Admiral Schofield, Tennessee
Breein Tyree, Ole Miss
Chris Silva, South Carolina

Player of the Year: Grant Williams, Tennessee
Coach of the Year: Kermit Davis: Ole Miss
Newcomer of the Year: Tyler Herro, Kentucky



 
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