May 5, 2009

Walker wins two top honors, Northern named team’s MVP

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Senior Zac Walker was the recipient of the Sam Harley Lynn Award for his overall contributions to the Tennessee Tech men’s basketball program, and also captured the John P. Hendrix Leadership Award, as head coach Mike Sutton announced the team’s 2008-09 award winners.

Senior Daniel Northern was named the Most Valuable Player for the Golden Eagles, one of numerous honors presented by Sutton at the team’s annual Awards Dinner.

The Golden Eagle Award was shared by Alfred Jones and Zach Newton, while the two Academic Awards went to Frank Davis and Riley Hunley.

Freshman Kevin Murphy received the Most Improved Player award, the Best Offensive Player honor went to Will Barnes, and freshman Zach Bailey was named the Best Defensive player.

Sutton also presented seven team awards based on 2008-09 statistics.

“I can’t imagine anybody who has given more time and effort to our program than Zac Walker,” Sutton said of his senior guard from Columbia, Tenn. “He was only on scholarship for one year and he missed two seasons with knee injuries, yet he never stopped fighting. I’m really proud of his efforts.

“Zac has unbelievable character, his academics are outstanding, and he was a leader throughout his career with his citizenship and sportsmanship,” Sutton added.

Northern earned second-team all-OVC and NABC all-district honors after leading Tech in scoring, rebounds and blocked shots in his senior season. He averaged 12.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, and blocked 73 shots in 29 games. He finished his career ranked second in blocked shots.

“Daniel was our leading scorer and rebounder, as well as blocked shots, named second-team all-OVC, and was an obvious choice for the MVP award,” Sutton said.

The veteran coach also pointed out that all three of his senior players – Walker, Northern and Ra’Shun Bryant -- plus three senior managers -- Greg August, Andy Harrell and Justin Stanford -- are all scheduled to receive their degrees Saturday. “That’s the important thing,” Sutton said. “They came here for an education, and they leave with their degree.”

The Golden Eagle Award was shared by Jones and Newton. Jones was a sophomore playing his first season at Tech after a year at Lincoln College. He played in all 30 games, starting 11, and averaged 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. Newton spent the year as a redshirt.

“Alfred was a first-year player who came in and competed every single day,” Sutton said. “He never complained about anything, and he just fought and fought, and was solid in many areas. Zach was a redshirt, but he still had an outstanding work ethic in practice or when working out on his own. Both of them just showed great effort every single day.”

The Best Offensive Player Award went to Barnes, a guard who started 24 games and played in all 30 contests, splitting his time between point and wing. He was third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.8 points per game, while shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 38 percent from long range. The junior from Tuscaloosa, Ala., was second on the team in assists with 82 and third in steals with 34.

“If you look at everything Will did for our offense, he had the greatest impact on our game,” Sutton said. “He had a high shooting percentage and he was second in assists by one. Even though he was not our leading scorer, if you consider his involvement with his playmaking skills, he really had the greatest impact.”

Bailey, a freshman from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., earned the Best Defensive Player Award. He played in all 30 games, averaging 4.0 points and 2.7 rebounds, along with making 20 steals.

“Even as a freshman, he was our best defender,” Sutton said. “He was tough and smart, and he always played hard. He takes a lot of pride in being able to defend his man.”

Another freshman, Kevin Murphy, won the Most Improved Player Award. A 6-6 swingman from Fairburn, Ga., Murphy finished third on the team in scoring in OVC action with 10.7 points per game. He shot 42.4 percent from long range against the league, and also averaged 3.3 rebounds.

“From the start of the season to the end, Kevin was our most improved player,” Sutton said. “He gained a better understanding of our system. He was an explosive offensive player, and he got to be a better rebounder as the season went on.”

The Academic Award for the best GPA during the Fall semester went to Hunley, a walk-on guard from Knoxville, who posted a perfect 4.0 average. The Cumulative GPA Award went to junior Frank Davis, who was also named CoSIDA Academic All-District following the season.

“If he keeps that up, Riley might win that award every year for the next four years,” Sutton said. “He is an outstanding student and a tremendously dedicated young man.

“Frank did a good job, despite playing through pain all season with a stress fracture in his back,” Sutton said of the junior guard from Gainesville, Ga., “He’s a good student and he is really unselfish player.”

Davis was second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.0 points per game, and led the team with 44 steals. He connected on a team-best 42.9 percent to rank second in the OVC. He was seventh in the league in both 3-pointers per game and steals.

Elijah Cunningham-Muhammad, a junior guard from Columbus, Ohio, won the Top Assists and Free Throw awards. He led Tech with 83 assists, and shot 80.8 percent (42-for-52) at the charity stripe.

Northern captured the Top Rebounder Award and Blocked Shots Award, while Davis received the Steals Leader and 3-Point Shooter awards.

Bassey Inameti, a redshirt freshman from Lawrenceville, Ga., took home the Field Goal Percentage Award, shooting 59.1 percent in his rookie season. The 6-8 center shot 61.4 percent against OVC foes.