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Ten finalists announced for 2011-12 Outstanding Male Athlete award

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – An elite list of 10 student-athletes has been announced as finalists for Tennessee Tech University's 2012 Outstanding Male Athlete Award, with the winner to be announced Sunday (June 24).

The TTU Awards Committee has named four members of the football team, two each from basketball and tennis, and one each from the baseball and cross country squads.

Criteria for the award are based solely on the athletic accomplishments of each student-athlete during 2011-12. The 10 finalists, listed in alphabetical order, are:

Syrym Abdukhalikov (Tennis) – Junior, Alamaty, Kazakhstan -- Syrym was one of the key players in Tennessee Tech’s regular season OVC championship as he finished with a 5-2 OVC mark in No. 1 singles play and a 4-2 conference record in doubles play along with Alex Chen. Syrym finished his season with a 15-12 record in singles action and an 11-11 mark in doubles play. He was named first-team all-OVC for his efforts. In non-conference action Syrym posted some big wins against some tough opponents including players from SEC schools Georgia and Tennessee.

Alejandro Augusto (Tennis) – Freshman, Madrid, Spain -- Alejandro joined the tennis team in January and proved to be one of Tech’s most reliable players as the Golden Eagles moved into their OVC schedule. In singles action, Alejandro finished with a perfect record of 8-0 in conference play, and a 7-0 record in doubles action with his teammate, Justin Kirstein. He was named second-team all-OVC and was named the OVC’s co-Freshman of the Year, becoming the fourth Tech player to receive the honor.  In the OVC Tournament, Augusto finished with a 1-0 mark in both singles and doubles action. Augusto finished his season with an overall singles record of 10-8 and an overall record of 11-6 in doubles action.

Tim Benford (Football) – Senior, Chattanooga, Tenn. – Right from the start of the season, Tim was already receiving accolades for what turned out to be a record-breaking season for the wide receiver. He was named to the CFPA Preseason Watch List and earned preseason All-OVC selection, and he backed up those honors with 65 catches for 923 yards en route to being named the OVC Offensive Player of the Year. His 10 100-yard receiving games is the most in school history, and his 932 yards in 2011 is a single-season record. He also earned first-team all-OVC honors and earned All-American Honors from The Sports Network and Phil Steele’s Football. He closed his four-year career with every school receiving record, and is ranked second all-time in the OVC in both receptions and receiving yards. After his senior season, he was invited to the East-West Shrine Game and later to the NFL Combine, which ultimately led him to signing as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys. Benford ranked first in the OVC in receiving yards and receptions per game, and accepted the team’s prestigious Robert Hill Johnson Award for the third time in his four seasons. He was also named a permanent team captain and won the Most Valuable Receiver Award. 

Jud Dillard (Basketball) – Junior, Riverdale, Ga.  – Jud finished the 2011-12 season with 572 points to log 1,172 points in three seasons at Tech. Broke his prior career-high (25 points set in 2009) against Tennessee State with 29 points, and tied that mark against Austin Peay. Logged eight double-doubles on the season, 16 on his career. Had 28 double figure performances in 33 games, including 12 20-point shows and a streak of 17 straight contests with double-figure scoring. Led the team and conference with 282 rebounds (8.5 rebounds per game) and ranked No. 63 nationally and No. 4 in the OVC in scoring with 17.3 points per game. Was named OVC Player of the Week on Feb. 20 after two games over which he averaged 21.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest and shot 58.3 percent from the field. Was also named College Sports Madness Player of the Week on Feb. 6. Joined the 1,000 point club against SIU-E on 1/30, also notched his 500th rebound in the game, becoming one of just 15 Tech players all-time to score both 1,000 points and pull down 500 boards. Was named 2nd team NABC all-district, and first-team All-OVC (for the first time) at the conclusion of the season.

Dontey Gay (Football) – Senior, Lexington, Ky. – Dontey broke multiple school records with the Tennessee Tech football team in 2011, logging the most rushing touchdowns and most all-purpose touchdowns in a season with 15 and the most points scored in a season with 90 (a team high). In addition, he helped the 2011 squad to break nine team records including but not limited to most points scored in a season, most yards in a single game, and most first downs in a game and in a single season. Gay played in all 11 games this season, earning a start in 10 of them en route to becoming the team leader in rushing yards with 1045 net for an average of 5.5 yards per rush, 90 yards per game in carries. This statistic also ranked second on the team behind Tre Lamb in total offense. Dontey also returned three kicks for a total of 60 yards and made 19 catches for 157 yards. Over the course of his career at Tech, Gay has played in 42 games and made 390 plays for a net total of 2219 yards of offense.

John Greene (Cross Country) – Junior, Friendsville, Tenn. – John had a breakout year and was the leader of the men’s cross country team in 2011, finishing first on the squad in every meet and setting new career-best marks every time he ran. At the OVC Championships, the junior sliced his 8K time by nearly two minutes when he completed the course in 26:44.85 to place 20th out of 74 runners. He also led Tech and set a new 10K personal-best at the NCAA South Regional with a time of 33:27. With Green’s leadership, the Golden Eagle runners captured the OVC Team Sportsmanship Award.

