Barker to receive state coaching honor from Atlanta Tipoff Club

By Terry Gaston

MOUNT VERNON -- Brewton-Parker College coach and athletic director Steve Barker will be among some pretty impressive company in the college basketball world Friday night in Atlanta.

Barker was selected by the Atlanta Tipoff Club as the recipient of its Georgia Men's Basketball NCAA Division III/NAIA Coach of the Year.

The award will be presented in conjunction with the Tipoff Club's Naismith Awards banquet at the Georgia World Congress Center, where the recipients of the club's prestigious Naismith Awards for the national coaches, players and officials of the year also will be honored.

The University of Kentucky's Tubby Smith will be honored as the NCAA Division I men's coach of the year, and Connecticut's Geno Auriemma will receive the Naismith women's coaching award.

"This is the highest coaching award I have ever received," said Barker, who was honored in March as the NAIA-affiliated Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference's Men's Coach of the Year. "To be honored alongside the likes of coaches as Tubby Smith and Geno Auriemma is a real privilege because they are the best in the country."

Barker's Barons began the season 4-6 but won 16 of their next 20 games to hold the GACC lead outright or as a co-leader for four straight weeks.

Brewton-Parker, a preseason choice to finish fifth in the 10-team league, finished third in the conference standings with a 13-5 record and the season with a 20-13 overall record.

Barker, who also earned the GACC coach award in 2000, reached the 300-win milestone for his career in November. His 18-year career record is 314-259, including 13 years as the Barons' coach.

The Atlanta Tipoff Club is an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of excellence in basketball for student-athletes, coaches and officials. Its Georgia Basketball program provides awards at all levels for colleges and all classes of high schools in the state.

The Naismith Awards program is in its 35th year of honoring the outstanding prep basketball players and college players and coaches in the United States.

Naismith college players of the year who will be honored at the banquet are T.J. Ford of Texas for the men and Diana Taurasi of Connecticut for the women, while the much-publicized LeBron James of Akron, Ohio, will receive the high school boys' award.