The Big South Conference today announced its award winners for the 2017-18 men’s basketball season.  Here are the results, as issued in a press release from the league.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( – Winthrop senior guard/forward Xavier Cooks and Radford head coach Mike Jones have been voted the 2017-18 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 afternoon by the conference office.  The panel voted Radford guard Carlik Jones Freshman of the Year and UNC Asheville’s Ahmad Thomas as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.  Asheville senior guard Kevin Vannatta was voted Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the league’s Sports Information Directors.

Cooks (Wollongong, Australia) is the second consecutive Winthrop Eagle to be voted Big South Player of the Year and the fourth overall. Cooks is the only Big South player to rank in the Top 5 in scoring (3rd – 17.6), rebounding (1st – 8.9), assists (2nd – 3.7), blocks (1st – 2.1) and field goal percentage (3rd – 51.0).  He also leads the league in defensive rebounds with 6.9, and posted eight 20-point games and eight double-doubles this season.  Cooks tallied the Big South’s first 30-point / 15-rebound game since 2014 when he scored a career-high 36 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in Winthrop’s 90-71 win at Gardner-Webb on Feb. 15.  He also recorded the conference’s only triple-double this season on Dec. 2 against Reinhardt with 11 points, 15 boards and 11 assists.  In Big South games, Cooks led the league with 2.4 blocks, 8.7 rebounds and 6.9 defensive caroms.  He averaged 18.3 points (3rd), was second with 3.7 assists and tied for third with a 52.9 field goal clip.  Cooks strung together four consecutive 20-point games, was Winthrop’s leading scorer 16 times — including eight-straight from Jan. 21-Feb. 15, and eclipsed 30 points twice.

In the Player of the Year voting, Cooks received 12 first-place votes and 401 total points from the panel, ahead of Campbell’s Chris Clemons(seven first-place votes and 375 points) and UNC Asheville’s Ahmad Thomas (seven first-place votes and 364 points).

Jones earns his first Coach of the Year honor after leading the Highlanders — predicted to finish seventh in the preseason poll — to a second-place Big South finish at 12-6 and the No. 2 seed in this week’s Big South Championship tournament.  It was the Highlanders’ best league finish since the 2009-10 campaign and matched the most Big South wins during Jones’ tenure on the sideline.  Radford was the only member this season to open the conference slate 4-0, in addition to 11 victories by single-digits and three conference sweeps.  Jones, the 14th overall coach to win 100 games in the Big South, directed to his squad to the top scoring defense in league play at 64.2 points allowed, as well as first in rebounding margin at +4.9.  Overall, the Highlanders were first in offensive rebounds per game (11.8), second in scoring defense and rebound margin, and third in total rebounds.

Coach Jones received 14 first-place votes and 55 total points, ahead of UNC Asheville’s Nick McDevitt (seven first-place votes and 50 points) and Winthrop’s Pat Kelsey (two first-place votes and 21 points).

Jones (Cincinnati, Ohio) is the first Highlander to be voted Big South Freshman of the Year since Whit Holcomb-Faye in 2002-03 and the third overall.  Jones started 21 of 31 games played and averaged 11.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per outing.  He is the Big South’s highest-scoring freshman in 2017-18 to rank 19th overall in the conference.  Jones is also 10th in the league with 3.0 assists per contest and 12th in free throw percentage at 76.4.  In league action, Jones averaged 12.0 points, was fifth with 3.6 assists, fifth in assist-turnover ratio (1.8) and 11th in free throw shooting (76.7).  He received 21 first-place votes and 130 total points, ahead of Charleston Southern’s Phlandrous Fleming Jr. (four first-place votes and 102 points).

Thomas (Danville, Va.) is now the fourth back-to-back Big South Defensive Player of the Year honoree since the award’s inception in 2005-06.  He finished the regular-season second in the conference with 53 steals and 1.8 steals per game, in addition to Top 10 standings in rebounds and defensive boards.  In Big South games, Thomas was second in both steal categories with 30 total and 1.7 per contest.  He collected three-or-more steals eight times this season, including five against Longwood on Jan. 9 for the most in a conference game this year. Thomas received 13 first-place votes and 60 total points, ahead of Winthrop’s Xavier Cooks (10 first-place votes and 45 points) and Radford’sEd Polite Jr. (four first-place votes and 37 points).

Vannatta (Upper Arlington, Ohio) is a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree, represents the Big South Conference on the Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and was a candidate for the 2017-18 Senior CLASS Award.  He has started all 31 games this season, is averaging 10.0 points and 5.4 rebounds, and has a team-high 97 assists.  The senior carries a 3.93 GPA as an Accounting major.

Joining Cooks on the All-Conference First-Team are Clemons, Thomas, Polite and UNC Asheville’s MaCio Teague.  The entire 2017-18 All-Conference team is as follows:


First-Team All-Conference
Xavier Cooks, F, Sr., Winthrop
Chris Clemons, G, Jr., Campbell
Ahmad Thomas, G, Sr., UNC Asheville
Ed Polite Jr., F, Jr., Radford
MaCio Teague, G, Soph., UNC Asheville

Second-Team All-Conference
Christian Keeling, G, Soph., Charleston Southern
David Efianayi, G, R-Jr., Gardner-Webb
Scottie James, F, R-Soph., Liberty
Andre Fox, G, Jr., High Point
Jahaad Proctor, G, Soph., High Point

Honorable Mention All-Conference
Reggie Dillard, G, R-Sr., Presbyterian College
Liam O’Reilly, G, Sr., Gardner-Webb
Marcus Burk, G, Soph., Campbell
Carlik Jones, G, R-Fr., Radford
Bjorn Broman, G, Jr., Winthrop

All-Freshman Team
Carlik Jones, G, R-Fr., Radford
Phlandrous Fleming Jr., G, Fr., Charleston Southern
Jaheam Cornwall, G, Fr., Gardner-Webb
Elijah Cuffee, G, Fr., Liberty
Justyn Mutts, F, Fr., High Point

All-Academic Team
Cory Gensler, G, Soph., Campbell
Christian Keeling, G, Soph., Charleston Southern
Patrick Zeck, F, Soph., Gardner-Webb
Jahaad Proctor, G, Soph., High Point
Ryan Kemrite, G, R-Sr., Liberty
Dominic Ezeani, G, Soph., Longwood
JC Younger, G, Soph., Presbyterian College
Caleb Tanner, G, Jr., Radford
Kevin Vannatta, G, Sr., UNC Asheville
Anders Broman, G, R-Sr., Winthrop

Player of the Year
Xavier Cooks, F, Sr., Winthrop

Freshman of the Year
Carlik Jones, G, R-Fr., Radford

Defensive Player of the Year
Ahmad Thomas, G, Sr., UNC Asheville

Coach of the Year
Mike Jones, Radford

Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Kevin Vannatta, G, Sr., UNC Asheville