Mobile, Ala. — Two Western Kentucky University basketball players earned preseason all-Sun Belt Conference honors while the Hilltoppers were a unanimous choice to claim the East Division title, it was announced Monday at the league’s annual Media Days.
Courtney Lee was voted first-team all-SBC and Tyrone Brazelton was a second-team selection among the 15 players recognized.
The Hilltoppers picked up all 13 first-place votes, finishing with 78 points in the preseason poll. South Alabama (59 points) was chosen to finish second, while Middle Tennessee (51) was selected third. Florida Atlantic (43), Florida International (25) and Troy (17) rounded out the voting.
Louisiana-Monroe earned nine first-place votes and 85 points in being selected the preseason favorite in the West Division. North Texas (71), Arkansas State (62) and New Orleans (61) all were chosen first on at least one ballot, with Louisiana-Lafayette (37), UALR (35) and Denver (13) picked to finish in the lower half of the division.
Lee, a two-time first-team all-Sun Belt selection, has also earned National Association of Basketball Coaches all-district accolades each of the last two years. The Indianapolis, Ind., native ranked among the top 15 in seven different statistical categories in 2006-07, including leading the league in free-throw percentage while finishing fifth in scoring. In 30 games, Lee scored 17.3 points and grabbed 4.6 rebounds per contest, handing out 57 assists to go along with a team-leading 45 steals and 23 blocked shots. He shot 47.2 percent from the floor, hit 40.1 percent from three-point range and converted 84 percent at the foul line.
Lee, who was twice selected the conference’s player of the week a year ago, enters his final season already ranked 12th in school history with 1,503 points while standing among the top five in free-throw percentage (first — 81.4%), steals (third — 177), three-point field goals (fourth — 176) and three-point field-goal percentage (fourth — 40.3%). And, he is 20th in steals and 23rd in three-pointers in the Sun Belt record books.
Lee was joined on the first-team by preseason Player of the Year Bo McCalebb of New Orleans, Arkansas State’s Adrian Banks, South Alabama’s Demetric Bennett and Carlos Monroe of Florida Atlantic.
A resident of Chicago, Ill., Brazelton was the only Hilltopper other than Lee to score in double figures a year ago after averaging 12.8 points per outing, while he led the team with 131 assists — the ninth-highest total in school history — and 170 free-throw attempts. In addition to ranking 19th in the conference in scoring and fourth in assists, Brazelton was eighth with a 1.24 assist-to-turnover ratio and 10th with a 39.8 three-point field-goal percentage. He shot 43.9 percent overall from the field and 69.4 percent at the foul line, finishing fourth on the team with 31 steals.
In Sun Belt action, Brazelton raised his averages to 13.8 points and 4.39 assists per contest while improving his assist-to-turnover ratio to 1.39 against league foes. He also saw his shooting accuracy climb to 42.6 percent from beyond the arc in SBC games.
O’Darien Bassett (Troy), David Dees (Louisiana-Lafayette), Alex Galindo (Florida International) and Tony Hooper (Louisiana-Monroe) joined Brazelton on the second-team. The third-team included Kevin Kanaskie (Middle Tennessee), Daon Merritt (South Alabama), Elijah Millsap (ULL), Quincy Williams and Keith Wooden (both from North Texas).
Brazelton, Lee and the rest of the Hilltoppers will make their first public appearance of 2007-08 when WKU participates in a Red-White scrimmage at E.A. Diddle Arena at 7 p.m. (CDT) Thursday. There will be an autograph session on the floor a half-hour before the scrimmage tips off.