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Wilbekin humbled to win SEC player of the year
Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 10:27 p.m.
Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was humbled to learn he was named Southeastern Conference player of the year.
“I definitely couldn't have done it without my teammates,” Wilbekin said Tuesday.
The 6-foot-2 Gainesville native also credited Florida coach Billy Donovan for believing in him and UF athletic director Jeremy Foley for giving him a second chance after a pair of suspensions during his junior season.
Wilbekin became the second player in UF history to win SEC player of year honors, joining Chandler Parsons, who won the award in 2011. Like Parsons, Wilbekin was rewarded for being the best player on the best team in the league. In averaging 12.9 points, 3.6 assists and playing stellar defense, Wilbekin was the engine that fueled Florida's perfect 18-0 SEC season.
“I'm very proud of him to see him come through as a freshman all the way up, how much he matured as a person and as a player,” Florida senior forward Casey Prather said. “I felt like he deserved this award.”
Wilbekin was as happy for his teammates, who cleaned up SEC individual honors. Florida senior center Patric Young was named SEC defensive player of year and SEC scholar athlete of the year (his third straight league scholar athlete award). Florida sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith was named the SEC's sixth man of the year.
Finney-Smith is averaging 9.4 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds off the bench for the Gators, while Young joined Corey Brewer (2007) as the second player in school history to earn SEC defensive player of the year honors.
“I'm grateful to my teammates for playing such terrible defense so I could pick up the slack,” Young joked. “It's a reflection of our coaches, their belief in me and how I've been coachable and apply it on to the court ... just to be able to see what's happening before it does and rotate properly. I think everyone on our team – it's been a team effort.
“If there was an All-Defensive Team award, I would think that would be something more that should be praised. We've played tremendous defense all year and hopefully we can keep that going.”
Wilbekin and Prather were named to the All-SEC first team, while Young was named to the All-SEC second team. Young and Wilbekin were both named to the All-SEC defensive team. The awards were based on votes from all 14 league coaches. Under postseason award rules, coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players.
“I think it's a reflection of how good this team is and how good we played during the regular season, to see this many of us get awards,” Wilbekin said.
Young said he didn't feel slighted that LSU center Johnny O'Bryant, Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes and Kentucky forward Julius Randle were picked ahead of him on the first team.
“Those guys put up the numbers and they deserved it,” Young said.
Will Wilbekin, a late bloomer in college like Parsons, go on to have success in the NBA? A second-round pick of the Houston Rockets, Parsons is averaging 16.5 points and 5.7 rebounds in his third season.
Wilbekin has made big shots throughout UF's 18-0 run, including a game-tying bank shot that sent the Gators to overtime in an 84-82 win at Arkansas and a 3-pointer in the closing minutes of UF's 67-58 win at Tennessee. Momentum for Wilbekin being named SEC player of the year began in the second week of February, when he averaged 22 points, 4 assists and 2.5 steals in back-to-back road wins over Tennessee and Kentucky.
“Just because I was scoring a lot of points, I mean, that tends to get people's attention, but I think that it's been the same thing for our team all year,” Wilbekin said. “Different games, different people are going to score points. But every game, everybody plays defense, so whoever scores the points is just a byproduct.”
USBWA honors Donovan, two Gators
Florida also received a handful of honors Tuesday from the United States Basketball Writers' Association. Donovan was named District 4 coach of the year, while Wilbekin and Prather were named to the 10-player all-district team.
District 4 is composed of players and coaches from the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi. Louisville guard Russ Smith was named district player of the year.