BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After winning the Southeastern Conference regular-season crown by three games, the Kentucky men’s basketball team headlined the league’s end-of-the-season awards with Immanuel Quickley winning SEC Player of the Year and John Calipari earning SEC Coach of the Year distinction, as picked by the league’s coaches.
Four Kentucky players and Calipari were decorated with SEC honors following a 26-5 regular season that included a 15-3 league record, an 8-2 record on the road and a top-10 national ranking.
Quickley was joined on the All-SEC First Team by Nick Richards while freshman guard Tyrese Maxey made the All-SEC Second Team. Maxey was also tabbed to the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Ashton Hagans, the 2019 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, made the SEC All-Defensive Team for a second consecutive season. Richards joined him on the five-man team.
With four players and a coach totaling eight SEC honors, UK won more league awards than any other school.
All 14 conference head coaches voted on the league’s All-SEC squads. Ties were not broken
Quickley and Richards were joined on the nine-man All-SEC First Team by Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama), Mason Jones (Arkansas), Samir Doughty (Auburn), Keyontae Johnson (Florida), Skylar Mays (LSU), Breein Tyree (Ole Miss) and Reggie Perry (Mississippi State).
Maxey was a member of the eight-man All-SEC Second Team, which included John Petty Jr. (Alabama), Isaac Okoro (Auburn), Kerry Blackshear Jr. (Florida), Anthony Edwards (Georgia), Maik Kotsar (South Carolina), John Fulkerson (Tennessee) and Saban Lee (Vanderbilt).
A list of the conference’s SEC awards is below.
Quickley is the ninth players in school history to win the coaches’ SEC Player of the Year award and the fifth in 11 seasons under Calipari, who captured his fourth SEC Coach of the Year award at Kentucky. It’s Calipari’s 10th season in 28 years as a college head coach he’s won conference coach of the year honors.
With three Wildcats on the coaches’ All-SEC teams, Calipari has now coached 28 players (29 total honors) who have earned All-SEC first or second team accolades. At least one player has been named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in each of Calipari’s 11 seasons, including 27 total.
Nine players have earned 11 SEC All-Defensive honors under Calipari’s watch.
Nate Sestina was named to the SEC Community Service Team last week for his exemplary service in the community.
Quickley has scored in double figures in 26 of the 30 games he’s played and topped the 20-point plateau in eight. Overall, he’s averaging a team-high 16.1 points per game and proven to be Kentucky’s best scorer and go-to option down the stretch. He’s made a team-high 62 3-pointers — including making a 3 in 28 of 30 games he’s played, including 11 straight — and shooting a team-high 42.8% from behind the arc after a slow start.
The sophomore is on a career-best 20-game double-figure scoring streak, the best run since Malik Monk scored in double figures in 30 straight games during the 2016-17 season. During the 20-game stretch, Quickley has scored 20 or more points eight times and made three or more 3-pointers seven times, including a career-high eight at Texas A&M.
Quickley won SEC Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks in late February/early March, becoming the first Wildcat in school history to win SEC Player of the Week consecutively (dating back to the 1984-85 season). He’s won three times total this season.
During the 20-game stretch of scoring in double figures, Quickley is averaging 18.6 points to go along with 4.6 rebounds per game and 50 3-pointers while shooting 47.2% from long range. He poured in a career-high 30 points at Texas A&M and sunk a career-best eight 3-pointers to become the first UK player with 30 or more points since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 on Jan. 30, 2018, vs. Vanderbilt. He’s also the first player with back-to-back 25-plus-point games since Monk from Feb. 25-28, 2017. The eight 3s tied Monk, Jamal Murray and Eric Bledsoe for the most 3-pointers in a game during the Calipari era.
What those stats don’t fully reveal is just how clutch Quickley has been. He’s become Kentucky’s go-to scorer late in games, breaking the will of more than a handful of opponents with daggers from beyond the arc and clutch free throws.
Two of the best examples were at LSU and at home vs. Florida. He scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the second half in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which included making all five field-goal attempts and dishing a pair of assists. At home vs. Florida, he scored 22 points in the second half, including 20 of Kentucky’s 28 points when the Wildcats fell behind 40-33. He finished with a game-high 26 points vs. the Gators.
Over the course of UK’s eight-game winning streak in February, in the second half alone, Quickley averaged 14.9 points, shot 56.4% from the field, 57.7% from 3-point range and 93.3% from the charity stripe.
