St. LOUIS — Indiana State freshmen Marico Stinson and Cole Holmstrom has been selected to the Missouri Valley Conference All-Freshman team for the 2006--07 season the league announced Tuesday.
After helping the Salukis to their highest ever national ranking, a regular-season Missouri Valley Conference title and the No. 1 seed in this week's State Farm MVC Tournament, senior Jamaal Tatum (Jefferson City (Mo.) Helias High) has been named the 2007 Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year, in what is believed to be the closest vote in the history of the Missouri Valley Conference.
A total of five points separated the top three vote getters, including Tatum (70 points), Creighton's Nate Funk (67 points) and SIU's Randal Falker (65 points). Missouri State's Blake Ahearn and Creighton's Anthony Tolliver also were among the top five in the Player of the Year balloting. Those five comprise the league's first-team unit. (the PDF release at the bottom of this release has the voting breakdown)
LARRY BIRD MVC PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Jamaal Tatum, Southern Illinois
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR - Spencer Laurie, Missouri State
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR - Osiris Eldridge, Illinois State
DEFENSIVE MVP - Randal Falker, Southern Illinois
SIXTH-MAN OF THE YEAR - Deven Mitchell, Missouri State
PRAIRIE FARMS SCHOLAR-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR - TBA (Feb. 28)
MOST IMPROVED TEAM CAPTAIN - TBA (Feb. 28)
‘RAWLINGS’ MVC COACH OF THE YEAR - TBA (March 1)
Tatum is the top scorer for the Salukis, who are ranked No. 11 in this week's Associated Press top-25 poll and No. 11 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches rankings. The senior guard averages 14.5 points per game and enters this week's action with 1,557 career points, which ranks No. 7 all-time in SIU history.
Tatum has helped the Salukis to a 25-5 overall mark and 15-3 conference record as SIU earned the tournament's top seed for the fifth time in the past six years. SIU enters the tournament with a league season-high 11-game winning streak.
The league's Newcomer of the Year is Spencer Laurie (pictured at left). In his first year at Missouri State, the junior guard from Springfield (Mo.) Kickapoo High has started all 30 games and directs the high-powered Bear offense. He leads the team and is among the league's leaders with 4.47 assists per game. He is one of seven MSU players averaging 6.0 or more points per game.
This year's Freshman of the Year is Osiris Eldridge (pictured at right) of Illinois State. In his first year as a Redbird, the freshman from Chicago (Ill.) Phillips Academy tops all freshmen with 32 steals and a 4.5 rebounding average. While starting 13 of ISU's 30 games, Eldridge averaged 9.2 points while connecting on 46 three-pointers. He's the first Redbird to win the league's Freshman of the Year award since Victor Williams in 1999.
Randal Falker (pictured at left) of Southern Illinois highlights the five-person all-Defense Team and is this year's Defensive Player of the Year. The 6-7 forward from St. Louis (Mo.) Gateway Tech anchors the Saluki defense, which leads the conference by allowing only 56.2 points per game. One of three Salukis on the five-player all-Defense Team, the junior leads The Valley with 64 blocked shots, while contributing 18 steals.
For the 11th-consecutive season, the league's head coaches selected a “Sixth Man Award” recipient, and this season’s honor goes to Missouri State's Deven Mitchell (pictured at right). The honor is presented to the league's top reserve player (one who has started fewer than 25 percent of his team's games). Mitchell started just two of MSU's 30 games but is third on the team in scoring (10.1 ppg.) and second for MSU in rebounding (4.8 rpg.)
In addition to the specialty awards, the conference announced it's all-conference units (first-team, second-team and honorable mention), all-newcomer team, all-freshman team, and all-defense team -- as selected by the league coaches. The all-bench and most-improved units have been selected by the league’s beat writers and will be announced Wednesday (Feb. 28). A complete listing of all-conference honorees is attached.