2011 Kentucky Sportsman of the Year: Finalist capsules

February 16, 2012 

Kenneth Faried was named winner of the Herald-Leader's Kentucky Sportsman of the Year award on Wednesday night. Here is a look at Faried's accomplishments from 2011, along with those of his fellow top-10 finalists:

1. Kenneth Faried

Demonte Harper's three-point bomb with 4.2 seconds left gave Morehead State the winning margin in the Eagles' 2011 NCAA Tournament upset of Louisville. But it was Faried's blocked shot on Mike Marra's last-gasp three-point attempt at the other end of the floor that preserved the biggest victory in MSU history.

Which was fitting. Faried became a genuine college hoops star primarily on the strength of defense and rebounding (OK, he threw in some sick dunks, too).

In his final season at Morehead State, the 6-foot-8 Newark, N.J., product led Donnie Tyndall's team to the best season (25-10) in school history by averaging 17.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.9 steals.

Faried, 22, ended his stellar MSU career being named OVC Defensive Player of the Year for the third straight time, OVC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season and OVC Male Athlete of the Year.

Sportsman fact: Faried is the second Morehead State product elected Sportsman of the Year. In 1987, ex-MSU quarterback Phil Simms won for his performance for the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI.

2. John Calipari

Kentucky's 2011 Final Four run gave lie to any claim that Calipari's recruiting acumen far exceeds his bench-coaching skill.

With a team that had lost six SEC road games during the season, Calipari masterfully guided the Cats through a treacherous NCAA East Region bracket.

Against No. 1 overall seed Ohio State in the round of 16, the Kentucky coach made the decision to take away OSU's three-point shooters (who were 28-for-50 in OSU's first two NCAA games) rather than collapse on big man Jared Sullinger.

The result was Ohio State made only six treys and took a 62-60 loss.

In the next game, North Carolina's Roy Williams tried the opposite defensive strategy on UK, aligning the Tar Heels in such a way as to try to force the Cats to win from outside. Calipari told his team to take the open treys. UK hit 12 of 22 three-pointers and rode the hot outside shooting to the school's first Final Four since 1998.

The drive to win Kentucky's eighth NCAA hoops title ended at the hands of Kemba Walker and Connecticut in the Final Four. Even with that, Calipari's bench-coaching credibility was enhanced by his team's late charge in 2011.

Sportsman fact: In the past three years, Calipari has finished first (2009), third (2010) and second (2011) in the voting.

Comment: "Love him or hate him — and most Kentuckians do love him — Cal has made things interesting in the state since taking over as head coach of the Wildcats' basketball program." — Les Dixon, The Times-Tribune, Corbin

3. Scott Davenport

Before Scott Davenport was hired in 2005 to coach men's basketball at Bellarmine, the Knights' program was going nowhere — 28-54 in the four seasons prior.

Six years later, Davenport, the former Ballard High School head man and University of Louisville assistant, led Bellarmine to the school's first NCAA Division II national title in any sport.

The 2010-11 Knights sent an early calling card of what was to come when they went to Cincinnati for an exhibition and beat Division I Xavier 63-61.

With guards Jeremy Kendle and Braydon Hobbs leading a roster heavy on former Louisville and Southern Indiana high school players, Bellarmine won its first eight games, was upset by in-state foe St. Catharine, won 16 more in a row and then lost the regular-season finale to Kentucky Wesleyan.

The latter loss seemed only to motivate the Knights.

With Davenport working the sidelines as expertly as he did in leading Ballard and Allan Houston to the 1988 high school state championship, Bellarmine (33-2) first won the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament. Then the Knights claimed six NCAA Tournament games, finishing with a 71-68 victory over BYU-Hawaii in the national title game.

For his work, Davenport, 56, was named NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Sportsman fact: In the 2011 vote, there were 20 ballots cast by members of the Louisville sports media. Of those, 19 listed Davenport and 17 had him ranked either first or second.

Comment: "Scotty Davenport is the rarest of all coaches. He has spent, basically, his entire career in one city and managed to coach and win championships at the high school and college level. Yet whenever he talks about his team, it's rarely about how they play and more about how they behave. Even though his team won the national title, what his players do after they go into the workforce will likely make him more proud." — Drew Deener, WKRD radio, Louisville

4. Josh Harrellson

The tale that took Harrellson from Kentucky men's basketball afterthought to Final Four folk hero is a true 21st Century story: It began on Twitter.

