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USBWA Awards

March 13, 2003 Columns No Comments

2002-03 Basketball Awards

by Jed Tai

With the regular season over and the NCAA Tournament on the horizon, it’s time to honor those players who have demonstrated excellence this season.

As a member of the USBWA (United States Basketball Writers Assocation), I get to submit my votes for First Team and Second Team All-Americans, National Player of the Year, National Coach of the Year, and National Freshman of the Year.

Here’s how I voted.

To start with, here are my First Team selections (listed in alphabetical order).

Troy Bell, Boston College

My selection of Bell for the first team was the last one that I made. It was a very close call, but when it boiled down to it, I went with a guy who has displayed excellence for his entire four-year career. When you look back at the numbers Bell has put up in his career – over 2500 total points – they are mind-staggering. And all this time he’s been playing at a position – point guard – that is arguably not his natural position. Bell has put together a fantastic senior season, one that certainly deserves First Team All-American mention.

Nick Collison, Kansas

Expectations were high in Lawrence this season, not only for the team, but for individual players as well. One such player was Nick Collison, who enhanced his reputation by making Team USA’s World Championship Team in the summer as an alternate. After playing in the shadows of guys fellow classmates Drew Gooden and Kirk Hinrich, Collison stepped up to the spotlight this season and ended up leading the powerhouse Jayhawks in not only rebounding, but scoring as well. He cemented a spot on my First Team All-American squad after his 24 point, 23 rebound performance against Texas.

T.J. Ford, Texas

There’s a huge reason why Texas is a top five team and in line for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament – it’s the engine that makes them run, T.J. Ford. There isn’t a quicker player end-to-end in the college game, and Ford may be the first player we’ve seen in the collegiate ranks since Jason Kidd who can dominate a game without scoring many points. And Ford does it all while being sub-six feet in height. He’s my pick for best point guard in the land (yes, going against the results of my own point guard study), so that makes him a First Teamer in my book.

Jason Gardner, Arizona

Very rarely does the team that finishes the regular season as the #1 team in the country not feature a player as a First Team All-American. With that fact in mind, that means someone from Arizona would land a spot on the squad. And in their best player, Jason Gardner, he certainly deserves it. Gardner’s been a great story of someone who didn’t make a mistake by leaving school early and has benefitted from it greatly. His numbers aren’t awe-inspiring, but there’s no doubt he’s the cog for the #1 Wildcats and is the man who will take the clutch shot when it’s needed.

David West, Xavier

Selections weren’t by position so I could have chosen a First Team with as many guards as I wished. But you simply couldn’t ignore the dominance of David West. West has been dominant all year in a resurgent Atlantic-10, and has taken Xavier to great heights. From a school that has brought us power forwards such as Tyrone Hill, Derek Strong, Aaron Williams, and Brian Grant – West may be the best of them all. He’s also a returning Consensus Second Team All-American from last year, so that cemented his First Team status with me for this season.

My second team went as follows:

Keith Bogans, Kentucky

Like Jason Gardner, Bogans is a player who came back to school after the NBA turned him down. He bounced back to have a huge senior year and finishes off an outstanding career.

Brian Cook, Illinois

In his senior year, Cook finally lived up to the expectations placed upon him coming out of high school. Inside, outside, he can score from anywhere. He was named the Big 10’s MVP.

Josh Howard, Wake Forest

Howard will be the ACC’s MVP and thus, qualifies him for major All-American mention. If he played for Duke or North Carolina, he’d likely be a shoo-in for first team honors.

Hollis Price, Oklahoma

One of the most dangerous shooters in America, Price in many ways is the heart and soul of the Oklahoma Sooners. If OU is to return to the Final Four, it will rest upon his shoulders.

Dwayne Wade, Marquette

Wade can just about do anything he wants to on the basketball floor. But scoring is what Wade does best, and the C-USA MVP did it to the tune of almost 22 points a ballgame.

My choices for this year’s Basketball Writers Awards were:

National Player of the Year: David West, Xavier

While this selection may come as a surprise to many, consider the following.

1. West has had a season – and career – deserving of the honors. There’s no question about that. West will finish his career in an elite club – over 2000 career points and over 1000 career rebounds.

2. It’s about time someone from a school not in the elite conferences got this honor. And who better in recent years than West this season, the most wide-open year we’ve seen in a long time?

And quite simply, West is a darned good player. And this year, he’s helped lead Xavier to heights – despite their great history – they haven’t seen before. The Musketeers are a Final Four threat, and David West is a huge reason for that. And that’s what makes him my national player of the year.

National Coach of the Year: Bo Ryan, Wisconsin

This vote for me basically ended up between Ryan and Tubby Smith. While there’s no question that Smith has done an incredible job, I had to give the nod to Ryan based on exceeding all expectations. Who would have ever expected a Big Ten title out of this group? Ryan needs to be commended on being able to succeed at all levels; his championship teams at Wisconsin-Platteville were legendary. He’s one of the best in the business.

National Freshman of the Year: Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse

No contest. Anthony lived up to all expectations, and may have exceeded them by helping Syracuse become a near Top Ten ranked team. It’s been a treat to watch him play, even if his stay in college will be short. This award will be a nice addition to his mantle as he will now likely move on to the NBA.

This year’s USBWA Awards will be announced here.


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