By LARRY VAUGHT
Southeastern Conference coaches and Associated Press media members agreed that Kentucky had the SEC’s best freshman player this year.
They just couldn’t agree on who it was — the coaches went with Keldon Johnson and the media members picked Tyler Herro.
Johnson is averaging a team-best 16.3 points per game on 52.3-percent shooting and 45.5 percent from 3-point range, in addition to 5.1 rebounds per game, in eight games against AP top 25 teams. Overall, Johnson is averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds and shooting 46.6 percent. Johnson is second on the team with 39 3-pointers.
Herro is averaging 14.2 points per game with a team-best 53 3-pointers and team-high 25 games in double figures going into Friday’s game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. He was one of only four players nationally to average least 15 points per game on the road and shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 35 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line.
Herro is the team’s second leading scorer and also has 33 steals. He’s averaging 4.5 rebounds per game and is shooting 93.9 percent at the foul line after making 60 of his last 61 attempts. Kyle Macy holds the all-time UK free-throw record at 91.2 percent in 1979-80 and Paul Smith of Mississippi State set the SEC mark of 92.7 percent in 1965.
Herro said he was “honored” to split the freshman awards with his roommate.
“I think both of us are deserving of Freshman of the Year,” Herro said Tuesday. “It was cool to see it, but obviously, we have bigger things on our mind, as a team and individually, so we’re just going to keep working and prepare for the next couple of weeks.”
Johnson said he felt he “put in the time to deserves an award” like this but also said it was “cool” to split with Herro.
“We work for this. We worked hard for it and just seeing it pay off is a big relief,” Johnson said.
Sophomore PJ Washington was named to the all-SEC first team — and probably was second to Tennessee’s Grant Williams in Player of the Year voting — and freshman Ashton Hagans was named Co-Defensive Player of the Year.
“I’m just happy to see that we got some recognition. It’s definitely exciting for all of our guys. We’re just happy to be able to play Friday against the winner of Ole Miss and Alabama,” Washington said.