Big South Announces 2010-11 Men's Basketball Award Winners

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (www.BigSouthSports.com) - Liberty junior point guard Jesse Sanders and Flames head coach Dale Layer have been voted the 2010-11 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 Monday morning by the Conference office.  The panel voted VMI forward/center D.J. Covington Freshman of the Year and Charleston Southern junior forward Kelvin Martin as the League's Defensive Player of the Year.  Presbyterian College redshirt-senior forward Walt Allen was voted Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the League's Sports Information Directors.

Sanders (Sugar Land, Texas) is the first Liberty player to be voted the Conference's Men's Basketball Player of the Year.  Sanders led the Big South during the regular-season in assists, handing out a League-high 177 and averaging 5.7 per game.  He also was 11th in rebounding at 6.0 per contest and spent a majority of the season as one of two players in the nation to average at least 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists.  Sanders averaged 11.2 points in 31 games played, was eighth in the Conference in average minutes (32.45) and was fourth in assist-turnover ratio (1.88).  In Big South games, he increased his averages in nearly every category to help the Flames finish second in the Conference standings - the program's highest finish since 2004-05.  Sanders ranked 10th in Conference games with 13.7 points a night, in addition to averaging 6.2 rebounds (11th), and was tops in assists per game (5.6).  He was among the League leaders in free throw percentage (77.2 percent, 9th) and offensive rebounds (2.67 - 6th) as well.

The first player in Big South history with 500 career rebounds and 400 career assists, Sanders had eight games this season with at least eight rebounds and 14 games with at least seven assists.  He recorded three double-doubles during the 2010-11 campaign as well as his Big South-record third career triple-double Jan. 6 against Charleston Southern.  Sanders paced the Flames with 19 points in a road win at Gardner-Webb on Dec. 31, including two crucial free throws to send the contest into overtime, followed by a game-winning jumper in the final four seconds.  He also led Liberty with 16 points and hit a key three-pointer in the final 1:30 to give the Flames a 59-55 victory at UNC Asheville on Jan. 2.  Sanders posted 21 and 20 points, respectively, in games against VMI (Jan. 20) and UNC Asheville (Jan. 27), and he led the Flames with 19 tallies at Winthrop (Feb. 24).  Sanders received five first-place votes and 192 total points from the panel, ahead of VMI's Austin Kenon (six first-place votes and 164 points) and Coastal Carolina's Chad Gray (six first-place votes and 161 total points).

Layer is the first Liberty head coach to be named Big South Men's Basketball Coach of the Year.  He guided the Flames to a program-record 13 Big South wins and second-place finish in the Conference standings - the team's highest since the 2004-05 season.  Liberty, predicted to finish sixth in the preseason poll, finished 19-12 in the regular-season and received votes in the Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 polls in eight of the last nine weeks.  Just the second head coach in Big South history to win 10 Conference games in his first two years with his new team, Layer's 2010-11 squad ranks first in the League in three-point field goal defense at 31.7 percent, as well as second in scoring defense at 65.6 points allowed.  The Flames are second in the Big South in overall rebounding, including rebounding margin (+6.1), and are tops in offensive rebounds for both overall (14.00) and Conference games (13.28).  Liberty's +6.4 rebounding margin in Big South contests led the League.  Layer, who won his 300th career game as a collegiate head coach on Jan. 27 with the Flames' 83-81 overtime win over UNC Asheville, received 13 first-place votes and 50 total points, ahead of UNC Asheville's Eddie Biedenbach (two first-place votes and 31 points) and VMI's Duggar Baucom (three first-place votes and 28 total points).