After the 6-foot-10 Harrellson, a junior-college transfer who was recruited to UK by Billy Gillispie, grabbed 26 rebounds in a pre-season Blue-White Game, he expected more post-game praise from Kentucky Coach John Calipari than he received.

So the big man took to his Twitter account to complain. In response, Cal took away his tweeting privileges and made Harrellson do extra running as punishment. That extra conditioning helped Harrellson get in the best shape of his career and take his on-court performances to unexpected heights.

The senior was especially strong for UK when it mattered most. With Kentucky down eight at half against West Virginia in the NCAA round of 32, Harrellson scored eight points during an 11-0 UK run to start the second half. Against Ohio State star center Jared Sullinger in the round of 16, Harrellson had 17 points and 10 rebounds to spark a Wildcats upset. In eight Kentucky post-season tournament games (SEC and NCAA), Harrellson averaged 12 points and eight rebounds.

As a result of his big 2011, Harrellson was selected in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks and made the team.

Sportsman fact: Out of 31 ballots cast by members of the Lexington media, Harrellson was named on 26 of them.

Comment: "... Jorts not only captured the fancy of an entire state, but he delivered in an amazing way to not only get Kentucky to the Final Four for the first time since 1998, but also got himself to the NBA. Based on the expectations for him going into the season, what he did makes it easy for me to pick him as my Sportsman of the Year." — Larry Vaught, The Advocate-Messenger, Danville

5. Bob Beatty

Private-school Trinity doesn't win many popularity contests in Kentucky, but Beatty's Shamrocks sure win a ton of high school football games. Yet even by their lofty standards, Beatty and Trinity took things to a whole other level in 2011.

Playing six games against powers from Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee and only five total home games, Trinity nevertheless went undefeated (14-0). The Rocks captured their ninth state championship under Beatty (the 21st for the school) and did it all in dominating fashion.

The 2011 Shamrocks never trailed in the second half of a game. In eight contests against teams from Kentucky, Trinity outscored its foes 428-46 including a 62-21 pasting of Scott County in the Class 6A state finals.

The nation noticed. Trinity was ranked No. 1 in the country by Sports Illustrated, Rivals.com, Scout.com and the Massey Rankings.

Beatty, 56, was named National Coach of the Year by USA Today.

Sportsman fact: In the 2010 Sportsman of the Year voting, Beatty got eight points. This year, he had 336.

Comment: "... The Shamrocks had the most talent, but they were also the most well-coached. There are thousands of high school football teams in the country, and (Beatty) built the very best — an amazing achievement." — Steve Jones, Cats Illustrated (Rivals), Lexington

6. Victoria Dunlap

When you have a breakout year like the UK women's basketball star had in 2010, what is the best way to back it up? More of the same. In 2011, that's exactly what Dunlap produced for Matthew Mitchell's Wildcats.

The Nashville product used her final season in UK blue to average 17 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.3 steals and led Kentucky to at least one win in the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years for the first time in school history. The versatile Dunlap even sang the National Anthem in Memorial Coliseum on Senior Night.

For her efforts, "VickyDeez" repeated as SEC Player of the Year by the AP, was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year by the league's coaches and earned third-team AP All-America honors for the second straight year.

Dunlap left Kentucky No. 2 in school history in career scoring (1,846), rebounding (1,099), blocks (178), steals (307) and double-doubles (31). When the Washington Mystics tabbed the 6-foot-1 forward with the 11th overall pick, Dunlap, 22, became the first UK women's hoops player ever selected in the first round of the WNBA Draft. She was traded to the Seattle Storm on Tuesday.

Sportsman fact: Of Dunlap's 266 points in the vote, 170 came from Lexington media members.

Comment: "Statistics can only tell you part of the story with Dunlap, who turned Kentucky from an also-ran women's basketball program into one of the nation's best. Her talent and character made people care about women's basketball." — Matt May, The Cats' Pause

7. Kelly Wells

In the entire history of basketball in Kentucky, there had never been a head coach win a boys' high school state championship and a college men's national championship at any level. In 2011, the commonwealth had two hit that "double."

One was Scott Davenport (see above). The other was Wells, 40, who won the 2003 state title at Mason County High School and led Pikeville to an improbable NAIA Division I national crown last season.

