Greensboro, N.C. (2/22/07) -- Guilford College junior Ben Strong received the Old Dominion Athletic Conference's (ODAC) 2006-07 Men's Basketball Player of the Year Award and head coach Tom Palombo picked up his second ODAC Coach of the Year honor Wednesday night at the league's tournament banquet in Salem, Virginia. The league's 10 head coaches nominated and selected two six-member all-star teams and the special award winners.
Strong is the first Guilford student to earn the ODAC's top honor and the Quakers' first two-time First Team All-ODAC men's basketball pick. Teammate Jordan Snipes joined Strong on the First Team All-ODAC squad as the Quakers earned two first team all-league picks for the first time since joining the league in 1991-92.
Strong, a 6-11, 220-pound center, has been integral to the Quakers' best season in nearly 20 years. He has a school-record five ODAC Men's Basketball Player of the Week awards this season, which gives him eight weekly honors in his career. Strong leads the ODAC and ranks fifth in NCAA Division III with 24.0 points per game. He also tops the conference and ranks seventh nationally with 11.0 rebounds per contest. His league-leading 2.5 blocks per game stands 12th in the country. Strong also ranks fifth in the league with a .795 free-throw percentage and seventh in field-goal percentage (.574). He has a career-high 15 double-doubles this season and has led Guilford's scorers 16 times. Strong scored a Guilford Division III-record 41 points in a Dec. 30 win at Methodist, one of his five 30-point games this season. He has 15 20-point games this year and averaged 23.8 points and 10.9 rebounds in 18 ODAC contests.
Strong, who broke his own Guilford NCAA Division III season scoring record this year with 576 points, passed the 1,000 career-points mark this season and holds 16th place on the Quakers' all-time scoring chart with 1,333 points in 78 games. He also eclipsed the 500 career rebounds plateau and has 555 boards, the Quakers' second-highest Division III total. Strong received Guilford's prestigious English Athletic Leadership Award Feb. 19 and a year ago became Guilford's first Division III student selected to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-South Second Team. D3hoops.com placed him on its 2006 All-South Third Team and the North Carolina Sports Information Association made him a Second Team All-State (college division) pick. The 2005-06 ODAC scoring leader has topped the league in blocks per game in each of his three seasons.
Snipes, a 6-4, 190-pound senior guard, stands second only to Strong among the league's scoring leaders and ranks 85th nationally with a career-best 18.3 points per game. An honorable mention All-ODAC pick last year, Snipes ranks among the league's best in seven different categories, including rebounding (5.3 rpg., 14th) and steals (1.29 spg., t11th). He has a club-high 36 three-pointers and stands second on the club in rebounds and free-throw percentage (.740). Guilford's scoring leader in eight games, Snipes has eight 20-point games, including a Guilford-Division III record 41-point effort in the Quakers' 130-114 win over Emory & Henry Jan. 13. He averaged 18.2 points and 5.2 boards in 18 league games this season.
Like Strong, Snipes passed the 1,000 career-points standard this year and enters the ODAC Tournament with 1,078 career points, 1,022 for the Quakers. He stands 26th among Guilford's all-time scoring leaders, third in the Quakers' NCAA Division III era. Snipes gained international fame in 2005 when a videographer captured his game-winning 86-foot heave of a missed free throw at the final buzzer of Guilford's 91-89 overtime win at Randolph-Macon.
Snipes and Strong have flourished under Palombo's up-tempo style that helped Guilford to a 21-3 overall record. The club's 21 wins mark its most victories since 1977-78 and its 21-3 record is the best 24-game standard since 1974-75. The Virginia Beach, Va. native guided the Quakers to a school-record 15 league triumphs and the best start (10-0) in the program's 93-season history. Palombo's team gained Guilford's first national ranking in the D3hoops.com Top 25 Poll five weeks ago and has climbed to 17th without falling out of the poll. The Quakers stand third in this week's NCAA Division III South Region Poll for the third week in a row.
Palombo, who shared the ODAC's top coaching award in 2004 with Emory & Henry's Bob Johnson, earned his 150th men's basketball coaching win with Guilford's Dec. 18 victory over Shenandoah. The Quakers' Feb. 11 triumph over Eastern Mennonite marked the 1989 Virginia Wesleyan graduate's 300th career win in 17 seasons as a head basketball coach, which includes seven years as the top women's mentor at Defiance College and his alma mater. Palombo owns a 302-145 (.676) overall coaching record, a 164-103 (.614) mark in 10 men's seasons and a 64-40 (.615) ledger in four Guilford campaigns. He ranks third among the Quakers' career men's basketball victory leaders. Strong and Snipes raise the number of Palombo's All-ODAC honorees to six.
The Quakers (21-3, 15-3 ODAC) clinched the number-two seed for the eight-team ODAC Tournament in Salem and open tourney play versus seventh-seeded Bridgewater Thursday (2/22) at 6:00 p.m. The winner meets the winner of the Roanoke-Randolph-Macon quarterfinal Saturday (2/24) at 3:00 p.m. The winner of Sunday's 1:00 p.m. final in the Salem Civic Center earns the league's automatic NCAA Tournament berth.