Covington (Virginia Beach, Va.) is VMI's first-ever Big South Freshman of the Year.  He leads the Big South in blocked shots (56) and blocks per game (2.43) despite missing six games earlier this season due to injury.  Just the seventh freshman (true or redshirt) in Big South history to block at least 50 shots, Covington concluded his first season as the Conference's Freshman of the Week the last three weeks.  Overall, he averaged 9.5 points and 5.6 rebounds, and made 61.6 percent of his field goal attempts (93-of-151).  In 17 Big South games, Covington tied for first in the League with 1.94 blocked shots per game, averaged 9.4 points and 5.4 rebounds, and upped his field goal shooting to 63.6 percent (70-of-110).  He had four games with at least five blocked shots this season, including a school-record nine against Southern Virginia on Nov. 23, and his 56 blocked shots already rank fifth all-time on the VMI single-season list.  VMI is 7-3 with Covington as a starter, and he averaged 13.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and was 36-of-59 from the field ( =61.0 percent) in his final six games of the season, helping the Keydets to a 5-1 record in that span.  Covington received 14 first-place votes and 100 total points, ahead of Charleston Southern's Sheldon Strickland (one first-place vote and 72 points) and Gardner-Webb's Luke Davis (four first-place votes and 63 points).

Martin (Adel, Ga.) is the first Charleston Southern player to be named Defensive Player of the Year in the award's six-year history.  He ranks second in the Big South with 8.9 rebounds per game (overall and Conference), and his average of 5.2 defensive rebounds per game is fifth-highest in the League.  Last season's steals leader, Martin amassed 55 steals in 2010-11 and averaged 1.9 steals per game to rank fourth in the Big South.  He led the Buccaneers in steals in 13 games, including 10 games with at least three, and was CSU's top rebounder 19 times, which featured 11 double-figure efforts.  Martin had a season-high 10 defensive rebounds (15 total) against High Point on Dec. 31, as well as a season-high five steals vs. Georgia on Dec. 28.  He also is among the League leaders in blocked shots and blocks per game, and is on his way to joining the Big South's 700-rebound, 200-steal club.  Martin received six first-place votes and 22 total points, edging Coastal Carolina's Sam McLaurin (seven first-place votes and 19 points).

Allen (London, Ky.) is a 3.8 student in Education.  A three-time member of the Big South's All-Academic Team, he is currently student teaching this semester and will graduate in May.  During his career, Allen has been named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) annual Honor's Court twice for his work in the classroom, and was named to the Division I Academic All-Independent Team as a sophomore.  He averaged 7.2 points and 4.1 rebounds in his final season of 2010-11, and capped his playing career this past week with career-highs of 19 points and 15 rebounds against VMI on Feb. 24, and a team-high 18 points in PC's season finale win over Liberty on Feb. 26.

Joining Sanders on the All-Conference First-team are VMI's Austin Kenon, Coastal Carolina's Chad Gray, Charleston Southern's Jamarco Warren, and UNC Asheville's Matt Dickey.  The entire 2010-11 All-Conference team is as follows:

First-Team All-Conference
Jesse Sanders, G, Jr., Liberty
Austin Kenon, G, Sr., VMI
Chad Gray, F, Sr., Coastal Carolina
Jamarco Warren, G, Sr., Charleston Southern
Matt Dickey, G, Jr., UNC Asheville

Second-Team All-Conference
Nick Barbour, G, Jr., High Point
Kelvin Martin, F, Jr., Charleston Southern
John Brown, F, R-Jr., Liberty
J.P. Primm, G, Jr., UNC Asheville
Evan Gordon, G, Soph., Liberty

All-Freshman Team
D.J. Covington, F/C, VMI
Sheldon Strickland, G, Charleston Southern
Luke Davis, G, Gardner-Webb
Rodney Glasgow, G, VMI
Jareal Smith, G, Radford

All-Academic Team
Sam McLaurin, F, R-Soph., Coastal Carolina
Jon Moore, G, Sr., Gardner-Webb
David Campbell, G, Sr., High Point
Jeremy Anderson, G, R-Jr., Liberty
Walt Allen, F, R-Sr., Presbyterian College
Evan Faulkner, G, Soph., Radford
Matt Dickey, G, Jr., UNC Asheville

Player of the Year
Jesse Sanders, G, Jr., Liberty

Freshman of the Year
D.J. Covington, F/C, VMI

Defensive Player of the Year
Kelvin Martin, F, Jr., Charleston Southern

Coach of the Year
Dale Layer, Liberty

Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Walt Allen, F, R-Sr., Presbyterian College