Following an unprecedented undefeated regular season and the 46th Southeastern Conference championship in program history, the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats captured numerous All-Conference honors on Tuesday.
John Calipari was tabbed the SEC Coach of the Year, Willie Cauley-Stein hauled in Defensive Player of the Year honors, Devin Booker was named the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year and Karl-Anthony Towns continued UK’s reign on SEC Freshman of the Year accolades. The league’s coaches’ voted on the award winners.
Cauley-Stein and Towns garnered First Team All-SEC honors, while Booker and Aaron Harrison were named to the league’s Second Team. Booker and Towns were joined by classmates Trey Lyles and Tyler Ulis on the All-SEC Freshman Team, while Cauley-Stein earned his second career All-Defensive Team honor.
Calipari was named the league’s Coach of the Year after directing the Wildcats to a perfect 31-0 overall record and an 18-0 mark in league competition. It’s the third time he’s earned SEC Coach of the Year honors and, dating back to his time at UMass and Memphis, the eighth time in his career he been tabbed his league’s top coach. Calipari directed one of the nation’s most prolific defensive units that led the country in scoring margin (plus-21.9) and defensive field-goal percentage (.351). A balanced offensive squad also featured seven players averaging between 11.2 and 6.9 points per game.
Cauley-Stein became the third player under Calipari’s direction to earn the Defensive Player of the Year honor. Anthony Davis (2012) and Nerlens Noel (2013) were the previous Wildcats to earn the accolade. Cauley-Stein led the Wildcats with 44 steals and ranked second with 49 blocks. A multi-dimensional defensive performer, Cauley-Stein consistently provided matchup problems for opponents with his ability to guard all five positions. Earlier this season, the Olathe, Kan., native became the first player in UK history to total 200 career blocks and 100 career steals. His All-Defensive Team honor is the second of his career after earning a spot on the squad during his freshman campaign. It is the first time in his career he has earned All-SEC recognition.
Towns is the sixth consecutive Wildcat to earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors by the league’s coaches, joining John Wall (2010), Terrence Jones (2011), Anthony Davis (2012), Nerlens Noel (2013) and Julius Randle (2014) as the other award winners. The Piscataway, N.J., native leads the Wildcats with six double-doubles on the season. He ranks among league and national leaders in rebounds per game (6.6) and free-throw percentage (.790). He concluded the regular season averaging 9.7 points per game while shooting 55.8 percent from the field. He paces the nation’s second-leading shot blocking unit with 74 rejections on the year. Towns is the ninth freshman to earn first-team All-SEC honors during Calipari’s tenure.
Booker becomes the third Calipari-coached player to earn the SEC Sixth Man of the Year distinction. Darius Miller (2012) and Kyle Wiltjer (2013) were previous winners. Booker came off the bench in all 30 contests he appeared in this season. He averages 10.9 points per game to rank second on the team. He has sunk a team-leading 51 3-point field goals this season and is shooting at a squad-best 43.6 percent from behind the arc. He’s reached double-figure scoring in 17 games this season, one shy of Aaron Harrison’s team-leading 18 games.
Booker is joined on the All-SEC Second Team by Aaron Harrison. Harrison is UK’s leading scorer at 11.2 points per game, while reaching double-figure scoring in 18 games this season. It is the first All-SEC honor of Harrison’s career.
UK has tied its record with four players represented on the All-Freshman Team. Booker and Towns were joined by Lyles and Ulis. The four players have combined to win all 11 SEC weekly honors this season. Booker hauled in five honors, Towns four, Lyles two and Ulis one. The four selections matches the 2013 season that saw Cauley-Stein, Archie Goodwin, Noel and Alex Poythress honored. Eighteen total players have garnered All-Freshman Team honors during Calipari’s tenure.
Kentucky will begin postseason competition on Friday at 1 p.m. ET in the SEC Tournament. UK is set to take on the winner of the Alabama/Florida game in Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The game will air live on the SEC Network with the winner advancing to the semifinals on Saturday.