The League: SEC on guard

Arkansas' Courtney Fortson (4) is tripped up by Mississippi State's Phil Turner (25) in Fayetteville, on Jan. 10.

Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 10:50 p.m.

Point guard play in the Southeastern Conference through the first three weeks of the season has been a contrast of styles.

There's the speed and shooting ability of South Carolina's Devan Downey, the passing ability and headiness of Florida's Nick Calathes, the steadiness of Vanderbilt's Jermaine Beal.

That, combined with the emergence of freshman point guards Courtney Forston at Arkansas and Dee Bost at Mississippi State give the league five players capable of running the offense of their respective teams at a high level.

Beal led the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio last season and is currently second (3.1 assists to 1.5 turnovers) in the same category this season.

"He just doesn't turn the ball over," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "He's a guy we depend on and does what we need him to do. Hopefully, that will carry into Sunday's game against Florida."

With 125 assists through 19 games, Calathes is on pace to break the UF record for assists in a game (221) he set last season.

"Probably the best passer in the league, if not the nation," Stallings said. "He does a great job of running their offense. Very difficult guy to guard. Very smart player."

Downey is second in the league in scoring (19.6 ppg) behind Kentucky's Jodie Meeks and leads the league in steals (3.0 pg).

"He's got a tremendous will to try to succeed," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. "That sets an example for our guys to try to follow."

Fortson and Bost represent the next wave of strong point guards in the league. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury recruited the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Bost out of Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.

"He was the fourth guard on his high school basketball team," Stansbury said. "I thought he could be a point guard."

Bost has started all 19 games for the Bulldogs, averaging 9.9 points per game while dishing 4.6 assists per game, third-best in the league behind Calathes and Fortson.

"With all freshmen there are going to be ups and downs," Stansbury said. "He's been as good as we expected and sometimes better."

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