Hill, Warner capture SSAC Player, Coach of the Year
By Matt Green
ROME – As if a No. 1 national ranking, a school record 28 wins and a Southern States Athletic Conference regular season title weren’t enough, the Shorter University men’s basketball team collected another monumental first on Wednesday night.
Junior Walter Hill was named the 2011-12 SSAC Player of the Year and head coach Chad Warner was honored as the 2011-12 SSAC Coach of the Year to headline Shorter’s list of All-Conference honorees at the annual SSAC awards banquet on Wednesday night at The Forum.
Shorter swept the league’s two major awards for the first time ever. Both the Player and Coach of the Year honors are the first ever for Shorter as a member of the SSAC.
Hill, a 2011 NAIA All-America selection and last year’s SSAC Newcomer of the Year, leads the Hawks and ranks third in the conference in scoring at 17.6 points a game. The 6-5 forward ranks in the top 15 in the league in rebounding (6.3) and steals (1.6) per game, ranks second in the SSAC with 74 3-pointers made, shoots 40 percent from beyond the arc and has seven double doubles this season, the third-highest total among all SSAC players.
Hill surpassed 1,000 points for his career in his 57th game with the Hawks, a 22-point performance against Brewton-Parker on Feb. 18. Hill now has 1,036 career points entering tournament play.
Warner, a Rome native, returned home in 2007 to take the reigns of a Shorter men’s hoops program that had posted three straight single-digit win seasons prior to his arrival.
Shorter won 19 games in his first season and since, has recorded five straight seasons of at least 15 wins and back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in 44 years. Shorter’s 28 wins this season are a program record and the No. 1 national ranking that the Hawks held for four weeks during the season marks the first time ever that the Shorter men’s basketball program has been No. 1.
The icing on the cake – Warner won his 100th career game on the day Shorter clinched its first conference championship since 1977. Shorter will represent the SSAC in the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship in Kansas City in mid-March.
Shorter’s All-Conference recognition did not end there. Joining Hill on the All-SSAC roster were newcomers Anthony Banks and C.J. Davis, both of which joined the team in December.
Banks, who came to Shorter after earning second team All-Atlantic Sun Conference honors at Florida Gulf Coast last season, averaged 16.4 points and 8.8 rebounds for the Hawks in his 21 appearances. The 6-7 forward shoots 61 percent from the floor and has become a dominant force in the paint for the Hawks, especially over Shorter’s last five games where he is averaging 21.0 points and 9.8 rebounds.
Banks grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds in a win over Truett-McConnell on Jan. 30.
Davis has been Shorter’s instant offense off the bench and ranks third on the team in scoring at 12.8 points a game. An NAIA All-America selection as a sophomore last season at Union (Tenn.), Davis has been a perfect compliment to Banks and Hill, keeping the floor spread thanks to his 36 percent shooting from 3-point range.
Davis has also been effective in a closing role thanks to his team-best 83 percent shooting from the foul line. An explosive scorer, Davis poured in 31 points in a road win at defending SSAC champion Emmanuel on Jan. 14.
Shorter’s Darius Steger picked up the team’s Champions of Character Award and also earned a spot on the Academic All-SSAC team. Steger, who has averaged 4.1 points off the bench this season, was also a Capital One Academic All-District selection by CoSIDA in January and is a three-time Academic All-SSAC selection.
The Hawks (28-2), the No. 1 seed out of the SSAC East Division, open tournament play tomorrow with a quarterfinal matchup against West No. 4 seed Mobile (14-16) in a 6 pm tip at the Darlington School.