Ulis, Simmons, Kennedy earn honors on AP All-SEC team
ATLANTA (AP) One day after the best performance of his career, Tyler Ulis was honored for his work throughout the season.
Kentucky's sophomore guard was selected as player of the year on The Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference team announced Monday.
Twenty-four hours earlier, the 5-foot-9 Ulis played all 45 minutes and scored a career-high 30 points to lead the Wildcats past Texas A&M in an overtime thriller at the SEC tournament championship in Nashville.
''His heart and his energy that he plays with (are) just ridiculous,'' coach John Calipari said after the 82-77 victory gave Kentucky its 29th tournament title. ''We feed off of it.''
LSU star Ben Simmons claimed the freshman of the year award, while Texas A&M's Billy Kennedy was chosen as coach of the year after the Aggies deadlocked with Kentucky for the SEC's regular-season crown.
Ulis and Simmons were both unanimous selections to the first team, while also included Mississippi guard Stefan Moody, Kentucky guard Jamal Murray and Texas A&M swingman Jalen Jones.
Heading into the NCAA tournament, Ulis leads the SEC in assists (7.2 per game) and ranks sixth in scoring (17.2 points).
''He's 5-9 everybody. It's like, `How can you do it?,''' Calipari said. ''But when you look at his numbers and what he's doing, that's the player of the year, those numbers.''
Texas A&M's Alex Caruso was equally impressed with Ulis' gutsy performance in the SEC tournament.
''He's played three straight days about 40 minutes, and he could probably play another game right now. He's a tremendous athlete. His conditioning is outstanding,'' Caruso said. ''When someone doesn't get tired, they can play at their best, and his best is really elite. He's a good player, player of the year in the conference, I think rightfully so.
''He leads their team. He makes shots. He creates for others. He's the ultimate team guy. Just a real good talent.''
Kentucky (26-8) is a No. 4 seed in the East Region and will open against Stony Brook on Thursday.
The 6-10 Simmons was brilliant in what was likely his only season at LSU. The Australian led the SEC in rebounding (11.8), placed fourth in scoring (19.2) and even finished fifth in assists (4.8).
But the Tigers flopped badly in the SEC semifinals, getting blown out 71-38 by Texas A&M. LSU declined to participate in the NIT, freeing Simmons to enter the NBA draft, where he is a potential No. 1 overall pick.
Kennedy earned a new five-year contract after guiding the Aggies to their first conference championship game since 1994, when they were members of the now-defunct Southwest Conference.
Playing before a largely pro-Kentucky crowd in the SEC final, Texas A&M took the game to overtime before the Ulis and the Wildcats pulled it out. Nevertheless, the Aggies picked up a No. 3 seed in the West Regional, setting up a meeting with Green Bay on Friday.
''I'm really proud of our team,'' Kennedy said. ''I'm proud of these seniors for fighting hard in a tough environment against a really good team. We had our opportunities, and you've got to give Kentucky credit. They made a couple of big shots to win the game. This is hopefully a great experience for us to get us ready for the NCAA tournament and do something special in the tournament.''
Moody claimed his spot on the first team as the SEC's leading scorer (23.6). Murray, the latest of Kentucky's freshman stars, tops the Wildcats in scoring (20.1), while Jones averaged 15.5 points and led Texas A&M in rebounding (7.2).
The All-SEC second team was comprised of Alabama guard Retin Obasohan, South Carolina forward Michael Carrera, Vanderbilt center Damian Jones, Tennessee guard Kevin Punter, and Arkansas forward Moses Kingsley.
Georgia and Texas A&M each placed two players on the third teams. For the Bulldog, the choices were forward Yante Maten and guard J.J. Frazier, while guards Caruso and Danuel House were selected from the Aggies. They were joined by Florida forward Dorian Finney-Smith.
The 67th annual AP All-SEC team was selected by a 14-member media panel representing each of the conference's 11 states.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry.