CHARLOTTE, N.C. – VMI senior forward Stan Okoye and Gardner-Webb head coach Chris Holtmann have been voted the 2012-13 Big South Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively, by the League's head coaches and media panel, it was announced Sunday afternoon by the Conference office. The panel voted High Point forward John Brown Freshman of the Year and VMI junior forward D.J. Covington as the League's Defensive Player of the Year. Liberty guard John Caleb Sanders was voted Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the League's Sports Information Directors.
Okoye (Raleigh, N.C.) is the first Keydet to voted the Conference's Men's Basketball Player of the Year since VMI joined the Big South in 2003-04. Okoye finished the regular-season as the League's scoring leader with 21.5 points and was tops in rebounding with 9.2, and could become just the fifth player in Big South history to lead both categories in the same season. He also on pace to be the fourth different Big South player to average 20.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in a campaign. Okoye amassed a League-high seven 30-point games in 2012-13 and scored in double-figures in 27 of his 29 appearances. He also had a Conference-best 12 games with at least 10 rebounds and finished the regular-season first with 11 double-doubles -- including five 30-point/10-rebound efforts. Okoye also ranked first in defensive rebounds (6.69), ninth in field goal percentage (45.7), ninth in offensive rebounds (2.52), 12th in assists (2.67) and 12th in steals (1.52). In Big South games, Okoye averaged a League-high 23.5 points and 9.6 rebounds. He also hauled in 7.06 defensive caroms against Conference members -- the only player above 6.00 per game. The Big South's Preseason Player of the Year, Okoye helped VMI led the Big South in overall scoring offense (78.2).
The only player in Big South history with 2,000 career points (2,103), 900 career rebounds (939) and 100 career blocked shots (101), Okoye received 17 first-place votes and 260 total points from the panel, ahead of Charleston Southern's Saah Nimley (three first-place votes and 222 points).
Holtmann earns his first Big South Men's Basketball Coach of the Year honor after leading the Runnin' Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the Big South's South Division with a 11-5 mark -- the squad's best Conference record since joining the League in 2008-09. Holtmann's club won a League-high 20 games overall in 2012-13 -- the program's most wins as a Division I member. The Runnin' Bulldogs won their final seven games of the season and finished 8-2 against South Division opponents this year. Picked to finish fifth in the South Division in the Big South preseason poll, Holtmann's team earned a first round bye in this week's VisitMyrtleBeach.com Big South Basketball Championship as the No. 2 South seed. The third-year head coach directed his club to a 7-win improvement from last season, as well as the top scoring defense in the Conference at 60.5 points allowed. Gardner-Webb is also the League leader in overall turnover margin (+2.32). In League games, GWU was first in turnover margin (+1.56), tied for first with a 37.1 three-point field goal percentage, and was second in both rebounding margin (+3.4) and rebounding defense (31.3). Holtmann received 16 first-place votes and 68 total points, ahead of Charleston Southern's Barclay Radebaugh (five first-place votes and 46 points) and High Point's Scott Cherry (six first-place votes and 39 points).
Brown (Jacksonville, Fla.) was the Big South's top scoring freshman during the regular-season at 16.4 points per game and he entered the final week of the regular-season as the nation's fifth-leading freshman scorer. He stands third in the Big South in field goal percentage (51.9), sixth in block shots (1.21), eighth in steals (1.71) and 13th in rebounding (6.1). Brown scored at least 20 points 12 times this season -- tied for third-most in the Big South and he registered double-figure points in 25 of his 28 games. He also notched four double-doubles -- three of which were 20-point/10-rebound performances. He scored a season-high 28 points with eight rebounds, five steals and three blocks in his collegiate debut against UNC Greensboro, then tallied 27 points with 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals at Wake Forest. In High Point's North Division-clinching win at VMI on Feb. 19, he scored 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting with nine rebounds. The second High Point player to be voted Big South Rookie/Freshman of the Year, Brown was a near unanimous selection as he received 26 of the 29 first-place votes cast and finished with 140 total points. Longwood forward Michael Kessens was runner-up with 100 points and received two first-place nods.
Covington (Virginia Beach, Va.) averaged 3.03 blocked shots during the regular-season as he recorded a career-high 88 blocks in 29 games this season. After an injury-plagued sophomore season in 2011-12, Covington posted a blocked shot in every contest this year and had 11 games with at least four -- including a season-high seven at Old Dominion and at Liberty. Covington also grabbed 7.2 rebounds this season to rank sixth in the League and contributed 1.2 steals per game. In Conference action, Covington blocked 52 shots for a 3.25 per game average and was fourth in the League with 8.1 rebounds. The second VMI player to be voted the Big South's Defensive Player of the Year since the award began in 2005-06, Covington received 19 first-place votes and 43 total points, ahead of Radford's Javonte Green (five first-place votes and 19 points).
Sanders (Sugar Land, Texas) is a 3.40 student in business management. He appeared in 31 contests, including 27 starts this season, and leads the Flames with 13.8 points and 107 assists. Sanders ranks ninth in the Big South with a 75.7 free throw percentage while his points per game average is 16th among the League leaders.
Joining Okoye on the All-Conference First-Team are Nimley, Brown, Coastal Carolina's Anthony Raffa and UNC Asheville's Jeremy Atkinson. Brown is the first freshman to be named First-Team All-Conference since Coastal Carolina's Tony Dunkin in 1989-90 and just the second in Big South history. The entire 2012-13 All-Conference team is as follows:
2012-13 MEN'S BASKETBALL ALL-CONFERENCE
Stan Okoye, F, Sr., VMI
Saah Nimley, G, Soph., Charleston Southern
Anthony Raffa, G, R-Sr., Coastal Carolina
John Brown, F, R-Fr., High Point
Jeremy Atkinson, F., Sr., UNC Asheville
Allan Chaney, F, Gr., High Point
Tashan Newsome, G, R-Sr., Gardner-Webb
Trey Freeman, G, Soph., Campbell
Javonte Green, F, Soph., Radford
Arlon Harper, G, Soph., Charleston Southern
John Brown, F, High Point
Michael Kessens, F, Longwood
Will Weeks, F, UNC Asheville
Adam Weary, G, High Point
Rashun Davis, G, Radford
Darren White, F, Sr., Campbell
Paul Gombwer, F, Soph., Charleston Southern
Tyler Strange, G, Soph., Gardner-Webb
John Caleb Sanders, G, Jr., Liberty
Stephen Shockley, G, Sr., Longwood
Kyle Noreen, F, Soph., Radford
Keith Hornsby, G, Soph., UNC Asheville
Stan Okoye, F, Sr., VMI
Derrick Henry, G, Soph., Winthrop
Player of the Year
Stan Okoye, F, Sr., VMI
Freshman of the Year
John Brown, F, High Point
Defensive Player of the Year
D.J. Covington, F, Jr., VMI
Coach of the Year
Chris Holtmann, Gardner-Webb
Scholar-Athlete of the Year
John Calen Sanders, G, Jr., Liberty