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Sanders and Layer Earn Top All-Conference Honors

February 28, 2011  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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In addition to Layer and Sanders receiving top honors, guards Evan Gordon and John Brown were tabbed second team all-conference. Jeremy Anderson rounds out Liberty’s award honorees, earning a spot on the all-academic team for the second straight year.

In addition to Layer and Sanders receiving top honors, guards Evan Gordon and John Brown were tabbed second team all-conference. Jeremy Anderson rounds out Liberty's award honorees, earning a spot on the all-academic team for the second straight year.

Liberty junior point guard Jesse Sanders and Flames head coach Dale Layer have been voted the 2010-11 Big South Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively, by the league's head coaches and media panel, it was announced Monday morning by the conference office.

In addition to Layer and Sanders receiving top honors, guards Evan Gordon and John Brown were tabbed second team all-conference. Jeremy Anderson rounds out Liberty's award honorees, earning a spot on the all-academic team for the second straight year.

Sanders is the first Liberty player in program history to be voted the Big South's Player of the Year. Sanders led the conference during the regular-season in assists, handing out a league-high 177 and averaging 5.7 per game. He also was 11th in rebounding at 6.0 per contest and spent a majority of the season as one of two players in the nation to average at least 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists. Sanders averaged 11.2 points in 31 games played, was eighth in the conference in average minutes (32.45) and fourth in assist-turnover ratio (1.88).

In Big South games, he increased his averages in nearly every category to help the Flames finish second in the conference standings – the program's highest finish since 2004-05. Sanders ranked 10th in conference games with 13.7 points a contest, in addition to averaging 6.2 rebounds and was tops in assists per game (5.6). He was among the league leaders in free throw percentage (77.2 percent, 9th) and offensive rebounds (2.67 – 6th), as well.

The first player in Big South history with 500 career rebounds and 400 career assists, Sanders had eight games this season with at least eight rebounds and 14 games with at least seven assists. He recorded three double-doubles as well as his Big South-record third career triple-double during the 2010-11 campaign.

Sanders paced the Flames with 19 points in a road win at Gardner-Webb on Dec. 31, including two crucial free throws to send the contest into overtime, followed by a game-winning jumper in the final four seconds. He also led Liberty with 16 points and hit a key three-pointer in the final 1:30 to give the Flames a 59-55 victory at UNC Asheville on Jan. 2. Sanders posted 21 and 20 points, respectively, in games against VMI (Jan. 20) and UNC Asheville (Jan. 27), and he led the Flames with 19 tallies at Winthrop (Feb. 24). Sanders received five first-place votes and 192 total points from the panel, ahead of VMI's Austin Kenon (six first-place votes and 164 points) and Coastal Carolina's Chad Gray (six first-place votes and 161 total points).

Layer is the first Liberty Basketball head coach to be named Big South Coach of the Year. He guided the Flames to a program-record 13 Big South wins and second-place finish in the conference standings – the team's highest since the 2004-05 season. Liberty, predicted to finish sixth in the league's preseason poll, finished 19-12 in the regular-season and has received votes in the Collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 polls in eight of the last nine weeks.

Just the second head coach in Big South history to win 10 conference games in each of his first two years with his new team, Layer's 2010-11 squad ranks first in the league in three-point field goal defense at 31.7 percent, as well as second in scoring defense at 65.6 points allowed. The Flames are second in the Big South in overall rebounding, including rebounding margin (+6.1), and are tops in offensive rebounds for both overall (14.00) and Conference games (13.28).

Liberty's +6.4 rebounding margin in Big South contests led the league. Layer, who won his 300th career game as a collegiate head coach on Jan. 27 with the Flames' 83-81 overtime win over UNC Asheville, received 13 first-place votes and 50 total points, ahead of UNC Asheville's Eddie Biedenbach (two first-place votes and 31 points) and VMI's Duggar Baucom (three first-place votes and 28 total points).

With his second team mention, Gordon picks up his second all-conference honor in his Liberty career. Last season, the Indianapolis native was named to the all-freshman team.

During the regular season, Gordon led the Flames in scoring with 14.5 points per game (eighth in the Big South). The guard also paced the team in free throw percentage (76.2, ninth in conference) and three-point field goal percentage (34.0, fourth).

Gordon shined in Liberty's game against Winthrop on Dec. 4, finishing with a career-high 26 points, while adding seven rebounds, five assists and five steals. In a match-up with third place UNC Asheville on Jan. 27, Gordon knocked down a clutch three-pointer, forcing the game into overtime en route to an 83-81 victory. With his 20 and 16-point performances in wins against Radford (Feb. 10) and High Point (Feb. 12), he earned Big South Player of the Week honors for the first time in his Liberty career.

Liberty's other second team honoree, Brown, proved he belonged on the court early on, posting 18 points and 17 rebounds in his Liberty debut, Nov. 12. The Savannah, Ga., native closed out the regular season leading the conference in rebounding (10.7 rpg) and field goal percentage (52.4).

Brown is averaging a double-double this season, chipping in 11.5 points per game to accompany his scoring effort. The redshirt junior transfer also leads the conference with 14 doubles-doubles this season, one shy of tying Liberty's single season record.

Brown's highlight of the year occurred on Jan. 27 against UNC Asheville, as connected on a layup just before the buzzer sounded, giving the Flames the victory in overtime.

Along with his second all-academic team recognition, Anderson is three-time member of the Big South Presidential Honor Roll. A major in kinesiology, the redshirt junior holds a grade point average of 4.0. Battling injury through the season, Anderson has appeared in 25 contests this season and is coming off a season-high 14-point performance this past Saturday against Presbyterian College.

First-Team All-Conference
Jesse Sanders, G, Jr., Liberty

Austin Kenon, G. Sr., VMI
Chad Gray, F, Sr., Coastal Carolina
Jamarco Warren, G, Sr., Charleston Southern
Matt Dickey, G, Jr., UNC Asheville

Second-Team All-Conference
Nick Barbour, G, Jr., High Point
Kelvin Martin, F, Jr., Charleston Southern
John Brown, F, R-Jr., Liberty
J.P. Primm, G, Jr., UNC Asheville
Evan Gordon, G, Soph., Liberty

All-Freshman Team
D.J. Covington, F/C, VMI
Sheldon Strickland, G, Charleston Southern
Luke Davis, G, Gardner-Webb
Rodney Glasgow, G, VMI
Jareal Smith, G, Radford

All-Academic Team
Sam McLaurin, F, R-Soph., Coastal Carolina
Jon Moore, G, Sr., Gardner-Webb
David Campbell, G, Sr., High Point
Jeremy Anderson, G, R-Jr., Liberty
Walt Allen, F, R-Sr., Presbyterian College
Evan Faulkner, G, Soph., Radford
Matt Dickey, G, Jr., UNC Asheville

Player of the Year
Jesse Sanders, G, Jr., Liberty

Freshman of the Year
D.J. Covington, F/C, VMI

Defensive Player of the Year
Kelvin Martin, F, Jr., Charleston Southern

Coach of the Year
Dale Layer, Liberty

Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Walt Allen, F, R-Sr., Presbyterian College