February 25, 2012

Graves named SCAC Coach of the Year; White named Defensive Player of the Year

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—In exclusive voting by the head coaches of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC), Birmingham-Southern head men's basketball coach Chris Graves was named the league's Coach-of-the-Year and junior point guard Blaise White was named Defensive Player-of-the-Year.

Junior forward Zac Richards was also named First-Team All-Conference, senior guard Jasen Jonus and junior guard Kevin Kegarise earned Second-Team nods, and White earned Honorable Mention All-SCAC accolades.

Graves, in his first season as the Panthers' head coach, has led his team to a 25-2 overall mark (15-1 in the SCAC) and a current national ranking of ninth – the highest national ranking for a SCAC men's team since Trinity University reached No. 8 on Jan. 26, 2009. Graves served as an assistant at Birmingham-Southern for three years prior to taking over as head coach.

The first men's basketball coach in his inaugural head coaching season to win SCAC Coach-of-the-Year, Graves received six votes from his peers for the award. Pat Cunningham of Trinity, Mike DeGeorge of Rhodes and Bubba Smith of Sewanee-The University of the South received two votes each.

Heading into this weekend's conference tournament, Birmingham-Southern led the SCAC in steals and turnover margin, largely due to the play of White, who was selected the league's Defensive Player-of-the-Year. One of the best on-ball defenders in the league, White leads the league in steals (54) and steals per game (2.2). The heady junior also has 95 assists while committing just 42 turnovers – posting a league-best 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio during the regular season for the Panthers. His 3.8 assists per game is good for fourth in the SCAC.

White picked up five first-place votes for Defensive Player-of-the-Year while Jeff Mullaney of Centre received three votes and Ryan Beall of Trinity earned two votes. Ammon Martin of Hendrix and Ransom Okpala of Austin College each received one vote.

Senior forward Greg Ross of Centre College was selected as Player-of-the-Year, and first-year forward Chris Lesnansky of Colorado College was selected as the league's Newcomer-of-the-Year.

To view the complete list of honorees, click here.