Alabama’s Brandon Miller is AP SEC Player, Newcomer of the Year

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Alabama freshman Brandon Miller is The Associated Press player of the year and newcomer of the year in the Southeastern Conference.

Texas A&M’s Buzz Williams was named coach of the year in voting by 14 reporters who cover the SEC.

Texas A&M guard Wade Taylor IV and Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe, last year’s national player of the year, were unanimous first-team picks. The other first-team selections are Missouri guard/forward Kobe Brown and Mississippi State forward Tolu Smith.

Miller was a first-team pick on all but one ballot, received 12 player of the year votes and 11 as top newcomer for the regular-season SEC champions and No. 4-ranked Crimson Tide. The 6-foot-9 forward is only the fourth freshman in the last 50 years to lead the SEC in scoring, averaging 19.6 points along with 8.0 rebounds. He is also tops in 3-pointers made, making 92 and hitting at a 40.4% rate.

Miller’s name surfaced in court testimony in the capital murder case of now-former teammate Darius Miles and another man in the shooting death of 23-year-old Jamea Harris near campus.

A police officer testified that Miles texted Miller asking him to bring Miles’ gun in the early morning hours of Jan. 15. Fellow freshman starter Jaden Bradley was also at the scene. Neither has missed a start or been accused of any crime. The university has described Miller as a cooperating witness, not a suspect.

A day after that testimony, Miller scored 41 points and hit the game-winning shot in overtime to beat South Carolina amid jeers from Gamecocks fans. Afterward, Alabama coach Nate Oats called Miller “one of the most mentally tough kids I’ve ever coached.”

The Aggies’ Taylor also received two votes as player of the year. LSU forward KJ Williams, Arkansas guards Ricky Council IV and Anthony Black each received a vote for newcomer of the year.

Williams received eight votes, Missouri’s Dennis Gates five and Alabama’s Oats one in the coach of the year balloting.

The second team included Council, Tennessee guard Zakai Zeigler, Williams, Florida forward Colin Castleton and Vanderbilt forward Liam Robbins.


Guard – Kobe Brown, Missouri, Sr., 6-8, 250, Huntsville, Alabama.

u-Guard – Wade Taylor IV, Texas A&M, So., 6-0, 185, Dallas.

Forward – Brandon Miller, Alabama, Fr., 6-9, 200, Antioch, Tennessee.

Forward – Tolu Smith, Mississippi St., Sr., 6-11, 245, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

u-Forward – Oscar Tshwiebe, Sr., 6-9, 260, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Guard – Ricky Council IV, Arkansas, Jr., 6-6, 205, Durham, North Carolina.

Guard – Zakai Zeigler, Tennessee, So., 5-9, 171, Long Island, New York.

Forward – Colin Castleton, Florida, Sr., 6-11, 250, Deland, Florida.

Forward – Liam Robbins, Vanderbilt, Sr., 7-0, 250, Davenport, Iowa.

Forward – KJ Williams, LSU, Sr,, 6-10, 250, Cleveland, Mississippi.

Coach of the year – Buzz Williams, Texas A&M.

Player of the year – Brandon Miller, Alabama.

Newcomer of the year – Brandon Miller, Alabama.

— AP All-SEC Voting Panel: Rick Bozich, WDRB-TV, Louisville, Kentucky; Kevin Brockway, Gainesville Sun; Travis Brown, Bryan-College Station Eagle; David Cloninger, Post & Courier; Adam Cole, Opelika-Auburn News; Clayton Collier, WATN-TV, Memphis, Tennessee; Robbie Faulk, Starkville Daily News; Aria Gerson, The Tennessean; Bob Holt, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Stefan Krajisnik, Clarion-Ledger; Dave Matter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Sheldon Mickles, Baton Rouge Advocate; Mike Rodak,; Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald.

Florida upends No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 behind Colin Castleton

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Colin Castleton had 20 points and nine rebounds, Kyle Lofton added 14 points and Florida used a 13-0 run late in the second half to upend No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 on Wednesday night.

The Volunteers, playing with their highest ranking in four years, lost for the first time in five games. They had won nine of 10.

Tennessee (18-4, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) looked like it had taken control midway through the second half. They outscored Florida by 10 points in the early going to take a six-point lead.

