CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Stan Okoye, the 6-6 senior forward from Raleigh, North Carolina who has helped propel VMI basketball success the last three years, was tabbed the Big South Conference Preseason Player of the Year for 2012-13 at the league's media day event Tuesday afternoon. VMI was also picked to finish second in the North Division preseason poll.
Okoye received the most voting points among a panel of the Big South coaches and selected media members. It marks the first time a VMI basketball player has attained the elite honor since the school joined the conference in 2003-04.
Okoye, a second team All-Big South member last season, has been a model of consistency and production over his collegiate career. In 2011-12, he led the team in rebounding (7.2 ) and was second in scoring (17.1) and had twelve 20-point games on the season and six double-doubles. Okoye led or co-led VMI in scoring 11 times last year and led or co-led VMI in rebounding 19 times.
"This means a lot to me, my family, the VMI community, and especially my teammates. I definitely wouldn't have been in position had it not been for them," said Okoye on the honor. "It's pretty important to me that the coaches have recognized me as a threat on the court, but I also have to recognize that it's not all about me, it's about my teammates, too. I have to look at this as motivation to play harder throughout the season because it doesn't really mean anything until the end of the season - I hope I can win that and we can win a championship."
It wasn't hard to find Okoye's name listed among the conference stat leaders last season. The versatile forward in overall games ranked third in the BSC in scoring (17.1), 9th in rebounding (7.2), 3rd in FG pct. (.519), and 7th in steals (1.5), 12th in blocks (.78), and 4th in defensive rebounds (5.1). He ranked second in the BSC in league games in scoring (19.5), 4th in rebounding (8.2), 3rd in FG pct. (.543), and 4th in defensive rebounds (5.8).
"This award lets me know that people have high expectations of me so I have to live up to that," said Okoye. "I was pretty surprised when Coach Baucom came up to me in workouts last week and let me know about it."
Other Okoye highlights last season included a season-high 27 points against Presbyterian Dec. 31 and a career-high 18 rebounds at Campbell Jan. 21. He also blocked three shots and had a career-high seven assists against Gardner-Webb Jan. 2 and hit 11 of 16 shots against HPU Jan. 19. He showed a flair for the dramatic as his dunk against #2 ranked Ohio State was selected as ESPN No.1 Top Ten Play for November. 23. Okoye scored in double figures in 28 games last year including 19 straight.
"We are very excited about Stan's recognition, he epitomizes what a cadet-athlete should be," said head Coach Duggar Baucom. "Stan is not only a warrior on the court, he is a scholar in the classroom and a role model in the corps. He is the type of young man that every parent would be proud to have as their son."
An academically distinguished cadet who has been named to the Big South Conference Presidential Honor Roll, Okoye serves as vice-president of the Honor Court, one of the most most respected positions in the Corps of Cadets.
VMI posted a 17-16 mark last year for its third winning season over the last four years and reached the Big South tournament championship game for the third time in the last six years.
In other news from Big South Media Day:
---VMI was picked to finish second in the newly revamped Big South North Division. The Keydets received the second most points (136) and also picked up five first place votes behind Campbell's 166 points and 21 first-place votes. The rest of the division was picked as High Point third, Liberty fourth, Radford fifth, and newcomer Longwood sixth.
The South division preseason poll was voted Charleston Southern first, followed by Coastal Carolina, UNC Asheville, Winthrop, Gardner-Webb, and Presbyterian.
For the complete all-conference team and poll, go to www.bigsouthsports.com.