BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel was named the Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Year to lead a multitude of honors for the Wildcats as voted on by the league’s coaches, it was announced on Tuesday. In addition to Freshman of the Year accolades, Noel was also named the league’s top performing defensive player. Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer was tabbed as the Sixth Man of the Year to add to the honors for the Wildcats.
Noel also earned All-SEC first team, All-Defensive team and All- Freshman team honors. He was joined on the All-Freshman team by Willie Cauley-Stein, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress.
Noel averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in 24 games played. He logged 106 blocked shots and 50 steals to become just the second player in school history to amass 100 or more blocked shots in a season. His 50 steals were the fifth-most by a Kentucky freshman in a single season.
The Everett, Mass., native is the fifth Wildcat to earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors and the fourth consecutive honoree, joining Anthony Davis (2012), Terrence Jones (2011), DeMarcus Cousins (2010) and Patrick Patterson (2008). His honor as the Defensive Player of the Year is the third such accolade in school history. Davis (2012) and Chucky Hayes (2005) preceded him in winning the award.
Wiltjer captured SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors after averaging 10.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He’s scored in double figures in 15 games this season. The Portland, Ore., native earned SEC Player of the Week accolades once during the season and turned in the first 20-point, 10-rebound game of his career in his second year in the blue and white. He’s the second player in school history to win the award after Darius Miller became the first honoree in 2012.
Cauley-Stein averaged 8.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in his freshman campaign. He also added 58 blocks and 23 steals, while shooting at a team-high .631 clip from the field. Cauley-Stein has registered four double-doubles on the season.
Goodwin topped the team in scoring with an average of 14.1 points per outing. He logged 23 double-figure scoring games, and became just the ninth freshman in school history to sink 100 or more free throws in his first season.
Poythress ranked second on the squad in points per game (11.6) and rebounds per game (6.2). He became the first player since Jodie Meeks in 2008-09 to score 20 or more points in four consecutive games this season. He chipped in with 16 total double-figure scoring outings this year.
Kentucky will return to action in the SEC Tournament on Friday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m. ET. UK will face the winner of the Arkansas/Vanderbilt game.