But the Gators (13-9, 6-3) stormed back behind Castleton, who scored 11 of 14 points as Florida rallied. The senior had a dunk, two free throws, a three-point play, a layup and a short jumper – essentially putting the team on his back down the stretch.

Myreon Jones and Will Richard chipped in nine points apiece for the Gators.

Zakai Ziegler led the Vols with 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Olivier Nkamhoua added 11 points and nine rebounds for the vistors, who also got 11 points and eight boards from Vescovi Santiago.

Florida led 27-21 at halftime, just the fifth time the Volunteers has trailed at the break this season. Tennessee rallied to win three of the previous four.

The Gators were red hot to start, making six of their first eight shots – including all three from 3-point range – while building a 17-4 advantage. But they quickly cooled against the nation’s best defense, missing nine of their next 11 as Tennessee made cut it to 22-21.

The Vols had it going coming out of the locker room, with Ziegler getting into the paint and making things happen. But it was short-lived – thanks mostly to Castleton.


Tennessee surely will drop a few spots in next week’s AP Top 25 college basketball poll.


Tennessee: The Volunteers gave up 10 points in the opening four minutes of the games, a rare sluggish start for the nation’s best defense. Tennessee had held four of its first eight SEC opponents scoreless at the first media timeout, roughly the first four minutes of games. It was a sign of things to come.

Florida: The Gators have been resilient much of the season, and this was arguably the most impressive comeback of the season for coach Todd Golden’s team. The Gators squandered a 13-point lead early and a six-point advantage in the second half. But they rallied when it mattered.


Football coach Billy Napier watched the game from a few rows behind Florida’s bench alongside his two sons and receiver Ricky Pearsall. Former Florida tennis star Ben Shelton, the NCAA singles champion in 2022, also was in attendance. So was former Gators and NFL quarterback Doug Johnson.


Tennessee hosts No. 25 Auburn and former coach Bruce Pearl on Saturday.

Florida plays at Kentucky on Saturday. The Gators have lost seven of eight in the series.

Florida’s CJ Felder leaves team for personal reasons

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida forward CJ Felder has left the team for personal reasons, although coach Todd Golden left the door open for his return later this season.

Felder, who is averaging 2.5 points and 3.1 rebounds this season, sat out of Florida’s last game at LSU and played just two minutes against Georgia last week. He won’t be on the bench when the Gators host 20th-ranked Missouri.

“CJ Felder’s going to take a little time away from the team for personal reasons,” Golden said. “Definitely nothing disciplinary, still a part of our family, love him. He’s just going through a little bit of a time right now and leaving the door open for him to join the team again this season whenever he’s ready.”

The 6-foot-7 Felder transferred to Florida in 2021 after two seasons at Boston College. He’s served mostly as a role player for the Gators (9-7, 2-2 Southeastern Conference), who have tweaked their rotation several times under new coach Golden.

Late steal preserves No. 20 Auburn’s 61-58 win over Florida

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

AUBURN, Ala. – Chris Moore and Auburn sealed the win with one final defensive play, a fitting finish for a team whose biggest strength has been in getting stops.

Moore got a steal in the closing seconds and Wendell Green Jr. made a layup at the buzzer to cap No. 20 Auburn’s 61-58 victory over Florida on Wednesday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

“That’s our team,” Green said. “We’ve got to win defensively. Offense isn’t always going to be there.”

It wasn’t always there for the Tigers (11-2) against the Gators (7-6) either. But they stayed true to form defensively after coming in allowing just 61.2 points a game.

Moore stole the ball from Gators star Colin Castleton, who was attempting to get away a potential game-winner before Jaylin Williams got in his way in the paint. He passed to Green, who raced for the uncontested final basket.

“Jaylin Williams kind of takes that charge, makes the play and Castleton gets off balance and then it’s a 50-50 ball and Chris comes up with it and we score,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.

Johni Broome’s layup gave Auburn a 59-58 lead with 1:16 left and Myreon Jones’s missed 3-point attempt went out of bounds for the Gators.

But Alex Fudge picked off a pass from Williams and Florida called time out with 18 seconds remaining. Castleton couldn’t get off a shot.

