BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In
exclusive voting by the head coaches of the Southern Collegiate
Athletic Conference (SCAC), senior forward Greg Ross of Centre
College was selected as SCAC Men’s Basketball
Player-of-the-Year, while Birmingham-Southern College head coach
Chris Graves was named the league’s Coach-of-the-Year.
First-year forward Chris Lesnansky of Colorado College was selected
as the league’s Newcomer-of-the-Year and junior point guard
Blaise White of Birmingham-Southern was named the SCAC Defensive
Player-of-the-Year. Complete Release
Despite dealing with double-teams for much of the season, Ross is currently second the league in scoring at 16.5 points per game and leads the SCAC in rebounding with 8.0 boards per game. The senior also leads the SCAC in free throw percentage at 86.7 percent (111-128) and is sixth in field goal percentage at 52.2 percent (141-270). He has recorded six double-doubles this season and has led Centre in scoring 11 times and rebounding 13 times. In a signature win over sixth-ranked Cabrini College, Ross hit a free throw with no time left to send the game into overtime, then hit two more free throws with no time left in the overtime period to win the game.
A three-time SCAC Player-of-the-Week selection during the season, Ross received four Player-of-the-Year votes in perhaps the closest balloting ever for the league’s highest honor. Rhodes College’s Andrew Galow also received four votes while Zac Richards of Birmingham-Southern picked up three first-place votes. Colorado College’s Ryan Milne, who finished second overall in the POTY balloting, received the remaining first-place vote.
Chris Graves, in his first season as the Panthers’ head coach, has led his team to a 24-1 overall mark (15-1 in the SCAC) and a current national ranking of ninth – the highest national ranking for a SCAC men’s team since Trinity University reached No. 8 in Jan. 26, 2009. Graves served as an assistant at Birmingham-Southern for three years prior to taking over as head coach, during which time the Panthers started their current 42-game home winning streak (heading into this weekend’s SCAC tournament).
The first men’s basketball coach in his inaugural head coaching season to win SCAC Coach-of-the-Year, Graves received six votes from his peers for the award. Pat Cunningham of Trinity, Mike DeGeorge of Rhodes and Bubba Smith of Sewanee-The University of the South received two votes each.
Colorado College’s Lesnansky has started all 24 games in his rookie campaign, averaging 11.5 points (20th in the SCAC) and 6.3 rebounds (eight in the SCAC) per game – tops in both categories among the league’s first-year players. He led the team in scoring five times, shot a team-best 44.6 percent from the floor and recorded his two double-doubles in the team’s last four regular season contests. He is the second consecutive Colorado College men’s player to earn the league’s Newcomer-of-the-Year honor – following teammate Ryan Milne.
Lesnansky garnered seven votes in the league’s Newcomer-of-the-Year award balloting, surpassing the four votes received by Josh Karsner of Centre College. Aaron Wyatt of the University of Dallas received the remaining vote.
Heading into this weekend’s conference tournament, Birmingham-Southern leads the SCAC in steals and turnover margin, largely due to the play of point guard Blaise White, who was selected the league’s Defensive Player-of-the-Year. One of the best on-ball defenders in the league, White leads the league in steals (54) and steals per game (2.2). The heady junior also has 95 assists while committing just 42 turnovers – posting a league-best 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio during the regular season for the Panthers. His 3.8 assists per game is good for fourth in the SCAC.
White picked up five first-place votes for Defensive Player-of-the-Year while Jeff Mullaney of Centre received three votes and Ryan Beall of Trinity earned two votes. Ammon Martin of Hendrix and Ransom Okpala of Austin College each received one vote.
For the complete release, click here.