CARBONDALE — SIU's men's basketball team went 11-5 when Tyler Smithpeters made more than one 3-pointer this season, but it finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference because of his other contributions.
Smithpeters, a 6-foot-4, 203-pound fifth-year senior guard, was the Salukis' fourth-leading rebounder in conference games (4.5 per game). The Harrisburg native's 48 assists in 18 Valley games were the second-most on the team behind starting point guard Marcus Bartley, and his 25 steals helped SIU lead the league in thefts.
"Really, whatever way I can, whether it's rebounding, or defensively, just doing anything to try to help this team win," said Smithpeters, who was named the MVC Sixth Man of the Year Tuesday.
One of only two subs for SIU most of the season, Smithpeters started three of 18 conference games and five of 31 during the regular season. He averaged 25 minutes a game, 27.9 in Valley play, more than he ever did even as a starter. Smithpeters averaged 8.9 points per game in conference play, where he was the 10th-best 3-point shooter in the league at 39.8 percent (33 of 83).
His 45 3s this season gave him 143 for his career, 10th all-time at SIU, and his 3-point percentage (38 percent) stands 14th in Saluki history entering the MVC Tournament. Smithpeters became the fourth SIU player to win the MVC's top award to reserves, joining Tony Young (2005), LaMar Owen (2004) and Joshua Cross (2000).
Junior guards Armon Fletcher and Sean Lloyd and junior center Kavion Pippen were also honored by the Valley's coaches, sports information directors and media. Voters could not vote for the players they covered.
Fletcher, a 6-5 junior guard/forward that led the Salukis in scoring (14.2 points per game), made the all-conference second team. He shot 49.1 percent from the field, 34 percent from the 3-point line, and 74.6 percent at the free-throw line. Fletcher was also SIU's second-leading rebounder (5.1), third in steals (36), and fifth in assists with 52.
Not bad for a guy that switched from shooting guard to hybrid forward nine games into the season.
"He's developed where you gotta defend him on the perimeter, because he's one of our best 3-point shooters, and when he's tuned in, defensively, he's turned into a really good rebounder, whether it be at the offensive or defensive end," SIU coach Barry Hinson said.
Loyola guard Clayton Custer was the MVC player of the year after leading the Ramblers to their first Valley title. Missouri State forward Alize Johnson, the preseason player of the year, joined Custer, Evansville guard Ryan Taylor, Drake guard Reed Timmer and Illinois State forward Milik Yarbrough on the all-conference first team.
Fletcher joined Indiana State guard Jordan Barnes, Illinois State forward Phil Fayne, Loyola guard/forward Donte Ingram and Bradley forward Donte Thomas on the second team.
Lloyd was one of five players on the MVC All-Defensive Team after leading the Salukis with 47 steals. Loyola guard Ben Richardson was the defensive player of the year. Missouri State forward Obediah Church, Bradley guard Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye and Valparaiso guard Tevonn Walker rounded out the All-Defensive Team.
Pippen, a 6-10 transfer from Three Rivers (Missouri) Community College, was a third team all-conference pick and a member of the All-Newcomer Team. Pippen, the Valley's 11th-leading rebounder (5.8 per game) and 16th-leading scorer (12.3 points per game), shot 55.7 percent from the field in 31 starts. His 39 blocks ranked fourth in the Valley.
Yarbrough, the Valley's fourth-leading scorer and fifth-leading rebounder, was the newcomer of the year. Loyola center Cameron Krutwig, the league's freshman of the year, was 15th in scoring in conference games (12.5 points per game) and sixth in rebounding (6.4 per game).
The league is expected to name its All-Bench and Most Improved Teams today.