“We wanted to put the ball in his hands to make a play and see if he could get to the rim and draw a foul,” Florida coach Todd Golden said. “It just didn’t go in our favor.”

Green scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half. Broome had 14 points, 11 rebounds and four assists while Williams scored 13.

Kowacie Reeves led Florida with 15 points and Jones scored 10. Castleton finished 1-of-6 shooting for six points, 10 below his season average. He did have eight rebounds and four assists.

“I thought Colin did a really good job just playing within himself,” Golden said. “Obviously they’re loading up on him. Everything they did defensively was to take him away.”

Broome concurred. “He’s a good player but the main goal of the gameplan was to stop him,” he said.

Green scored his first 10 points in a 1:44 span starting with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half. He was fouled twice on early 3-point attempts coming out of the locker room, making 5 of 6 free throws.

Florida scored eight straight points late in the first half and led 26-23. Auburn went 5:45 without a field goal before Green’s 3-pointer at the buzzer for his only points of the half.

Auburn then made five of its last seven shots in a game that was a defensive standoff much of the way.

“We’re going to have to be a team that just has to guard people, because unfortunately offense has been difficult all year,” Pearl said.


Florida: Nearly pulled off the big upset for first-year coach Golden. Castleton had a rare off night, attempting only one field goal in the first half and making his only basket in the opening minute of the second.

Auburn: The Tigers’ 26th consecutive home win tied Kentucky for the fourth longest active streak in the nation. Finished the first half making 2 of its last 13 shots, hitting just 8 of 28 attempts (28.6). Outrebounded the Gators 40-28, including 17 offensive boards.


Golden worked on Pearl’s staff at Auburn from 2014-16, including one season as director of basketball operations before getting promoted to assistant coach.

“This one is a little more emotional for me, because Bruce has just been such a big part of my career as a player and a coach,” Golden said.

It was also emotional for Pearl. “I love Todd like a son,” he said.


Florida hosts Texas A&M on Jan. 4

Auburn visits Georgia on Jan. 4

Florida lands ‘proven winner’ with St. Bonnies guard Lofton

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida officially signed graduate transfer and St. Bonaventure guard Kyle Lofton on Friday, a potentially huge addition for new coach Todd Golden.

Lofton earned All-Atlantic 10 honors each of the past three seasons while totaling 1,613 points and 604 assists. The 6-foot-3 point guard started 116 games during his four years with the Bonnies, averaging a nation-leading 38.1 minutes a game and shooting 42.1% from the field and 82% from the free-throw line.

“He’s a proven winner and leader,” Golden said. “He makes others around him better and cares only about one thing: winning.”

Lofton should be an upgrade from turnover-prove point guard Tyree Appleby, who transferred for the second time and landed at Wake Forest.

Lofton helped St. Bonaventure reach the NCAA Tournament in 2021, leading the Bonnies with 23 points in the Atlantic 10 championship game.

He joins VMI point guard Trey Bonham, Belmont shooting guard Will Richard and LSU forward Alex Fudge as transfers Golden has lured to Gainesville. They are expected to be the core of the program, along with big man Colin Castleton and guard Kowacie Reeves.

The Gators now have 11 of 13 scholarships filled for next season, with Golden still looking to the transfer portal in hopes of finding frontcourt help and another shooter.

Former LSU forward Fudge transfers to Florida, joins Golden

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Former LSU forward Alex Fudge transferred to Florida, becoming another key building block for new coach Todd Golden.

Fudge, a Jacksonville, Florida, native, averaged 3.3 points and 3.2 rebounds as a freshman with the Tigers last season. The 6-foot-8 Fudge has a 7-foot wingspan and was a four-star prospect. He averaged 17.9 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.7 blocked shots as a senior at Lee High.

“Alex is just scratching the surface in terms of his potential,” Golden said in a statement. “He’s already proven to be an impactful defender that makes winning plays and can guard multiple positions. Offensively, we believe he will make a big jump for us getting out in transition more and playing in the middle of the floor in the half court. We can’t wait to see his growth from his freshman to his sophomore season.”

Fudge joins a roster that includes big man Colin Castleton and rising sophomore Kowacie Reeves. Both players considered leaving Florida after former coach Mike White took the Georgia job, but Golden convinced Castleton and Reeves to remain in Gainesville.