March 7, 2007
BAND TOGETHER: Wear White Starting at SECs Friday
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SECsports.com Official Release
Southeastern Conference coaches handed out awards to three worthy Commodores Wednesday as senior Derrick Byars earned Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors and unanimous All-SEC First Team selection; fellow wing player junior Shan Foster earned All-SEC Second Team accolades; and head coach Kevin Stallings was named the SEC Coach of the Year.
Byars ranked as the league's second leading scorer during SEC play, averaging 19.1 points per game and was listed among the league leaders in seven other statistical categories. He helped lead Vanderbilt's (20-10, 10-6 SEC) run to second place in the SEC Eastern Division with several key performances throughout the conference season and posted several clutch performances against ranked opponents.
"It means a great deal to me that the coaching staffs at other schools in the league took notice of my performance," Byars said. "I owe a great deal of thanks to my teammates and coaches at Vanderbilt who have had confidence in me and have always been there to push me to be become a better player."
A two-time SEC Player of the Week award winner this season, Byars recorded his best week in a Vanderbilt uniform in mid-February when he netted a career-high 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting in the Commodores' 78-68 win over South Carolina on Feb. 14. Three days later he tied Foster for team-high honors with 24 points in Vanderbilt's 83-70 victory over then-No. 1 Florida on Feb. 17. Byars made 11-of-19 field goal attempts against the Gators while tying his career-high with eight assists and establishing a new personal best with five steals.
Byars, who is averaging 16.9 points and 5.1 rebounds this season, becomes the third Commodore chosen as the SEC Player of the Year by the league's coaches, joining
forward Dan Langhi in 2000 and center Will Perdue in 1988.
"I think he is the most deserving player in the league to win this award," Stallings said. "He has been remarkably consistent, played great in big games and really lifted our team to a different level. Those are the things that league players of the year do."
Foster is listed in five SEC statistical categories on the season, including scoring (seventh at 15.5 points per game), 3-pointers made (10th at 2.17), field goal shooting (12th at 45.1 percent) and 3-point shooting (12th at 35.1 percent). The Kenner, La. native has scored in double figures in 23 of Vanderbilt's 30 games, scoring 20 or more points nine times. Wednesday at South Carolina, Foster poured in a career-high 33 points on 11-of-21 shooting with five three pointers.
Foster, who earned First Team All-SEC honors from the league's coach last season and was named to the All-SEC Freshman team in 2005, is averaging 15.5 points, a career-high 4.8 rebounds and shooting 45.1 percent from the field this season.
Stallings earns his first SEC Coach of the Year award after overseeing Vanderbilt's remarkable turnaround season. Despite a 1-3 start and early season injury to junior center Alan Metcalfe, Stallings developed a game plan that focused around the Commodores' arsenal of 3-point shooters. As a result, Vanderbilt went on to post a school-record six regular season wins over ranked opponents; recorded its third 20-win season under Stallings in four years; and registered the school's most SEC victories (10) since the 1993 squad won the overall conference crown with a 14-2 league mark.
"One of the most rewarding things that can happen is when you are recognized by your peers," Stallings said. "It's a reflection on the work ethic of our coaching staff. I'm very thankful that my peers in the league thought we did a job that was worthy of this honor."
Stallings becomes the first Vanderbilt coach to earn SEC Coach of the Year honors since Eddie Fogler in 1993.
Having coached both Langhi and Byars during his eight-year tenure at Vanderbilt, Stallings joins Kentucky's Tubby Smith (Tayshaun Prince in 2001 and Keith Bogans in 2003) and LSU's John Brady (Brandon Bass in 2005 and Glen Davis in 2006) as the only active SEC coaches to tutor as many as two SEC Player of the Year recipients.
Only LSU (six) and Kentucky (five) have won more SEC Player of the Year award honors from the league's coaches than Vanderbilt (three) since the award's inception in 1987.