ATLANTA -- Mark Gottfried and Erwin Dudley led Alabama back to the top of the Southeastern Conference.
On Tuesday, they were rewarded by being named coach and player of the year on The Associated Press All-SEC team.
Georgia's Jarvis Hayes was named newcomer of the year and joined Dudley on the first team, along with Tayshaun Prince of Kentucky, Udonis Haslem of Florida and Vincent Yarbrough of Tennessee.
Gottfried's fourth season as Crimson Tide coach resulted in the school's first regular-season conference title since 1987. His best player was Dudley, who wasn't heavily recruited out of high school but showed the benefits of hard work.
The 6-foot-8 junior forward led the SEC in rebounding (9.1 per game) and ranked 10th in scoring (16.0).
"I wasn't one of the guys everybody was talking about after high school," said Dudley, who grew up in tiny Uniontown, Ala. "But I didn't let it get to me. I kept the faith, just kept working hard and kept getting better."
That attitude is apparent every time a shot goes up. Dudley describes his best trait as "being relentless on the glass," which produced 14 double-doubles in scoring and rebounding this season. He led the SEC in rebounding for the second year in a row.
"He earned that award," Gottfried said. "He's the most consistent, hardworking guy in the country. That's why he's improved so much."
The whole program has improved under Gottfried's guidance.
When he arrived in 1998, the Crimson Tide was coming off its first losing season in a decade. Gottfried needed a couple of years to rebuild, but broke through last year with a 20-win season.
Even so, Alabama was passed over for a spot in the NCAA tournament when the selection committee deemed its schedule too weak. The Crimson Tide settled for the NIT, then came back with a vengeance this season.
"We were disappointed last year," Gottfried said. "We thought we had done enough to get into the tournament, but we did not get in. This year, we were a real hungry team because of that."
Alabama (24-6, 12-4) cruised to its first SEC title since Gottfried starred on a team that also featured Derrick McKey, Jim Farmer, Michael Ansley and Terry Coner.
"It certainly seems like we've been climbing the mountain," Gottfried said. "When we came in here, they were kind of in a hole. The program has not been down like that in probably 25 years. I knew we would have a lot of hard work ahead. That's what makes me feel good about this season."
While Gottfried needed time to rebuild, Hayes made an immediate impact at Georgia.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore swingman led the SEC in scoring (18.1) his first year in the league and was a major reason the Bulldogs greatly exceeded expectations.
Picked to finish in the middle of the pack, Georgia (21-8, 10-6) claimed a share of the SEC East title with Kentucky and Florida. The Bulldogs will have a bye in the first round of the SEC tournament, which begins Thursday at the Georgia Dome.
"I wanted to make an impact," Hayes said. "Not in my wildest dreams did I think it would be to this extent. I just wanted to contribute to the best of my ability, and I guess the best of my ability was leading the conference in scoring."
Hayes and his twin brother, Jonas, initially signed with Western Carolina when then-Georgia coach Ron Jirsa wouldn't offer Jonas a scholarship. After Jirsa was fired, Jim Harrick agreed to take them both.
The brothers sat out a year after transferring, then joined the Bulldogs in tandem this season. Jarvis teamed with Ezra Williams to give the team a lethal 1-2 punch, while Jonas was a valuable player off the bench.
"We were best friends growing up," Jarvis Hayes said. "We wanted to stay in school together. For both of us to have the kind of success we've had this year is an added bonus."
Prince and Haslem made the All-SEC team for the second year in a row.
Prince, the 2001 player of the year, was the league's third-leading scorer (17.0) while steadying Kentucky through a tumultuous season. The 6-9 senior forward also placed third in blocked shots (1.43), seventh in field-goal percentage (.468) and 10th in rebounding (6.4).
Haslem, a 6-8 senior center, ranked third in rebounding (8.4) and 11th in scoring (15.9). He made more than 55 percent of his shots, the third-best figure in the SEC, and tied for fifth in blocked shots (1.25).
Yarbrough moved up to first team after two years on the second team. He finished just behind Hayes in scoring (17.8) and was the league's seventh-leading rebounder (7.2). The 6-7 senior forward also was a feisty defender, averaging nearly two steals per game.
The second team was comprised of Georgia's Williams, Florida's Matt Bonner and Brett Nelson, Mississippi State's Mario Austin and LSU's Ronald Dupree.
The 54th annual AP All-SEC team was chosen by a regional media panel.