Quickley is currently making 92.3% at the line, just behind Tyler Herro’s school record set a season ago of 93.5%. He’s ranked first in the SEC (through games on March 7) and third in the nation in the category and has enjoyed four different stretches of 17 or more consecutive makes (with a high of 24 straight). He’s missed more than one free throw in a game just once this season. Further illustrating his cool, calm, clutch demeanor, Quickley is 30 of 31 at the free-throw line this season when it’s a two-possession game at any point with 3:00 or less to go or the game is in overtime.
Mirroring his even-keel approach, Quickley was Kentucky’s most consistent performer in hostile territory. He averaged a team-best 19.1 points in addition to 4.8 rebounds and 29 3-pointers (on 59.2% shooting) in UK’s 10 true road games.
Richards is not only enjoying the most productive season of his career, he’s producing one of college basketball’s best stories of the season.
After averaging 4.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over 13.4 minutes a game in the first two seasons of his career, he leads the team in rebounding (7.8 per game), blocks (2.1 per game) and double-doubles (10) to go along with a conference-high .644 field-goal percentage and 14.0 points per game. His field-goal percentage mark is also good for fourth in the nation, through games on March 7.
The centerpiece of a frontline that entered the season with questions about its depth and talent after losing PJ Washington and Reid Travis to the pros, Richards has squashed any and all concerns about his ability to produce. Case in point: Richards is one of four players in the country and one of only two Power 5 big men averaging at least 13.5 points per game, at least 7.5 rebounds and at least 2.0 blocks while shooting at least 60.0% from the floor. He’s in the 98th percentile of offensive efficiency in the Synergy national rankings and in the 88th percentile on defense.
Twice Richards has won SEC Player of the Week and he won two national player of the week awards during the regular season.
Richards played well early in the season, but his meteoric rise began vs. Louisville and continued into the conference season. Despite impressive early numbers, Richards had yet to fully break through vs. consistent, upper-level competition. Against Louisville’s front line, one of the best in the country, Richards delivered. The 6-foot-11 big man secured a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, the majority of his production coming in the latter stages of the game with four fouls.
Other noteworthy performances include a 27-point, 11-rebound game vs. Mississippi State, featuring 25 points in the second half. At Texas Tech, he recorded 25 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, becoming just the second Wildcat in the Calipari era with such a stat line. National Player of the Year Anthony Davis did it in 2012.
Richards also leads the Wildcats with 66 blocks, including 18 games with multiple rejections.
As Richards goes, so does UK. Kentucky is 22-2 this season when he scores in double figures, 10-0 when he grabs double-digit rebounds and 7-1 when he blocks at least four shots.
Maxey has shown a penchant for playing his best on the game’s biggest stage. Highlighted by a career-high 27-point performance in the victory over No. 3/4 Louisville, Maxey is averaging a team-high 19.0 points to go along with 5.3 rebounds in UK’s six games vs. Associated Press Top 25 foes. In true road games, Maxey ranked second on the team with an average of 14.4 points. He also added 4.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.0 blocks per game in hostile territory.
Maxey’s 26 points in the 1-2 matchup vs. Michigan State topped Terrence Jones’ 25 points against East Tennessee State in 2010 for the most points by a freshman in his debut as a Wildcat. In that game, Maxey’s first points didn’t come until just after the midway point of the first half, but he scored seven straight points to help Kentucky earn an 11-point halftime lead. From the 10:03 mark of the second half until a pair of Ashton Hagans’ free throws with 37 seconds to play, Maxey scored or assisted on 14 straight UK points to hold off the Michigan State rally, including the game-clinching shot with just over a minute to play from well behind the 3-point line.
Against Louisville, he made a career-high nine field goals (on 14 shots), sunk a career-best four 3-pointers and tied a career high with seven rebounds. His 27 points were the most by a UK freshman vs. Louisville and the most by a Wildcat in the rivalry since Jodie Meeks score 28 on Jan. 4, 2009.
Highlighted by six 20-point performances, Maxey — a three-time SEC Freshman of the Week selection — is averaging 14.0 points per game. He’s scored in double figures in 22 games.
The Texas native has played particularly well of late. He’s averaging 15.5 points per game on 42.9% shooting over the last 12 games. He’s scored in double figures in 10 of those. Included in that stretch, Maxey had 10 second-half points to lead a double-digit comeback effort at home against Vanderbilt. It was Maxey once again to help lead the charge in another double-digit deficit against the Commodores on the road on Feb. 11. He led the Wildcats with 25 points, 15 coming in the second half as UK rebounded from a 14-point first-half hole for a 78-64 win. Maxey posted 17 points vs. 15th-ranked Auburn to help the Wildcats to the SEC regular-season title.
Hagans, the 2019 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, remains UK’s best on-ball defender with a team-high 58 steals. He’s a Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist for a second season in a row.
