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Three earn SEC honors for Auburn men’s hoops

Auburn head men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl won his third SEC Coach of the Year.
Auburn head men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl won his third SEC Coach of the Year.
Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 11:37 AM EST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The SEC announced the full list of honors for the 2021-22 college basketball season with Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl earning Coach of the Year, freshman Jabari Smith earning Freshman of the Year and Walker Kessler earning Defensive Player of the Year.

Bruce Pearl is in his sixth season as head coach of the Tigers, leading them to a No. 1 ranking for the first time in school history. Pearl is just the second coach in the history of the SEC to lead two schools to the No. 1 ranking — Tennessee in 2008. Pearl also won Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2008 while at Tennessee.

Under Pearl’s leadership, Auburn finished with at least 25 wins for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Pearl also joins Joel Eaves, Bob Davis, Sonny Smith, Tommy Joe Eagles and Cliff Ellis to earn Coach of the Year honors at Auburn.

Smith led the Tigers in scoring with 17.1 points per game to go along with 6.9 rebounds per game. Smith shot 44% from field goal range and 44% from three-point range this season. Smith’s scoring average ranks him fifth among all SEC players for the season.

Smith is the third-straight Auburn player to earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors with Isaac Okoro (2020) and Sharife Cooper (2021) both earning the award. Smith is also a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award and the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.

Kessler led Auburn with eight rebounds per game and 4.5 blocks per game. Kessler totaled 140 blocks this season — a single season school record — and leads the SEC with Florida’s Colin Castleton in second with 61 blocks. Kessler also averaged 11.5 points per game to finish fourth on the team in scoring average.

Kessler is also a finalist for the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.

Auburn won the SEC regular season title and will await the winner of the No. 8 seed Texas A&M/No. 9 seed Florida game in the 2022 SEC Conference Tournament. The Tigers will play on Friday at noon on ESPN.

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