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Samford’s Bucky McMillan named Southern Conference Coach of the Year

The Southern Conference Postseason Awards, voted on by a mix of media and head coaches, have named Samford University men's basketball head coach Bucky McMillan the 2023-2024 Coach of the Year.

McMillan, named the media's Coach of the Year each of the last two seasons, becomes the third coach in SoCon's 103-year history to win the award three times in a row. Davidson's Terry Holland, who led the Wildcats to three conference championships from 1969 to 1972, was the last person to accomplish this feat.

In his fourth year with the program, McMillan led the Bulldogs to 26 wins and their first-ever outright conference title. Sanford scored 86.9 points per game, won all 17 home games, and ranked 79th in the NCAA Tournament selection metric NET.

The Bulldogs won 17 straight games from November 14th to January 20th. All of these results set new school records.

Three Bulldog players were also recognized. Junior Akor Akor was named to the All-SoCon first team after leading the Bulldogs in nearly every major statistical category.

The Australian forward averaged 15.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots per game during the regular season. Akor also ranked third in the conference in field goal percentage, 59.1 percent from the floor, sixth in 3-point percentage and 44.2 percent on triples.

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Graduate student Rylan Jones was named SoCon Newcomer of the Year, becoming the first Bulldog to win the award. Jones, a former Utah State transfer, led the team with an average of 4.9 assists per game.

The point guard had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.56, the sixth-best mark in the nation. Jones was also named to the conference's third team.

Junior AJ Staton McCray was one of only five players named to the conference's All-Defensive Team and the only Bulldog to earn this honor. The guard averaged 12.6 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game, and 0.5 blocks per game, all of which were second on the team behind Akor. The Florida native ranked fourth in the conference with 1.7 steals per game. Staton McCray was also named to the conference's third team, joining Jones.

Sanford begins SoCon tournament play Saturday at 11 a.m. CT in Asheville, North Carolina. The Bulldogs became the No. 1 seed in the conference for the first time in program history, securing the top spot with a home win over East Tennessee State on February 24th.

Sanford, who holds the first round with a bye, will play his first match against the winner of Mercer vs. The Citadel.

Charles Vaughan is a sports analyst and Yellowhammer News contributor.

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