Who are SEC's stars? Tune in after season

Updated: October 29, 2003, 9:04 PM ET

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Jarvis Hayes, Mario Austin and Keith Bogans have moved on. Ditto for Matt Bonner, Ron Slay and Erwin Dudley.

The Southeastern Conference got quite a talent drain after last season, and now is trying to replenish the star power with younger players and veterans in new roles.

"The only reason we have a chance to just compete in this league is because everybody lost a lot of players," said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury at Wednesday's SEC media day. "I think every roster may have lost their best player."

The Bulldogs sure did, with Austin skipping his senior season to enter the NBA draft -- he's now playing in Russia -- and Derrick Zimmerman also departing to play professionally.

They're not alone. All but 10 of last year's top 12 scorers have moved on. None of the AP's first- or second-team All-SEC picks are back either.

Georgia's Hayes and Alabama guard Mo Williams also opted to skip their senior years, while Kentucky's Bogans, Florida's Bonner and Tennessee's Slay all finished their eligibility.

"Maybe more than any other year since I've been in the league, there's a lot of unknowns in our league," said Gators coach Billy Donovan, whose roster includes nine freshmen or sophomores. "Everybody's lost key players, seniors or early departures to the NBA.

"I think our league is very, very good and very, very talented, but I think you're going to see some new emerging stars."

Said Tennessee guard C.J. Watson: "It's pretty much going to be a young guys' league."

The defection of underclassmen -- and high school players -- to the NBA was a hot topic Wednesday. Not surprisingly, most of the coaches aren't pleased with it.

Donovan said he's gotten in the habit of talking to pro scouts when he sees them looking at players he's recruiting.

"When you hear NBA guys saying this guy's going to be a Top 5 player, it's very, very difficult to recruit that guy," he said.


AUBURN'S POINT MAN: Auburn point guard Lewis Monroe was considered an unknown entity on last year's team, but wound up helping the Tigers advance to the third round of the NCAA tournament.

He started all 34 games, recording 112 assists and 64 turnovers.

"I don't know of successful baseball teams that don't have good pitchers," coach Cliff Ellis said. "I don't know of successful football teams that don't have good quarterbacks. And I don't know of successful basketball teams that don't have a point guard.

"You've got to give credit to Lewis Monroe. I think he's probably the most unheralded player there is."

Monroe's certainly not flashy, with a career-high 16 points against Mississippi. That's fine with Ellis.

"He just goes out there and gets the job done, but that's what the point guard's supposed to do," Ellis said. "He doesn't have to score 15 points, but he's got to defend and he's got to get the ball up the court. And he does that."


BAYLOR TRANSFER: Brandon Vincent doesn't think Mississippi State needed Lawrence Roberts to be a contender, but he's certainly happy to have him.

Roberts transferred from Baylor in August and is eligible to play this season thanks to an NCAA decision on transfers from the troubled program. He was Baylor's top scorer and rebounder last season.

"I feel like we were championship bound before we got Lawrence," said Vincent, a senior post player. "It's just a bonus to have Lawrence Roberts on our team."

Vincent said Roberts fit right in with the team, because of both personality and abilities.

"He's one of the best rebounders I've ever seen," Vincent said. "He can score anywhere on the floor. He's the type of player that makes it difficult on a team."

Stansbury had several scholarships available and was monitoring Baylor's situation for potential transfers. He said it was a perfect fit.

"He'll have an opportunity to be an impact player like he was at Baylor," Stansbury said.


PSYCH 101: LSU coach John Brady sensed he needed to take measures to unite his team. So he turned to a sports psychologist, who has presided over sessions with the players and coaches the past 12 Sunday evenings.

He said the idea was partly sparked by the presence of five freshmen and partly because of an altercation Jaime Lloreda had with a teammate in the weightroom over the summer. Lloreda broke the teammate's jaw.

"I found out Jamie had problems at home that were bothering him and something triggered him to respond to a negative way to a teammate," Brady said.

The sessions last from 90 minutes to 2 hours, he said. Brady's had to bare his soul some, too.

"I've had to say things to my team I've never said to a team before," he said. "I think it's brought our team closer together."

Forward Antonio Hudson agrees, saying even normally reticent teammates like Darrel Mitchell have started to open up.

"I feel like when you know a person personally, you know how they'll react to a certain situation and you know how to deal with them," Hudson said.


PERFECT 'CATS: Kentucky breezed through the SEC regular season like no team ever had and won the conference tournament.

The Wildcats seemed unstoppable until getting upset by Marquette in the NCAA tournament's round of eight. For a team that always expects to win it all, the loss was tough to swallow.

"The way we were playing and the way we were blowing teams out and the confidence we had, we felt like the trophy was ours," forward Chuck Hayes said. "When we won the SEC tournament in New Orleans, we didn't want to cut down the nets.

"We had a very special season last year, but it still hurt that we weren't able to make the second trip back to New Orleans."

The Final Four was held in the Big Easy, also.

Kentucky was the only SEC team ever to go 16-0 in league play and is the preseason favorite to win again. Gerald Fitch has a hunch other teams are targeting the 'Cats, though.

"I'm pretty sure a lot of teams want some payback on us," Fitch said. "Our job is to be prepared for it."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index