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The In Fashion Awards

October 20, 2002 Columns No Comments

In Fashion Awards

by Bill Thayer

No, I’m not in fashion, but if you take a good look around, you’ll find what is. You see from year to year you can pick up a variety of college basketball previews and find, well, no variety at all. So, to save you $6.99 per mag, here is what you’ll be seeing this year:

In Fashion Team of the year:
Xavier. While everybody knows Arizona and Kansas are 1-2 (or 2-1) in the preseason rankings, what truly makes these magazines great is that they know one team that will shock the world. Xavier is that team this year. And, while it’s easy to sing the praises of David West, many are pegging Romain Sato as the reason for their success. I won’t dispute Sato’s on-court abilities, but this team lives and dies with West. Without him inside, they become another good, but not great, A-10 team.

In Fashion Breakout Player of the Year:
Chris Duhon, Duke. Out of the shadows of Jason Williams and Mike Dunleavy, many are predicting that Duhon will explode on the national scene, keep the Devils in the top ten and win the ACC Player of the Year award. Duhon is no better than a very good role player. His shooting is suspect (the Devils will need JJ Redick or Daniel Ewing to fill that void), his defense is too aggressive and his ballhandling leaves much to be desired. But, one thing is correct, Duhon can be the vocal on-court leader that this young team needs.

In Fashion Rookie of the year:
Raymond Felton, North Carolina. Felton has enough pressure taking over the point in Chapel Hill, which was a source of countless headaches last season. Every move will be scrutinized, every play overanalyzed. If he fails, this team is doomed. That being said, every way I’ve turned, I’ve heard Felton’s name mentioned as the top freshman this year. This, despite the glowing praise heaped upon Carmelo Anthony. Then again, with DeShaun Williams and Billy Edelin grabbing headlines in upstate New York, Anthony’s sliding under the radar.

In Fashion Coach of the Year:
Kelvin Sampson, Oklahoma. The Sooners run to the Final Four last year was in large part to the style of play implemented by Sampson. However, that’s overlooking the amount of talent, led by Hollis Price. Center Jabahri Brown didn’t put up big numbers offensively but still changed the game with his rebounding and shot blocking ability. Many of those same pundits who didn’t give OU a chance last year and predicting a big run by the Sooners, thanks in large part to Sampson’s coaching. I can’t find much reason to disagree.

The Teddy Dupay Memorial In Fashion Addition by Subtraction Award:
Rod Grizzard, Alabama. Many said Dupay’s departure would help Florida because he forced too many shots from the outside. That’s being said about Alabama this year. Grizzard loved to fire away from the perimeter. But look a little closer … Grizzard was the only outside threat on Alabama last year. Neither Terrance Meade nor Maurice Williams could consistently knock down the 3. Grizzard forced defenses to stretch to the outside, opening space for Erwin Dudley. Dudley also got numerous second chance points thanks to Grizzard misses. Mark my words: the Tide WILL miss Rod Grizzard, to the point where they’ll finish second behind Mississippi State in the SEC West.

The Boston College Memorial In Fashion Team Everybody Loves after a Good and Unexpected Run but won’t Replicate It Award:
Pittsburgh. The Panthers had a charmed season last year. Much like Boston College their success began and ended at the point. BC’s Troy Bell carried them two years ago while Pittsburgh relied on Brandon Knight. Knight has already missed time due to an offseason knee injury, if he misses any game time, this team is in deep trouble. As it is, the options on offense are few. Julius Page is a great athlete and solid defender but has a poor outside shot. Onterrio Lett and Toree Morris need to continue to develop to give this team any chance of a return to the NCAAs.

Gonzaga Memorial In Fashion Mid-Major Award:
Creighton. It’s not so much the Bluejays (and yes, that is the proper spelling) that are getting as much notice as it is Kyle Korver who’s finally gotten the national attention. Korver, a two-time MVC player of the year, is a scrappy leader on a physically tough team. What few people have noticed is that Terrell Taylor, the number two option on offense, left. Taylor’s ability to create for himself helped when Korver went down with a knee injury last December. While it’s easy to look to Creighton, I expect Southern Illinois to take the Valley, with Illinois State (led by NC State transfer Trey Guidry) giving a hellacious run.

Rick Pitino Memorial In Fashion Coach Who Missed the College Game Too Much Award:
Leonard Hamilton, Florida State. Hamilton’s brief time in the NBA was a disaster, chasing him back to the college game. The story that’s been painted is that Hamilton HAD to be in the college game, working with the kids again, because he’s a great college coach and couldn’t deal with the time away. Hamilton never achieved enough with the talent he put together in Miami, but many blamed it on the poor support for the team. I don’t see him getting much more support in Tallahassee, even in the basketball-rich ACC.

Juan Dixon Memorial In Fashion Feel Good Story of the Year Award:
Tie. Emeka Okafor, UConn and Chris Marcus, Western Kentucky. Okafor emerged as one of the top freshmen nationally, helping lead the Huskies to the Elite 8 last year … while maintaining a near-perfect GPA. By keeping the true meaning of student-athlete, Okafor has made himself the talk of the proverbial college-basketball town. Marcus decided against leaving for the NBA, although it was well known that his stock was significantly slipping, and returned to WKU. Marcus wasn’t ready for the league (then again, who is anymore?) and made a wise decision to play a full year after missing much of last season with a variety of injuries.

That’s it for now. Sorry, no musings this week, but I will make one quick note: People shouldn’t dump on Tubby Smith anymore. I think we all remember who said in their last column that Rashad Carruth would get the boot from Oklahoma (oh, it was me?) but nobody gave Smith the benefit of the doubt for letting Carruth go in the first place.


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