Unseeded entering the 32-team NAIA national tourney after finishing third in the Mid-South Conference regular season, Pikeville (30-7) caught fire. Behind the blistering shooting of former Mason County star Trevor Setty, UPike in a seven-day stretch beat the defending NAIA national champion, the defending national runner-up and the 2011 tourney's No. 1, 3 and 5 seeds.

Wells, a star player at Rowan County in the late 1980s who played collegiately at Tulsa and Morehead State, was named NAIA National Coach of the Year.

Sportsman fact: Though Wells coaches in far Eastern Kentucky, the two first-place votes he received in the 2011 balloting both came from Western Kentucky voters.

Comment: "He won a state championship at Mason County and added an NAIA national title to his list of accomplishments last spring. Wells' success speaks for itself." — Keith Taylor, The Winchester Sun

8. Shelvin Mack

When Cinderella Butler came oh so close to stunning Duke in the 2010 NCAA Tournament finals, people said it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the small Indianapolis school. It wasn't. Led by Mack, the ex-Bryan Station star, Butler did it again in 2011.

Expected to fill the scoring void left by departed star Gordon Hayward's early departure to the NBA Draft, Mack struggled with a balky shot for much of the season. Over a nine-game stretch in January and February he went 12-for-52 from three-point range. At one point, Butler was 14-9.

But by the time March rolled around, Mack again became a lion. In the NCAA Tournament, the junior guard rocked No. 1-seed Pittsburgh with 30 points in a Butler upset. In the game that sent Brad Stevens' team back to the Final Four, Mack dropped 27 on Florida. Against fellow Cinderella VCU in the national semifinals, the Lexington product had 24 points.

Alas, for the second year in a row, the glass slipper had a glass ceiling. In the finals against Connecticut, Mack hit only four of 15 shots. The rest of the Butler team was worse, 8-for-49. Butler finished second again.

Still, Mack, 21, parlayed his strong NCAA Tournament (20.3 ppg in six contests) into NBA Draft early entry. After being taken in the second round by the Washington Wizards, Mack made the team as a backup point guard to John Wall.

Sportsman fact: In 2010, Mack finished 12th in Sportsman of the Year voting.

Comment: "Voters ignored Shelvin Mack's accomplishments in 2010 when Butler made its unfathomable trip to the national title game. My vote went to him that year, so of course, with Mack and the Bulldogs turning in a repeat runner-up performance in 2011, he gets my vote again." — Greg Stotelmyer, EKU radio network

9. Randall Cobb

Few employees in new jobs have ever made a better first impression than Cobb did in Green Bay in 2011.

In his first NFL regular-season game against New Orleans, the former Kentucky star set an NFL record by returning a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. The Alcoa, Tenn., product, also caught a TD pass from Aaron Rodgers in what became a 42-34 Packers win.

His spectacular debut lent justification to Cobb's decision to turn pro after his junior year at UK and to Green Bay's calling his name in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

The rest of Cobb's rookie season was not as spectacular as his debut but it was promising. He scored an NFL TD a third way with an 80-yard punt return against Minnesota. For the season, Cobb, 21, finished with 25 catches for 375 yards; averaged 11.3 yards a punt return; and 27.7 yards a kickoff return.

Pro Football Weekly named Cobb to its All-Rookie Team as a kickoff returner.

Sportsman fact: Cobb received four first-place votes in Sportsman of the Year in 2010 when he finished second. He got three this year in finishing ninth.

Comment: "... The guy who was always told he was too small and too slow opened up the NFL season with an electrifying, record-breaking kick return, doing just what every Kentucky fan expected." — Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV, Lexington

10. Danny Trevathan

In a Kentucky Wildcats football season filled (mostly) with lows and one epic high (Tennessee), Trevathan was a constant positive.

After leading the SEC in tackles (144) as a junior in 2010, many expected the linebacker from Leesburg, Fla., to enter the NFL Draft. Instead, Trevathan came back to UK and put together an even better year.

In 2011, Trevathan again led SEC tacklers (143), but the 6-foot-1, 232-pounder was a much more disruptive force. He led the nation's linebackers in fumbles forced (five) and was second nationally among linebackers in interceptions (four).

For his UK career, Trevathan, 21, had 20 double-figure tackle games. Among many post-season honors, he was named a second-team All-American by Sports Illustrated.

Sportsman fact: Of the 34 ballots that contained Trevathan's name, 23 were cast by members of the Lexington media.

Comment: "In the dominant (college football) league, Trevathan was dominating." — Keith Elkins, Lexington Legends radio network

Compiled by Mark Story

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