COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With the second best record in Tennessee Tech men's basketball history in the books, the 2010-11 Golden Eagle squad gathered for their annual post-season awards dinner Thursday evening.
At the dinner, 12 different players garnered 17 team awards - as voted upon by coaches and teammates alike - with Zac Swansey honored four times, including the co-MVP award, for his contributions on the court, and seniors Byron Pickens and Charles Newton earning the prestigious university-recognized trophies. Kevin Murphy was presented with the team's second co-MVP award.
"There is no question that these two young men [Murphy and Swansey] were deserving of this year's Most Valuable Player award," Tech head coach Steve Payne said. "Without Swansey's clutch performances and Murphy's offensive power and fuel, our season wouldn't have showcased nearly as much success.
"Those two made for some of the most exciting basketball Tech has seen, and I speak for our coaching staff and community, I believe, in saying that we are thrilled to have them both coming back next season," Payne added.
In addition to being named one of the team's two Most Valuable Players, Swansey was given the Assist Award for notching 212 helpers on the year, nearly four times as many as his closest follower. He finished with an average of 6.4 assists per game to rank seventh in the nation at the season's end.
Swansey (left) also led the Golden Eagles in steals, earning that award with 68 snatches on the season, and was given the Three-Point Shooter Award along with redshirt freshman Chase Dunn for having team high averages of .360 from behind the arc.
Junior Kevin Murphy(right) was the team's other Most Valuable Player, and was named the teams Offensive Player of the Year for the third straight year, leading the team with 560 points including multiple 30+ point performances on the season – one of which served to induct him into the Tennessee Tech 1,000-point club. He finished third in conference rankings in scoring.
"It is fitting that Kevin and Zac were selected to share the MVP award as they both were so important to our team," former head coach Mike Sutton said. "So many times Kevin put us in a position to win and Zac closed games with big plays.
"Kevin improved his game throughout the season as our leading scorer and best offensive player, while Zac set the table with his passing and play as our floor in general," Sutton finished.
Other back-to-back year winners included Zach Bailey (left) as the Defensive Player of the Year, and Terrell Barnes with the Golden Eagle Award. Bailey, who was also the winner of the Free-Throw Award, averaged .823 from the line for a fifth-place spot in OVC rankings. The 6-1 guard out of Ft. Lauderdale contributed 252 total points on the season.
Barnes (right), meanwhile, finished out his sophomore campaign with 132 points for an average of 4.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He ranked second on the team in blocked shots with nine, while junior Bassey Inamati overcame an early-season injury to record 15 rejections in 18 games played to garner the Blocked Shots Award with teammate Alfred Jones.
Jones (left) also had 15 blocks on the year and had additional significant contributions as the team's best shooter statistically; he finished the year with a .647 accuracy from the floor to rank second in the OVC and to graduate as the best shooter in Tech history. For this he was awarded the Field Goal Percentage award.
Sophomore Jud Dillard (right) was named the team's Most Improved Player as he contributed 319 points and a team-high 168 total rebounds on the season, logging six double-double performances. Dillard was thus also given the team's Top Rebounder Award.
The prestigious Sam Harley Lynn award for overall contributions to the team went to Byron Pickens (left). The 6-7 senior forward out of Chicago displayed constant dedication to the team day in and day out with his simple willingness to work tenaciously in practice and be a team motivator in game time situations.
"Not many players have the personality or ability to impact a team the way that Byron did," Payne said. "He was a motivator in every capacity for us and is inarguably a player who truly understands the term dedication.
"Our team is a family, and Byron is someone who really helped to bring that out in all of us."
Charles Newton (left) was honored with the John P. Hendrix Leadership award for his efforts to be a positive role model for his team, both on and off the court. Newt is the first player in program history to graduate in just three years time, and has done so even in switching majors prior to his final year of study.
"Charles is such a special young man and I am so proud of him," Sutton said. "He was an outstanding leader for our team, he was so unselfish and always put our team above individual accomplishments."
Academic awards were presented to freshman Dennis Ogbe (top right) for having a team-high 4.0 GPA in the fall semester of his first year at Tech, while the cumulative GPA award was given to Riley Hunley (bottom right) for the second year running.
With so much engrained upon this team in the 2010-11 season and so much talent returning next year – the squad will return over 80 percent of its scoring - Coach Sutton's final thoughts on success of the season can do nothing but recognize the success that he's seen in the Tech program and promise the continued success of the program in the future:
"The leadership qualities in our captains (Newton, Jones and Pickens) will be a challenge for the team to replace as they helped this team make history with the a 20 win season and making it to post season play. We were nationally ranked in team categories (eighth in field goal percentage and 29th in scoring) and led the OVC in several team categories as well having multiple players lead the league in individual statistics. More important than all the basketball accomplishments are the academic achievements of this team and the way that they have represented Tennessee Tech University, our community and their families. I think the thirteen returning players and staff have good reason to be excited for the future and I hope that all Tech supporters will enjoy watching this outstanding group of young men in the upcoming seasons." – Mike Sutton