With 119 swipes in 67 career games, Hagans is averaging 1.776 steals per game for his career. That rate is third all-time in program history, trailing only Rajon Rondo and Derek Anderson.
And even those numbers don’t do him justice. His ability to disrupt an opposing team’s offense is as valuable as any basket or assist he can make. His presence was on full display in the win at Texas Tech.
Hagans has been the consummate point guard in his sophomore season, doing a little bit of everything to affect the game. He is averaging 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game while grabbing the leadership reins of a talented but once again young team.
The second-year guard has boasted double-figure scoring in 20 games, including a career-high 26-point performance in the win over Utah Valley. He’s dished out three or more assists in every game and has five or more in 22 outings, including a career-high-tying 12 vs. UAB. His streak of 10 games with six or more assists was snapped with five dimes at Georgia. It was the best run by a Wildcat under John Calipari and the best run since Roger Harden dished six or more in 12 straight from Jan. 11 to Feb. 15, 1986.
With 351 career dimes, he ranks 12th in program history in assists. His assist average is ranked 16th in the country and tops in the league (through games on March 7).
Hagans has done all this while fighting through nagging injuries this season. He battled lower leg pain for the first handful of games to start the season, played through a left ankle sprain early in the SEC season and suffered a left thigh contusion recently that has limited him.
Calipari’s work in 2019-20 has certainly been one of his finest.
With Calipari at the helm, Kentucky won its sixth regular-season league title in the last 11 seasons and positioned itself for one of the top seed lines in the NCAA Tournament. UK sports a 9-3 record vs. quadrant one teams in the NCAA Evaluation Tool rankings, a 4-2 mark vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams at the time of the game and an 8-2 record in true road games. Kentucky’s six losses are by a combined 32 points.
Calipari has once again proved to be a master of blending talented but young pieces together in a short period of time. By Calipari-Kentucky standards, this group has been led by older players, but few of them played a major role in last season’s Elite Eight run. Only 50 starts, 27.2% of the scoring and 30.5% of the rebounding returned from a season ago, and UK still checks in at 336th in the country out of 353 teams with an average of 0.99 years of experience in Ken Pomeroy’s experience rankings.
After struggling to defend early in the season with new pieces, the Wildcats are once again one of the best defensive teams in the country. UK is limiting opponents to 39.4% from the floor, ranked 22nd in the country (through games on March 7). Kentucky has held 18 opponents this season to 40% or less from the field, including eight of the last 12. UK is 15-3 in those games. Of the six AP Top 25 opponents Kentucky played at the time, the Wildcats held four of them to less than 40% from the floor.
Six different players have led the Wildcats in scoring and five players have scored at least 25 points in a game a total of nine times this season. This group is trying to become the first UK team to feature four Wildcats averaging at least 12.0 points per game since Rick Pitino’s first UK team back in 1989-90. Currently three players are averaging above that mark with Hagans’ scoring average just under 12, at 11.5.
Calipari recently passed Joe B. Hall for the second-most coached games at UK. Hall’s 13-year career with the Wildcats ended with his 397th game. Calipari and Kentucky’s win over Mississippi State on Feb. 4, marked the 398th career game he’s been at the UK helm. Adolph Rupp is first in games coached with a 41-season tenure spanning 1,066 career games.
Earlier this season, he was named Coach of the Decade by Sporting News and he’s orchestrated another 20-win season – his 26th straight, the longest active streak in the country.
All-SEC First Team
Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama
Mason Jones, Arkansas
Samir Doughty, Auburn
Keyontae Johnson, Florida
Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky
Nick Richards, Kentucky
Skylar Mays, LSU
Breein Tyree, Ole Miss
Reggie Perry, Mississippi State
All-SEC Second Team
John Petty Jr., Alabama
Isaac Okoro, Auburn
Kerry Blackshear Jr., Florida
Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky
Maik Kotsar, South Carolina
John Fulkerson, Tennessee
Saben Lee, Vanderbilt
Jaden Shackelford, Alabama
Isaac Okoro, Auburn
Scottie Lewis, Florida
Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky
Trendon Watford, LSU
Jermaine Couisnard, South Carolina
Scotty Pippen Jr., Vanderbilt
Herbert Jones, Alabama
Isaac Okoro, Auburn
Ashton Hagans, Kentucky
Nick Richards, Kentucky
Yves Pons, Tennessee
Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Kentucky
Player of the Year: Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky
Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Skylar Mays, LSU
Freshman of the Year: Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Sixth Man of the Year: Tyson Carter, Mississippi State
Defensive Player of the Year: Yves Pons, Tennessee