Updated on Wednesday at 1:15 a.m.
The No. 1 Florida Gators cleaned up on Tuesday when the Southeastern Conference released its 2013-14 year-end awards as voted on by league coaches, earning five of the six honors and placing three players on various All-SEC teams.
SEC Coach of the Year: Billy Donovan
SEC Player of the Year: Scottie Wilbekin
SEC Defensive Player of the Year: Patric Young
SEC Sixth Man of the Year: Dorian Finney-Smith
SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Patric Young
Leading the pack were head coach Billy Donovan, who captured his third SEC Coach of the Year award (all in the last four seasons), and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who became just the second Florida player in the history of the award to win SEC Player of the Year.
Senior center Patric Young was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and picked up his third-straight SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor, while redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith was awarded SEC Sixth Man of the Year for his contributions off the bench.
It took Donovan 14 seasons to receive his first conference coaching honor despite winning two national championships (2006-07), coaching in three title games (2000, 2006-07) and leading his team to three-straight SEC Tournament victories (2005-07). Since winning his first SEC Coach of the Year award in 2011, he has dominated the voting with three in the last four seasons.
Donovan, who is four wins away from matching Dale Brown (LSU) for all-time wins at an SEC school, had help leading the Gators to their 29-2 (18-0 SEC) record while setting a number of school marks along the way.
Wilbekin has been a top-notch contributor for Florida since returning from his five-game suspension to start the season with the Gators only losing one game since he rejoined the team (a road loss to UConn in which he was injured and missed the final three minutes of the contest). His 12.9 points per game are a career-high and tied for second-most on UF’s squad, and he is widely considered the best on-ball defender in the league and one of the best in the nation.
“It feels good. I definitely couldn’t have done it without my teammates, Coach D believing in me, Jeremy Foley giving me a second chance, and all my teammates having faith in me, and obviously us doing as well as we did in the SEC being 18-0,” he said.
“I honestly didn’t think I would really get it for whatever reason, I don’t know. I was happy. My parents were really happy. I had a lot of people texting me. I’m just more happy for our team to see all of the other people who got awards on our team. I think it’s just a reflection of how good this team is and how good we’ve done in the regular season to see this many of us win awards. And obviously Coach D to get Coach of the Year just a reflection of what he’s done with us this year, keeping us all focused on our goals.”
He is the second Florida student-athlete to be named SEC Player of the Year with Chandler Parsons standing as the first after earning the honor in 2011.
— Chandler Parsons (@ChandlerParsons) March 11, 2014
Similarly, Young joined Corey Brewer (2006) as just the second Gators player to be named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. A huge post presence and a major part of Donovan’s defensive plans, Young alters shots and keeps the ball away from the basket, forcing teams to take lower-percentage attempts.
“I’m grateful that my teammates can play such terrible defense so I could pick up the slack…I heard Tyson Chandler say that when he won the award,” joked Young in a moment of brevity.
“It’s just a reflection of our coaches, their belief in me and how I’ve been able to be coachable and apply it onto the court, being able to just see what’s happening before it does, rotate properly. I think everyone on our team, it’s been a team effort. If there was an all-defensive team award, that’s something more that should be praised. We’ve played tremendous defense all year and hopefully we can keep that going.”
He remains just the third Florida player to win SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year – joining Lee Humphrey (2006-07) and Ray Shipman (2010) – but has now done so in three-straight seasons.
“I just really strived to maximize my opportunity of being here, being the best I can be at everything I do,” Young explained. Of course coming here I didn’t always see it that way. That’s something I’ve grown into, matured. Just trying to impact people, being a personable person, striving to be the best I can be on the court, off the court. Just trying to experience life because basketball is not everything.”
Like his teammates, Finney-Smith joins Chris Richard (2007) as the second UF player to be named SEC Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 9.4 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game while seeing starters minutes (25.5) off the bench). Though there have been struggles at times, he has been a difference-maker sorely needed by the Gators by using his length and athleticism to spell Florida’s starters.
“It means a lot,” said Finney-Smith of his honor, “but individual awards are just a reflection on the team’s success. I couldn’t do it with the other five guys. I just played my role. It just shows you how hard we work. It comes with the team success. Being a perfect 18-0, winning the SEC, it just reflects the hard work.”
Wilbekin and senior F Casey Prather were also named to the All-SEC First Team, while Young earned a second-team nod. Wilbekin and Young were also honored on the SEC All-Defensive Team for the second-straight season.
The only other individual award went to Kentucky’s Julius Randle as SEC Freshman of the Year. UF did not place any first-year players on the SEC All-Freshman team.
Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA Today