CHAPEL HILL - University of North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller is the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball Player of the Year and forward John Henson is the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year, the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association announced Tuesday.
Zeller, a senior from Washington, Ind., is the 13th Tar Heel to win ACC Player of the Year honors and the third in the last five years. He is the first UNC senior to win the award since point guard Phil Ford in 1978.
He is the third senior to win the award in as many years, joining Maryland's Greivis Vasquez in 2010 and Duke's Nolan Smith in 2011.
"This is just phenomenal," says head coach Roy Williams. "It's an outstanding recognition of an outstanding young man who has been playing big time basketball for us all year. He performed at a high level on extremely consistent basis and did so in every phase of the game."
Zeller leads the Tar Heels in field goal percentage (.549) and is second in scoring (16.4), rebounds (9.3), free throw percentage (.803) and blocks (44). In ACC play, he led the league in field goal percentage (.569) and offensive boards (4.0), was second in rebounds (9.7), third in scoring (18.5) and sixth in free throw percentage (.833).
In all games, he is first in the ACC in offensive rebounds, second in field goal percentage and rebounding, fifth in scoring and eighth in free throw accuracy. He posted 11 double-doubles, second-most in the ACC behind Henson.
The 2012 Academic All-America of the Year averaged 19.4 points and 10.7 rebounds and shot 63.3 percent from the floor (50 for 79) against Duke (two games), Florida State, Virginia (two games) and NC State (two games), the second, third, fourth and fifth seeded teams in the ACC.
"It's a very special honor, something you dream about when you are a young player," says Zeller. "I am so proud to know that as a result my jersey will go in the rafters (at the Smith Center), which is another great honor. You look up there and see the names of the Tar Heels who came before you and you know that it's a tremendous honor that my jersey will be up there with them.
"My first two years were rough because of the injuries, but I learned a lot, I gained weight and got stronger. These last two years have been great and to be part of the team we've had is extraordinarily fun. I am proud to be part of the Carolina Basketball program and I thank my teammates and coaches, because this award goes to all of them, as well.
"My parents were extremely proud when the Academic All-America of the Year was announced because they always raised my brothers and me to understand that academics came first. But theyalso gave me the support and guidance to excel in basketball, too, so I want to thank them for all that they have given me. I know this means a lot to our family."
Zeller has scored 20 or more points nine times with highs of 31 against Appalachian State and 30 against Maryland. He's grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 14 games and graded out as UNC's defensive player of the game a team-high 11 times.
Carolina's ACC Players of the Year include Lennie Rosenbluth (1957), Pete Brennan (1958), Lee Shaffer (1960), Billy Cunningham (1965), Larry Miller (1967 and 1968), Mitch Kupchak (1976), Phil Ford (1978), Michael Jordan (1984), Antawn Jamison (1998), Joseph Forte (co-winner in 2001), Tyler Hansbrough (2008), Ty Lawson (2009) and Zeller.
Henson is the second repeat winner as ACC Defensive Player of the Year, joining Duke's Shelden Williams, who won the award in 2005 and 2006. The 6-10 junior from Tampa, Fla., leads the ACC in blocked shots with 93 and is averaging 3.0 blocks per game, the third-highest in UNC single-season history.
Henson also leads the ACC in rebounding at 10.3 per game and is the only player in the conference averaging double figures in both scoring (14.3) and rebounding. He has an ACC-best 16 double-doubles in 31 games.
Led by Henson, the Tar Heels are first in the nation in rebound margin, seventh in blocked shots and 11th in the country and second in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.386).
Henson blocked a career-high nine shots against Michigan State in the opening game on the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego and has blocked multiple shots in 22 other games this season. Earlier this season, he moved into second place in UNC history in blocks and currently has 271 career blocks.
Henson averages an ACC-leading 7.6 defensive rebounds per game and has grabbed 10 or more defensive rebounds in seven games this year, including 21 in two games against Duke.
"John is a game-changing presence on defense, someone who has a direct impact on the opposition's ability to score in every game," says Roy Williams.
"He blocks three shots and probably alters at least that many that result in missed shots. Plus, he cleans up so many misses that help us start our break. He's been a big factor for us."