UK Men's Basketball

LSU's Thornton top player

ATLANTA — Marcus Thornton got a late start on his Southeastern Conference career. He's making up for lost time.

LSU's senior guard was named player of the year on The Associated Press All-SEC team announced Monday after leading the Tigers to the regular-season championship and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Thornton beat out Kentucky's Jodie Meeks, who was named to the first team. Teammate Patrick Patterson made the second team for the second straight season.

LSU also claimed the coach of the year award, which went to Trent Johnson for turning around a program that slumped the last two years under John Brady.

Mississippi freshman Terrico White was named newcomer of the year.

Thornton was a top prospect coming out of Tara High School in Baton Rouge, La., but his career took a two-year detour because of academic problems. After a stint at Kilgore College in Texas, he finally signed with his hometown team.

His first season at LSU was a personal success; Thornton was the SEC's second-leading scorer at 19.6 points a game. But the Tigers struggled as a team, which led to Brady being fired midway through the conference schedule.

Johnson was lured away from Stanford after the season and immediately set about to change the mind-set at LSU. He knew he had plenty of talented players, but he demanded everyone — Thornton included — devote more time to the less-glorious aspects of the game.His star heeded the message.

"Marcus has meant everything to our team," Johnson said Monday. "He's a young man who, two months ago, made the comment that he wanted to be playing meaningful games in February and March. He knew, to do that, he had to do things other than scoring."

Not that Thornton has abandoned the offensive end. He stepped up his average to 20.7 points a game, again ranking second in the SEC.

Meeks, the SEC's top scorer (24.2), stood out during Kentucky's disappointing season, breaking the school scoring record with a 54-point performance against Tennessee in mid-January.