ATLANTA -- For Brandon Bass, just making it to college was quite an accomplishment.
He didn't stop there.
On Tuesday, the LSU sophomore was named Southeastern Conference
player of the year by The Associated Press, capping a remarkable
journey from the drug- and crime-infested neighborhood where he
Kentucky's Tubby Smith was honored as coach of the year, while
one of Bass' teammates, freshman Glenn Davis, was picked as
newcomer of the year.
Bass, a 6-foot-8 forward, led LSU (19-8) to a 12-4 mark in
conference play and a share of the Western Division championship
with Alabama. The Tigers enter the SEC tournament as one of the
hottest teams, closing the regular season with a six-game winning
"I wouldn't trade Brandon Bass for any player in the league,"
LSU coach John Brady (who finished secondin coach-of-the-year
voting) said. "Obviously, he's had a phenomenal year. His success
is directly tied into our success. Whether he is the most valuable
player in the league, I think he is. Certainly, Brandon has been
valuable to us."
The numbers back up Brady's assessment. Bass was the SEC's
third-leading scorer (17.5 points per game), No. 2 rebounder (8.8)
and top shooter (56.9 percent), which was enough to deny
Mississippi State's Lawrence Roberts his second straight player of
the year award.
Roberts had another banner season for the Bulldogs, leading the
conference in rebounding (11.1) and placing fourth in scoring
(17.3). He settled for being one of two unanimous selections to the
first team, along with Bass.
Bass had plenty of chances to take a wrong turn in life.
His mother died when he was 10, forcing him and two younger
siblings to move in with their aunt, a single mother in Baton Rouge
already raising five children on a housekeeper's salary. Money was
tight, but the family managed to stay together.
Bass saw the grim side of life in the inner city. He had friends
who went to prison. He had friends who died. He knew that many
expected him to meet the same fate, but he was determined to follow
a different path.
"I was motivated by all the people who thought I'd fail," Bass
An honor student in high school, Bass has kept up his good work
in the classroom since arriving at LSU, where he has a 3.46
"I always thought you had to work harder when things were
hard," he said. "I knew I'd have to make good grades to play
basketball. That was just common sense. And I knew I had to be a
better player to get where I wanted to go. It was all about work."
Bass' focus and dedication is an inspiring testament to others
growing up in hardship.
"For him to emerge from that environment like he has is
amazing," Brady said. "Somewhere along the way he developed a
real sense of pride about himself and a drive to be the best he can
be. And it shows in his work on the floor and in the classroom."
Smith is a familiar choice for coach of the year. This is the
third time in eight years at Kentucky that he's received the honor.
This season, the Wildcats (23-4, 14-2) cruised to another SEC
championship -- their fifth of the Smith era and 43rd in school
history -- despite having two freshmen in the starting lineup and
two others getting key minutes off the bench.
Coaching all those youngsters had a rejuvenating effect on
"It's been a fun year," he said. "They're very eager to
learn. It doesn't always happen when you want it to happen --
sometimes, they don't grasp it as soon as you want them to grasp it -- but for the most part they've been able to retain most of the
things we've tried to teach them."
There were a few bumps along the way, most notably when freshman
Joe Crawford left the team in January because he was upset about a
lack of playing time. He had a change of heart a few days later and
was allowed back on the team by Smith.
"The guy's a great coach," said Hayes, the Wildcats' senior
leader. "You can't really knock him. He wins. The award is well
Roberson made it back on the first team by leading the SEC in
scoring (18.6), just ahead of Winston (18.1). Hayes closed his
college career with another fine all-around season, averaging 10.8
points a game and ranking among the league's top 10 in both
rebounding and steals.
The 300-pound Davis averaged 13.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.3
blocks for LSU.
"What he lacks maybe in jumping ability, he makes up for it
with great footwork," Brady said. "And he's got great hands. He
can catch anything. He's done far and above what I expected him to
do. His ability and his desire to improve and become a part of our
team have been major factors in our success this year."
The 57th annual AP All-SEC team was chosen by a dozen
sportswriters who cover the league.