Tre Lamb (Football) - Junior, Calhoun, Ga. – Named as the Most Valuable Offensive Player on the OVC Champion Golden Eagle football team, Tre also captured the team’s Leadership Award. During his junior season, the starting quarterback set eight school records while ranking among OVC leaders in three categories. He was second in the OVC in passing efficiency, third in total offense and fourth in passing yards per game. Directing the team to a 7-4 overall record and its first appearance in the NCAA FCS Playoffs, Lamb was 204-for-313 passing for 2,342 yards and 17 touchdowns He completed 65.2 percent of his passes and finished with a 139.5 quarterback rating. Altogether, he accounted for 2,555 yards of total offense and 23 touchdowns. His records include most touchdowns responsible for (six rushing and 17 passing) with 23, most plays and yards of total offense, with 422 plays for 2,555 yards. His 204 completions were a new standard, and he also topped the mark for the highest pass completion percentage in a season.

Kevin Murphy (Basketball) – Senior, Atlanta, Ga. – Kevin Murphy became just the 16th player in OVC history to score 2,000 career points. He finished season with 2,019 career points (14th in OVC history), logging four 30+ point efforts, 11 20+ point efforts, and led the team in scoring 20 games. He finished the year ranked. No. 4 in the OVC in 3FG% with an accuracy of .416 from downtown, and No. 3 in minutes played with 34.5 minutes per game. Nationally, he finished the season ranked No. 10 in scoring, while his 20.6 points per game led the OVC. He now holds the No. 2 spot on the school's all-time scoring list, and became Tech's all-time leader in games played on Thursday in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals. A member of the 2011-12 OVC All-Tournament Team for the past two years, Murphy led Tech with 24 points in the Golden Eagles’ quarterfinal victory over Southeast Missouri State in Thursday’s quarterfinal round and capped off an outstanding senior campaign by scoring 31 against No. 9 Murray State in Friday’s semifinals. He was also named first team All-OVC for the second straight year and first-team NABC all-district. Murphy garnered the OVC’s Player of the Week award twice this season (on Feb. 6 and Dec. 19) and was a finalist for CollegeInsider.com’s Lou Hensen Player of the Year award. Furthermore, Murphy’s 50-point performance against SIU-Edwardsville earned him the Capital One Impact Performer of Week award and worked to be the most points scored by any DI player this year, and the most since Jimmer Fredette scored on 3/11/11. It is the first time than an OVC player scored 50 points since 1991-92, and the most points scored by any TTU player n school history. His 16 field goals made in that outing also tied the Eblen Center high for most field goals made in a game.

Zach Stephens  (Baseball)– Freshman, Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. - Zach led the Golden Eagles in several offensive categories in his second season, including hits (75), home runs (18), RBIs (52) and batting average (.368). He also ranked in the top five in the OVC in batting average, home runs, RBI and total bases and was fourth in the nation in home runs per game and fifth in slugging percentage. He tallied 29 multi-hit games and hit a home run in five straight games. Stephens also led the team in walks and was second in12 doubles, and drove in at least two runs in 15 games this season, including a season-high five against Murray State. The slugging first baseman was named OVC Player of the Week and a Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week during the season, and earned second-team all-OVC honors.

Richmond Tooley (Football) – Senior, Memphis, Tenn. -- Richmond was one of the top players on the Golden Eagle defense, helping the team capture the 2011 Ohio Valley Conference championship. A starter at cornerback, he played in all 45 games during the past four years and finished his career with 233 total tackles and eight interceptions. As a senior, Tooley ranked second on the team and 13th in the OVC in total tackles with 79. He was second on the team and sixth in the OVC in passes defended with eight, including two interceptions. A first-team all-OVC selection, he accepted the inaugural Tony Stone Bumble Bee Award.

The Outstanding Male Athlete Award was established in 1994, and 20 winners have been selected in the previous 18 years, including two years with co-winners. The previous winners are:

1994 - Mike Jones (Football)
1995 - Greg Bibb (Basketball)
1996 - Michael Penix (Football)
1997 - Mark Maberry (Baseball)
1998 - Andre Caballero (Football)
1999 - Branon Vaughn (Football)
2000 - Branon Vaughn (Football)
2001 - Chad Evitts (Football)
2002 - Grant Swallows (Football)
2003 - Casey Benjamin (Baseball)
2004 - Willie Jenkins (Basketball)
2005 - Willie Jenkins (Basketball)
                 and Frank Omiyale (Football)
2006 - Scott Stallings (Golf)
2007 - Scott Stallings (Golf)
2008 - Larry Shipp (Football)
2009 - A.J. Kirby-Jones (Baseball)
2010 – A.J. Kirby Jones (Baseball
                     and Chad Oberacker (Baseball)
2011 – Zac Swansey (Basketball)