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March 12, 2013

KCP is SEC's top dog



To anyone who's been around Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Georgia sophomore is clearly someone who isn't comfortable talking about himself - even when the subject is about him being voted the SEC Player of the Year by the league coaches.

"I'm shocked that I won," said Caldwell-Pope Tuesday morning. "There were a lot of great players on the court … I'm shocked that I won."

Head coach Mark Fox wasn't surprised.

"He's had a tremendous year. I did not vote because they don't let you vote for your own players, but I would have voted for him for the season he's had," Fox said. "To be recognized by the league coaches is the highest compliment one can receive and I'm extremely proud of him for earning this award."

Caldwell-Pope becomes the Georgia player to win the Coaches' POY award since its official inception in the 1986-87 season. He's just the second Bulldog to win any SEC Player-of-the-Year trophy since wire services began naming recipients in 1965. Dominique Wilkins won the award in 1981, also as a sophomore, as given by the Associated Press and United Press International.

"It's just a great feeling," Caldwell-Pope said. "It's just great."

It's easy to see why the former McDonald's All-American earned the honor for the Bulldogs, who open play in the SEC Tournament Thursday in Nashville at 1 p.m. against LSU.

He currently leads the Bulldogs and ranks second in the SEC in scoring at 18.0 points per game. He also among the SEC leaders in nine of the 13 categories for which individual statistics are kept. He has led Georgia in scoring in 28 of 31 regular-season games, and in rebounding in 15 games. He is one of just nine players in all of NCAA Division I to have scored in double figures in each of his team's games.

The question now, is Caldwell-Pope in the process of playing his final games in a Bulldog uniform?

Although most NBA draft experts don't consider Caldwell-Pope a lottery pick, most figure him to go in the late first round should he decide to leave Georgia a year early, ala Tray Thompkins and Travis Leslie two years ago.

Once again, Caldwell-Pope wasn't in a talking mood when asked about it Tuesday.

"I'm just not going to worry about that right now," he said. "We've got the SEC Tournament. That's all on my mind right now."

Once the season is over, Caldwell-Pope conceded he will explore his options.

Fox said he'll make sure his star players gets the correct information.

"I'll say this. This is Kentavious' life and career we're talking about. I take that very seriously and I'll make sure that Kentavious gets accurate information from the right sources," Fox said. "He's been very focused this season. We've had conversations about this for the past year and he knows that I will get him that information and we will discuss it at the right time. It's not something that has to be done anytime soon and he's aware of that. Right now he's just trying to play basketball. When the time comes, we'll have that conversation."

From a numbers standpoint, Caldwell-Pope has proven himself a clutch performer.

In the last five minutes of SEC games this season, he averaged 5.4 points (projects to 43.2 points over a 40-minute game), shooting 65 percent from the field, 63 percent from 3-point range and 83 percent from the free-throw line. He scored 31 percent of his total of 332 points in SEC play during the last five minutes.

But according to Caldwell-Pope, there's still room to improve.

"I need to keep working on being more consistent on the offensive and defensive end," he said. "I still need to work on my ball skills and passing. There's still a lot I have to work on to get better."

NOTES: Charles Mann, a 6-4 guard from Alpharetta, was voted to the SEC All-Freshman Team by the league coaches. Mann has started at point guard in eight of Georgia's 31 games this season and leads the Bulldogs in assists with 87, while averaging 6.5 points per game. … The Bulldogs leave for Nashville later today, before a Wednesday practice session leading up to Thursday's 1 p.m. game.



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