March 8, 2011 10:03:00 AM
JACKSON -- Former Southern Miss star Clarence Weatherspoon knows a good big man when he sees one. So in his mind, Gary Flowers deserves all the accolades that come his way.
Flowers, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, won the Cellular South Howell Trophy on Monday afternoon, given to the state of Mississippi''s top men''s college basketball player.
Delta State''s Veronica Walker won the Cellular South Gillom Trophy, given to state''s top women''s player.
"The thing that''s so impressive about Gary is his versatility," Weatherspoon said. "He can hit a shot from outside, post you up and finish around the basket with either hand. He''s aggressive and physical. There''s really not much else you could want from a big guy."
Flowers is averaging 19 points and 7.8 rebounds per game for the Golden Eagles, pushing them into the NCAA Tournament conversation for the first time in years.
Southern Miss finished the regular season 21-9 (9-7 in Conference USA).
The Golden Eagles are in El Paso, Texas, preparing for the Conference USA Tournament. No. 5 seed Southern Miss will play No. 12 seed Tulane at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Weatherspoon, who used his bruising 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame to carve out a 13-year NBA career, accepted the award for Flowers.
Weatherspoon led Southern Miss to its only two NCAA tournament appearances in school history in 1990 and 1991. The Golden Eagles will almost certainly have to win the C-USA tournament this week to make the Big Dance, and Weatherspoon said Flowers is capable of helping the Golden Eagles accomplish that feat.
"He''s got the swagger that makes them go," Weatherspoon said. "You can tell that''s the case after watching them for less than five minutes. If he''s playing well, watch out."
University of Mississippi guard Chris Warren and Mississippi State guard Dee Bost were the other men''s finalists.
Walker, a 6-foot-1 forward from Indianola, is averaging 18.4 points and 9.8 rebounds for the Statesmen, leading the team in both categories. Delta State (26-3) has been one of the nation''s top Division II teams all season and will face North Alabama in the first round of the NCAA South Region tournament on Wednesday.
"The day Veronica decided to come to Delta State was a huge day for our program," Delta State coach Sandra Rushing said. "She''s such a hard worker and has improved her offensive game every day since she''s arrived on campus. But the reason I like her most is simple -- she''s a winner. She doesn''t take losing well and neither do I."
Walker played in high school at Indianola Gentry, where she won back-to-back 4A state titles with current Delta State point guard Bug Cooper. Cooper leads Division II with nearly nine assists per game, mostly because she feeds passes to Walker all game in the post.
"We''re a pretty good combination," Walker said. "I wouldn''t be where I am today without her."
MSU guard Mary Kathryn Govero and Ole Miss guard Kayla Melson were the other finalists for the Gillom Trophy.