Auburn, Alabama players named to All-SEC Teams
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl, freshman forward Jabari Smith and sophomore center Walker Kessler were honored as the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, in a vote by the league’s head coaches released on Tuesday.
Pearl became the first men’s basketball or football coach in conference history to lead two SEC schools to a No. 1 national ranking (Tennessee in 2008 and Auburn in 2022). He also led the Tigers to a program-record 15 conference regular-season wins, an outright SEC regular-season championship title (first since 1999), a 19-game win streak, the program’s third all-time No. 1 SEC Tournament seed, an undefeated 16-0 season on their home court at Neville Arena and their fourth 25+ win season in the last five years.
He is the sixth Auburn men’s basketball coach on eight occasions to win the award next to legends Joel Eaves (1960), Bob Davis (1975), Sonny Smith (1984 and 1988), Tommy Joe Eagles (1990) and Cliff Ellis (1995 and 1999). Pearl is currently on the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year Watch List.
This is Pearl’s third career honor as SEC Coach of the Year next to 2006 and 2008, while he was the head coach at Tennessee. Additionally, it is his eighth Coach of the Year award as he was named twice as Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) Coach of the Year during his time as the head coach at NCAA Division II Southern Indiana in 1993 and 1994 and three times as Horizon League Coach of the Year as the head coach at Milwaukee in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Smith, a 6-foot-10 freshman from Fayetteville, Ga., and Kessler, a 7-foot-1 sophomore from Newnan, Ga., made history as the first Auburn players in program history to win SEC Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year respectively. They were both named to the All-SEC First Team.
One of the top projected lottery picks in this year’s NBA Draft, Smith turned in an impressive rookie campaign garnering SEC Freshman of the Week honors six times (the most of any Tiger all-time), while averaging a team-leading 17.1 points per game and shooting 43.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc this season.
With those numbers, he earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team – the third-straight Auburn freshman player to be tabbed one of the league’s top rookies along with Isaac Okoro in 2020 and Sharife Cooper in 2021. Both went on to play in the NBA.
Smith also became the first Auburn player since 1999 to earn a spot on an All-America Team as The Sporting News selected him to its All-America Second Team on Monday. He is also a national finalist for the John R. Wooden Award and Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award
The program’s single-season record holder in blocked shots (140), Kessler had an equally impressive year as part of the nation’s top front court duo from Auburn. He currently is the NCAA Division I and SEC leader in blocked shots averaging 4.5 a game. He also leads the team in rebounding (8.2 rpg) and is fourth in steals (33).
Kessler was honored on the SEC All-Defensive Team alongside Keon Ellis of Alabama, Jaylin Williams of Arkansas, Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky and Zakai Zeigler of Tennessee. This season, the big man became the second-ever Tiger to record a triple-double since Kenny Gabriel in 2012 and has two on the season which ranks second-most in SEC history.
He is a national finalist for the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Southeastern Conference announced the league’s 2022 men’s basketball postseason honors Tuesday, as Jaden Shackelford led four Alabama players who picked up league recognition. Shackelford earned second team honors for a second consecutive year, while JD Davison and Charles Bediako were voted to the all-freshman team. Senior Keon Ellis also earned a spot on the SEC All-Defensive Team.
It’s the third straight year that Alabama has had four different players earn All-SEC honors in the same year. In addition, it marks the sixth consecutive season a Tide rookie earned a spot on the all-freshman team, joining Joshua Primo (2021), Jaden Shackelford (2020), Kira Lewis Jr. (2019), Collin Sexton (2018) and Braxton Key (2017).
Meanwhile, Ellis represents Alabama as one of the SEC’s top defenders as a UA player picked up the honor for the fifth straight year after Donta Hall (2018, 2019) and Herbert Jones (2020, 2021) were each honored in back-to-back seasons, with Jones also earned the program’s lone SEC Defensive Player of the Year last season.
JADEN SHACKELFORD – SECOND TEAM
Picks up second team all-conference honors for the second straight year and third straight year receiving recognition after being named all-freshman team in his rookie campaign
Earned SEC Player of the Week and NCAA National Player of the Week for Dec. 6 after defeating then-No. 3 Gonzaga
Tops the Crimson Tide with 16.6 points per game, which ranks seventh in the SEC
Leads Alabama in threes attempted (262), minutes (34.0 mpg) and 20-point scoring games (10), while ranking second on the team in rebounds (168) and threes made (93)
Surpassed 1,000 career points in a 20-point effort against. Oakland, becoming the 53rd player in Alabama history to reach the milestone
Scored a career-high 30 points with a career-high tying eight three-pointers in the Tide’s win against Ole Miss, shooting 8-of-13 from beyond the arc
JD DAVISON – ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
Two-time SEC Freshman of the Week, picking up the honor for the weeks of Dec. 6 and Feb. 14
In 31 contests, the Letohatchee, Ala., native started five games, ranking second on the team in assists (126) and steals (29), while third on the team in rebounds (147)
Scored a career-high 20 points in the Tide’s win over then-No. 3 Gonzaga, also adding five rebounds and three assists
Recorded first career double-double against Miami at the ESPN Events Invitational with 13 points, 10 assists and six rebounds
Also had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the win at Vanderbilt
CHARLES BEDIAKO – ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
Leads the team in blocks (51) while sitting third in the SEC with 1.6 blocks per game
Tops the Crimson Tide in field goal percentage, making 69.1 percent of his shots’ and dunks (38)
Led the Tide in scoring and rebounding against then No.5 Kentucky, matching his career high in both points with 12 and rebounds with eight
Recorded a career-high six blocks in the Tide’s win over then-No. 3 Gonzaga, while also adding eight rebounds – the first Tide player to swat 5+ shots in a game since Donta Hall
KEON ELLIS – ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM
Continues to showcase his defensive prowess earning 1.9 steals per game, good for seventh in the SEC
Considered one of the top two-way players in the nation
Ranks seventh in the SEC in steals (1.9 spg) and 13th in rebounding (6.0 rpg), while also averaging 12.1 ppg
He’s stepped up his play on defense in league action, recording 2.3 steals per game in league action
For the year, he tops the team in total +/- numbers (+99) and ranks sixth in the conference with an average of +9.9 per 40 minutes
Ranks 27th in the nation and leads the SEC in free throw percentage (88.5%), while topping the team in rebounds (185), and three-point percentage (36.4%)
Sixth-seeded Alabama competes Thursday night when it takes on the winner of No. 11 seed Vanderbilt and No.14 seed Georgia in the 2022 SEC Tournament. The game will tip off 25 minutes after Game 5 (5 p.m. CT/6 p.m. ET) and will be televised on SEC Network.