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Christon named SEC Player of the Year; Peoples voted to the all-freshman team
     FAYETTEVILLE - University of Arkansas senior forward Shameka Christon was voted the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and guard Kristin Peoples Freshman All-SEC by the league coaches, conference commissioner Mike Slive announced Wednesday.
     "It's awesome," Christon said. "There are a lot of great players in the SEC, and to be compared with some of the players that have won this award is incredible. I want to thank my teammates because without them most definitely I wouldn't have done this."
      This is the first time a Lady Razorback basketball player was voted SEC Player of the Year, and the third time in program history.
     "I'm thrilled for Shameka and for this team," UA head coach Susie Gardner said. "This is the greatest honor a player can receive in the SEC because it comes from the coaches. It also means our team did something special because no one player can reach this level of achievement without her teammates, and I know the team will be proud of her."
      Christon was also voted first-team all-SEC, making her only the second player in Lady'Back history to earn first-team SEC honors. She averaged 21.9 ppg for the regular season, and enters the post season ranked top 10 in the nation in points per game.
     "She is the best offensive player in the conference," Gardner said. "She is an incredible scorer, probably the hardest match-up in the conference to defend."
     Gardner recalled her meeting with Christon at the opening of the season.
     "She asked me what her goals should be for points and rebounds," Gardner said. "I told her my philosophy was to play your best game and not worry about the numbers. If you can go to sleep at night and know what you did was your best effort, then good things will happen at the end of the year."
      Leading the SEC in scoring the entire season, Christon joins Arkansas' Kodak All-American Delmonica DeHorney as the only Lady'Backs to earn league player of the year awards. DeHorney was the two-time Southwest Conference Player of the Year (1990 & 1991).
     "Most of all, I'm proud for the program," Gardner said. "It means a lot not only for this team, but for all the Lady Razorbacks when one of their own gets this kind of award."
      Previously, Arkansas' highest individual honor was SEC Freshman of the Year, won by Christy Smith in 1995 and Karyn Karlin in 1998. Smith went on to become the only other first-team all-SEC pick in program history.
     Peoples' selection to the all-freshman team marks another rookie guard from Arkansas to receive league recognition. In addition to Freshman of the Year, Smith was all-freshman in 1995. Kimberly Wilson (1994) and Sytia Messer (1996) were Lady'Back guards also selected in years past.
     "She made it based on her never give up effort, her hustle," Gardner said. "Her stats might not have been best every game, but she played the game with fire and she improved a great deal this year. We never anticipated her having to play as many minutes, but she was thrown into the fire due to some injuries. She had to grow up really fast in a very tough conference."
     Playing all 27 games of the regular season and starting 16, Peoples averaged 7 ppg, 2.2 rpg and 3 apg in Gardner's two-guard front. She is the seventh Lady Razorback to be named freshman all-conference. Along with Smith, Karlin, Wilson and Messer, Arkansas had post players Shaka Massey (1996) and Ruby Vaden (2003) voted by the league coaches to the rookie team.
      "Arkansas has a tradition of young players getting the chance to play and then achieving success," Gardner said. "We certainly hope we'll continue that next year."
     A three-year selection for all-SEC, Christon was twice named the league player of the week this season.
     Christon heads into the SEC Tournament this week with 1,931 points in her career which ranks second all-time at Arkansas. She is the only player in Lady'Back history to rank top five in five major statistical categories: points (2nd, 1,931; rebounds, 4th, 703; blocks, 2nd, 162; steals, tied for 5th, 205; three-point goals, 5th, 142).
     Holder of more Arkansas records for SEC games only and SEC tournament games, she is on track to finish her career with the fourth highest career scoring average in Lady'Back history at 15.6 ppg.
     The Lady Razorbacks open the 2004 SEC Tournament against Mississippi State at noon at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on Thursday. The ninth seed of the tournament, Arkansas would face the league champion and No. 1 ranked Tennessee on Friday should it advance past MSU.
     The game is televised live on Fox Sports Net, and broadcast over the Lady Razorback Radio Network.

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