Men's Basketball

WKU's Mendez-Valdez Sun Belt player of year

Western Kentucky University senior guard Orlando Mendez-Valdez was named the 2008-09 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year on Tuesday.

The league also recognized Mendez-Valdez's backcourt mate, junior A.J. Slaughter, who was named to the all-conference second team.

Voting was conducted by the league's 13 head coaches and one media representative for each school.

Mendez-Valdez is the fifth Sun Belt Player of the Year for WKU in the past nine seasons, joining Courtney Lee (2007-08), Anthony Winchester (2005-06), Mike Wells (2003-04), and Chris Marcus (2000-01).

After three seasons in a support role, Mendez-Valdez stepped into the spotlight as a senior, averaging 14.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. The San Antonio, Texas, native ranks in the top 10 in the conference in six major statistical categories including three-pointers made per game at 2.89.

WKU opens play in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament on Sunday at Hot Springs, Ark., as the No. 1 seed. The Toppers face the winner of Wednesday's game between Florida International and Louisiana-Lafayette.

South Alabama's Domonic Tilford, a senior from Jeffersontown High School, was named to the second team.

Two WKU women honored

Western Kentucky sophomore forward Arnika Brown was named to the All-Sun Belt Conference first team Tuesday. WKU junior guard Kenzie Rich made the third team.

Brown is fifth in the nation and first in the league with 11.6 rebounds per game. She also leads the Hilltoppers in scoring with 14.4 points per game and has posted 17 double-doubles this season.

Rich is WKU's second-leading scorer at 14.2 and has made a team-high 62 three-pointers.

WKU opens Sun Belt Conference Tournament play Wednesday, playing host to Louisiana-Monroe at 8 p.m.

■ Former Scott County High School standout Chelsia Lymon of Middle Tennessee State was named Defensive Player of the Year and was a third-team selection. Lymon, a 5-foot-5 junior, is averaging 9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game this season.