SEC coaches: Choice of UGA's Caldwell-Pope for P.O.Y. easy

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was named SEC Player of the Year Tuesday. (USATSI)

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's impact on nearly every facet of the game over the last few weeks has been so instrumental that Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said Wednesday he would have considered selecting the Georgia guard as the SEC’s top player in 2013, even if Nerlens Noel didn’t suffer a season-ending knee injury last month.

One day after the Bulldogs’ sophomore became the first Georgia player to be named SEC Player of the Year by the league’s coaches, a bevy of veteran coaches indicated that their decision wasn’t tough.

“He looks like a pro when he plays,” Stallings said. “He can jump up and shoot jump shots off the dribble, he can get to the basket, he shoots it from deep. He guards you. There are some really great scorers in this league, some great rebounders and some really great defenders. He’s one of the few guys in this league that is good at everything that (happens) on a basketball court.”

Caldwell-Pope, 6-5, 205, is one of only 10 players in Division I to score in double figures in every one of their team’s games this season. The Greenville, Ga. native leads Georgia in points (18.0) and rebounds (6.9) per game, but his impact is felt in other areas, as well. The pesky defender has 65 of the Bulldogs’ 179 steals (36.3 percent) and hasn't fouled out in any of Georgia's 31 games.

After shooting 65.4 percent from the line and 39.6 percent from the floor in his freshman season, Caldwell-Pope has improved drastically in both areas in 2012-2013. The Bulldogs’ sophomore has raised his shooting percentage to 80.9 and 43.2 in each category respectively.

“I just found using the offense to my advantage and taking open shots they give me,” Caldwell-Pope said.

For a Georgia program still reeling from the early departures of former forwards Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins in 2011, the loss of Caldwell-Pope for next season could be stinging. Caldwell-Pope is currently projected by to be taken by the San Antonio Spurs with the No. 30 pick in the first round of June’s NBA Draft.

“This is a career and life-changing decision,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “It’s one that may be made in the spring and may be made a year from now. This is Kentavious’ decision. It’s not about Georgia, it’s not about his family, it’s about him.” 

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