Alabama Basketball: Trevor Releford’s Case for SEC Player of the Year


Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Crimson Tide junior guard Trevor Releford is making a late charge to be considered for SEC Player of the Year. Releford has quietly put together a strong season leading the way for the 2nd place Crimson Tide, and he has elevated his play as of late in Alabama’s stretch run to try and help the team get back into the NCAA Tournament.

In the last two games in particular, Releford has put the team on his back. In the last two games combined, Releford has poured in 57 points on 68% shooting from the floor. He’s also added 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals. He scored a career high 36 points on 14-of-18 shooting from the floor in Alabama’s triple overtime loss in Baton Rouge to LSU, and he scored 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting in the Tide’s 61-43 win over Auburn on Tuesday night.

Releford was a preseason selection to the All-SEC First Team, and his play has backed up that distinction from the coaches. For the season, Releford is averaging 15.6 points per game on 49% shooting from the floor and 43% shooting from three. He’s added 2.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game.

He ranks 4th in the conference in scoring; he’s third among guards in field goal percentage, 5th in the conference in three point percentage and 2nd in steals per game. Releford recently became Alabama’s all time leader in steals.

This has been Releford’s best season to date in Tuscaloosa, and he has gotten better every year under Anthony Grant. The assist numbers are a bit lower than most would expect from a “point guard,” but it should be noted that sophomore Trevor Lacey has seen the majority of the time bringing the ball up the court and setting up the offense this season. Also, Alabama only averages 11.5 assists per game, which ranks 12th in the conference.

Let’s take a look at Releford’s main competition for the award:

Marshall Henderson, G, Ole Miss

Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson is the SEC’s leading scorer at 19.6 points per game, which is nearly two full points higher than the second leading scorer. But, Henderson has been inefficient in getting his points as it has taken him nearly 15 shots per game to get to his scoring average. He’s shooting an unimpressive 38% from the floor this season.

He’s also been a big reason for the Rebels’ late season swoon. Ole Miss is just 4-5 in their last nine games, and Henderson came up short in several of those games. He went a combined 8-of-26 from the floor in back-to-back losses to Missouri and Texas A&M; and he was 4-of-17 from the field in an embarrassing road loss to South Carolina.

Henderson can shoot you out of games just as easily as he can shoot you into games. He might be the conference’s leading scorer, but I can’t see giving him the player of the year distinction with such a low field goal percentage.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Georgia

You can make a pretty strong argument for Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is the conference’s 2nd leading scorer and 9th leading rebounder. Caldwell-Pope averages 17.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. No guard in the SEC averages more rebounds per contest than him.

He’s also shooting a respectable 44% from the floor, and he’s tied for third in the conference in steals per game. Caldwell-Pope definitely has the numbers to back up his case, but the knock on him is how much his team has struggled despite his stellar play. Georgia is currently 13-15 overall, and 7-8 in the SEC.

Past winners of the SEC’s Player of the Year award have usually come from good teams. That’s likely the same thing that will hinder Texas A&M’s Elston Turner.

Jordan McRae, G, Tennessee

Like Releford, Tennessee’s Jordan McRae is making a late charge towards the award. Tennessee, winners of six straight, is playing as good as anybody right now, and they have put themselves squarely on the bubble with just a few regular season games remaining.

The play of Jordan McRae is a big reason for the Vols’ late season resurgence. McRae has been on a scoring tear in their last three games with 34 points against LSU, 23 against Texas A&M and 27 in their massive win over Florida.

For the season, McRae is averaging 15.3 points on 43% shooting, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. If he can help lead Tennessee into the NCAA Tournament, his name will be on the shortlist for player of the year.

Phil Pressey, G, Missouri

Missouri senior guard Phil Pressey was the popular choice to win the player of the year award in the preseason, and he has put together a fine season in leading Missouri. He’s the conference’s assists leader with 7.0 per contest to go along with 12.4 points. He put together one of his finest performances of the season in an overtime loss to Kentucky last Saturday when he scored 27 points and dished out 10 assists.

Pressey makes everyone around him better, and even though Missouri has looked unsturdy at times, the Tigers are well on their way to the NCAA Tournament. The big problem with Pressey is his ugly numbers from the floor. He’s shot 37% from the field this year, and while scoring certainly is not his game, you do expect better from a player of the year candidate.

Florida’s Trio

I don’t think you can single out just one of Florida’s triumvirate as guards Mike Rosario, Kenny Boynton and forward Erik Murphy have each had a major role in Florida’s success this year. Rosario is Florida’s scoring leader at 13.1 points per game, but that is just barely ahead of Kenny Boynton’s 12.5, and Erik Murphy’s 12.3.

Erik Murphy may have the strongest case of the three because he has been so efficient in his scoring. He’s shot 53% from the floor this year, and he’s 2nd in the league in three point percentage at 47%.

Florida has been the best team in the league this year, but they don’t have a player who has been above all the rest. They are a team filled with many very good players who all do what is asked of them. It’s hard to single out any one player as the reason for Florida’s success, and you could easily make the argument that point guard Scottie Wilbekin, the team’s leader in assists, has been just as key as those three. You can’t forget about Patric Young, either.

The race for SEC Player of the Year is seemingly wide open with no one really separating themselves from the pack. There are several more players who I did not mention that could garner consideration with a strong finish to the season, but Alabama’s Trevor Releford is certainly in the mix of things. He could become the first Alabama player to win it since Erwin Dudley in 2002.

Releford has an opportunity to make a serious statement that he deserves the award when the Crimson Tide travels to Gainesville on Saturday to take on Florida. If he can somehow lead Alabama to the upset of the Gators, then he should be considered among the favorites to win the award.

A win on Saturday would be the boost the Crimson Tide desperately needs to make it into the NCAA Tournament.

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