BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Finishing the regular season in the league’s top five in six different statistical categories, Arkansas sophomore Bobby Portis became the second player in program history to be named the SEC Player of the Year by the league head coaches on Tuesday.
Following in the footsteps of his youth AAU coach, Portis joins Razorback legend Corliss Williamson (1994, 95) as the only two players in Arkansas history to earn SEC Player of the Year. Portis and Williamson are also two of the 10 underclassmen in SEC history to be named Player of the Year by the conference coaches.
“This is a very worthy award for one of the hardest working players I’ve ever been around,” said head coach Mike Anderson. “His goals are all team oriented, yet he knows his individual play is critical to those goals. He has embraced and enhanced the culture of our program leading by example on and off the court. I really feel he’s one of the best players in the country and is as good of a person as he is a player. Since he arrived on campus his focus has been to become a great player and everyday he truly works at it with the best yet to come. I know I’m proud to be his coach and proud of the way he represents everyone in our state.”
Portis’ team-highs of 17.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and a league-best 56.3 field goal percentage helped lead Arkansas to 24 regular season wins that included a 13-5 mark in the SEC, good for sole possession of second place and No. 2 seed heading into this week’s conference tournament. The 13 SEC wins included seven by five points or less and six on the road, both of which set or equaled program-bests since Arkansas joined the league in 1991-92. Portis was integral in returning several SEC team-bests that were 20 or more years old thanks to his league-leading 18.6 points and nine double-doubles in conference-only games.
Portis, along with Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas, are the only three high-major players in the country averaging 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds. A native of Little Rock, Portis reached double figures in all 18 SEC games and is currently riding a 26-game streak heading into postseason play.
After becoming the sixth freshman in program history to earn All-SEC honors (second team) a year ago, Portis joins Scotty Thurman (1993 & 94), Williamson (93 & 94) and Joe Johnson (2000 & 01) as the only Razorbacks to earn All-SEC status from the league coaches in each of their first two seasons.
Currently in the top five of the SEC in scoring (17.8/2nd), 20-point games (12/2nd), field goal percentage (.563/1st), rebounding (8.7/4th), offensive rebounds (3.6/2nd) and double-doubles (11/4th), Portis has continued to etch his name in the Arkansas record books.
· First player in program history with five straight double-doubles in SEC regular season action.
· Program record nine double-doubles in SEC play.
· First player in program history with 30 points and 10 rebounds in an SEC game against Vanderbilt with 32 points and 11 boards.
· First player since 1998 with 20 points and 15 rebounds in an SEC game against LSU with 21 points and a career-high 15 boards.
· First player in program history to go for 18+ points and 7+ rebounds in six straight games since Corliss Williamson’s sophomore season in 1994.
· Just the fifth player to record multiple 30-point games in his career against SEC opponents, joining Todd Day (4), Jannero Pargo (3), Scotty Thurman (3) and Jonathon Modica (2).
closing in on history
In less than two full years as a Razorback, Portis has already put his name in the conversation with some of Arkansas’ elite players in program history. With at least two games left, Portis is closing in on a few more records.
· Just 29 points and one rebound shy of becoming the first player in Arkansas history with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds as a sophomore.
· Trying to become the third player in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau as a sophomore. Todd Day did so in 1990 and Scotty Thurman accomplished the feat in 1994.
Taking on a league full of future NBA first round draft picks and some of the best big men in the country, Portis posted a double-double or 20-point game against 12 of the 13 SEC members this season. Kentucky is the only opponent Portis didn’t go for 20 points or a double-double against, as he finished the Feb. 28 meeting in Lexington with 15 points and eight rebounds. Over his 36-game SEC career, Portis has a 20-point game or double-double against every league opponent.
Watch List Frenzy
The only sophomore named to the Wooden Award Final 15 last Saturday, Portis is one of four big men that is a finalist for the Wooden Award, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award and Oscar Robertson Trophy.