Nerlens Noel, the likely number one overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, didn't win the SEC Player of the Year award from the coaches or the media. Those votes went to sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – the first Georgia Bulldog to earn both honors since Dominique Wilkins in 1981.
KCP was a huge grab for coach Mark Fox and fans eagerly awaited the chance to pair him with Travis Leslie and former Georgia Player of the Year Trey Thompkins, coming hot off a 21-win season. Thompkins and Leslie both bolted for the NBA after their junior seasons, crushing the dream and leaving the bulk of the offensive work to the young shooter.
Luckily, he has range for days and has the ability to create his own shot. The 6'5'' guard also grabs rebounds well for his position. He led the team in minutes and steals while ranking second on the team in points and rebounds, and was named to the Freshman All-SEC squad.
Caldwell-Pope took more onto his plate during his second and final season at Georgia. He was the leading scorer in 29 of Georgia's 32 games and was one of just nine players in the country to score in double digits in every game of the season. He racked up the second-highest scoring total for a sophomore at Georgia and was second in the SEC in scoring.
Oh, and did we mention that he's clutch? KCP shot 65 percent from the field, 63 percent from three and made 85 percent of his freebies during the last five minutes of SEC play during his sophomore season.
Former teammate Connor Nolte, who transferred to UGA from Furman where he played Davidson twice per season, compared KCP's ceiling to Stephen Curry. Though Curry averaged about 10 points more than Caldwell-Pope, he did so in a mid major conference rather than the SEC. Besides, KCP has the highlights to back it up. “Before you laugh, watch his tape. He's not as efficient as Curry but has a very similar skill set,” Nolte emailed TSL. “He played the 3 during his freshman year and I had the honor of guarding him in practice. He's ready to shoot at any second and doesn't hesitate when he gets an open look.”
He doesn't hesitate when he's getting ready to throw it down, either. Check out his nominee for 2012 Dunk of the Year against rival Georgia Tech.
Not bad for a potential lottery pick that few people outside of Athens, GA have on their radar. And while he may not quite have the efficiency, profile or as quick of a release as Curry, his impression is certainly a good one.
Caldwell-Pope has a high ceiling with the athletic ability to jump and touch it. The team that helps him get there will be glad they did.