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|LSU takes top SEC honors|
LSU senior guard Marcus Thornton was named Tuesday as the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and his first-year LSU Coach Trent Johnson was named the Coach of the Year as the league revealed the voting for the coaches' SEC award winners.
LSU junior Tasmin Mitchell joined Thornton on the All-SEC first team, and Garrett Temple was a second-team pick. Temple and teammate Chris Johnson were also named to the league's All-Defensive Team.
Coaches voted on eight member teams for First Team All-SEC, Second Team All-SEC and for the SEC All-Freshman Team. They voted on a five-player squad for the SEC All-Defensive Team. They were not permitted to vote for their own players and ties were not broken.
Thornton was one of five unanimous selections for First-Team All-SEC. The senior from Baton Rouge, who transferred from junior college to LSU prior to the 2007-08 season, was second in the league in scoring for the second straight year, averaging 20.9 points per game.
It is the highest scoring average for an LSU player and the first to average 20 points in a season since Ronnie Henderson averaged 21.8 in 1996.
Thornton becomes the seventh LSU player to win Player of the Year in the league since 1968 and the 11th time an LSU player has captured the honor: Pete Maravich — '68, '69, '70; Chris Jackson — '89, '90; Shaquille O'Neal — '91, '92; Stromile Swift — 2000; Brandon Bass — '05; Glen Davis — '06; and, Marcus Thornton, '09.
Johnson, in earning the Coach of the Year honor, has now won coach honors in three different leagues (Western Athletic Conference, Pac-10 and SEC) and has earned the unique accomplishment of winning the honor back-to-back in two different leagues. He led the Tigers to their 10th league championship with a 13-3 record, winning the league title on Feb. 28 and finishing three games ahead of three-other teams. The Tigers are 25-6 overall and the only SEC team ranked in the nation's major Top 25 polls.
Mitchell, from Denham Springs, made a triumphant return to the LSU lineup in 2008-09 after being limited to just three games in the 2007-08 season. He was forced to take a medical redshirt after having surgery on a stress fracture in his left shin. But he returned as one of the difference makers for the LSU team, averaging 16.4 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Mitchell had 41 points in an important double-overtime win over Mississippi State that gave LSU control of the Western Division and then hit the game-winning three with 10 seconds left at Kentucky that gave LSU the outright SEC title.
Temple's second-team selection makes him the second Temple to earn All-SEC honors, joining his father, Collis Jr. who was a third-team selection in 1974. Temple in the final regular season game passed Howard Carter as the all-time leader in minutes played at LSU with 4,298 and that total will continue to rise as LSU plays out the post-season run. He is also in the top 10 all time in assists, steals and blocks and leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio.
But where Temple and Johnson earned their reputation is defensively and this year was no exception. Temple again got the call against some of the best scorers on LSU's schedules and held them in check. LSU's senior center, Johnson made the team after finishing second in blocked shot average at 2.7 blocks per game and his career total of 166 ranks second only to all-time leader Shaquille O'Neal. He was the LSU team leader in rebounds and had double figure rebounds in six SEC games.
Ole Miss' Terrico White took the SEC Freshman of the Year award and Alabama's Justin Knox earned SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors. Jarvis Varnado of Mississippi State was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year and South Carolina's Brandon Raley-Ross earned SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors.
Also Tuesday, the United States Basketball Writers Association announced its All-District selections and Thornton was named the Player of the Year for District 7 covering Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana and Trent Johnson was named the Coach of the Year. Thornton and Mitchell were also named to the All-District team.