UTC's Will Wade, Zaccheus Mason, Casey Jones earn SoCon awards

UTC's Will Wade, Zaccheus Mason, Casey Jones earn SoCon awards

March 5th, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

Will Wade

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

UTC's Zaccheus Mason takes shot in a game against Samford at McKenzie Arena.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

UTC's Casey Jones finishes an alley-oop against Samford.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Will Wade has been much more focused on the process than the results throughout his first season as basketball coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

His process has produced hardware.

UTC senior forward Zaccheus Mason earned the Southern Conference defensive player of the year honor -- the first in school history -- as voted by the coaches, and was named to the All-SoCon squad along with sophomore teammate Casey Jones.

"I'm happy for them and happy to see their hard work pay off," said Wade, who also earned his own accolades Tuesday. "Casey is the hardest-working kid in the program. Z has been our best player all season. He's our MVP. We'd be in real trouble without him."

Wade was voted coach of the year by the SoCon media association after he directed UTC to an 18-13 season including a 12-4 mark in the league and the No. 2 seed for the tournament after the Mocs were picked in the preseason to finish seventh. The coaches gave the award to Wofford's Mike Young.

Mack McCarthy is the only UTC men's coach to be named coach of the year by his colleagues, and that happened in 1991-92 and again in 1992-93. The media named Murray Arnold coach of the year in 1981-82 and 1982-83, then McCarthy in 1985-86, 1991-92 and 1992-93.

"To me, it's about the players," Wade said. "I'm happy for Casey and Z. The coaching award is more of a team award than an individual award."

Mason earned a spot on the five-man first team selected by the media association -- which consists of two media members per SoCon school -- and Jones made the third team.

"I'm more happy for our guys than I am for me," Wade said. "Z makes our defense work. He leads the league in blocks and defensive rebounding. Those are key stats.

"I'm happy they're both rewarded for their hard work and a good season."

ASU players up in air

Appalachian State juniors Jay Canty and Mike Neal did not make the Mountaineers' last road trip -- a 63-57 win at Samford and a 63-44 loss at UTC -- due to a violation of team rules.

ASU coach Jason Capel did not have a definite decision Tuesday as to whether his second and third leading scorers would be reinstated to play in the SoCon tournament.

"They have some things they have to shore up this week on and off the court to allow themselves to be part of the team," Capel said. "But they're doing that."

Locals in Asheville

Former Tyner star Michael Bradley, who now plays for Samford, battled through injuries and averaged just 3.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He started seven games this season and played in 26 contests.

"I think Michael Bradley is playing his best basketball right now," said Capel, whose Mountaineers will face the Bulldogs at 11 a.m. Friday.

Former Northwest Whitfield forward Christy Robinson has led Samford's women with 8.3 points per game in coach Mike Morris' slow-down Princeton style. Former Gordon Lee star Kassidy Blevins, a Samford guard, averages 6.2 points per game and was the SoCon freshman of the week for the second time after scoring 21 against UNC Greensboro and 13 in a 44-43 loss to Elon. She was 8-of-13 on 3-pointers in the two games.

Davidson the favorite

Davidson's Wildcats won the regular-season championship and earned the top seed for the men's tournament. They've also won the last two tournament championships, which makes them the clear favorites to win again this year.

But coach Bob McKillop isn't getting his finger sized for another ring quite yet.

"From top to bottom, anyone in this league is a tough out," McKillop said. "I'm concerned about everybody."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.