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Hoopville First Team All-Americans

October 16, 2003 Columns No Comments

Hoopville First-Team All-Americans

by Jed Tai

Emeka Okafor, Connecticut

Emeka Okafor is Hoopville’s pre-season player of the year. It only makes sense when you think about it – he’s the only returning player from last season that made any post-season All-American teams last season. But that’s not the only reason why Okafor is our player of the year. It’s because he’s perhaps the player in the college game today that makes the most impact on both sides of the floor. A defensive demon from day one with his shot-blocking ability, Okafor has also developed into a legitimate low-post threat and could average as much as 20 points a game this season. There are many reasons why Connecticut is a Final Four contender and Okafor is one of them. It’s hard to believe he was barely a Top 100 recruit after his senior year in high school.

Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph’s

Jameer Nelson impressed many with his play at the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp, and was assured of being drafted, if not in the first round. But seeing an even better position in next year’s draft, Nelson came back and is ready to dominate once again at the college level. Given a good senior year, there’s a good chance that Nelson could graduate from St. Joseph’s as their best player of all-time. No one can stop him from penetrating into the lane and if his outside shot continues to improve, the sky’s the limit for Nelson. And there’s no question his presence will lead St. Joe’s to a Top 20 ranking and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament this season.

Romain Sato, Xavier

Now that David West has graduated and moved onto the NBA, it’s Romain Sato’s turn to step to the spotlight. No longer will the athletic swingman be in the shadow of last year’s player of the year. He averaged 18 points last year; with West gone expect that to now be in the mid-20’s. A great scorer, Sato isn’t one-dimensional – he also excels on the defensive end with his physical play. Scoring, rebounding, defending – Sato does it all. All this while still maintaing his silky-smooth jump shot. Expect Sato to duke it out with Jameer Nelson for Atlantic-10 Player of the Year honors.

Chris Thomas, Notre Dame

Don’t blame him for trying. Like every other young player in college today, Chris Thomas dreams of NBA glory. So he thought he’d try and see what kind of interest he’d get from the pay-for-play ranks by declaring for the NBA Draft. But when he wasn’t assured of being a first rounder, Thomas smartly decided to return to school. Mike Brey couldn’t be happier. A great combination scorer and distributor, Thomas will once again be the key behind the Irish’s success. His outside shooting has improved, and hopefully through the draft process, Thomas has learned even more what it takes to be an effective floor leader.

Hakim Warrick, Syracuse

The defending champs will definitely miss Carmelo Anthony, but the Orangemen aren’t fretting because Hakim Warrick will be back. Don’t put too much stock into how Warrick was inexplicably left off the Pan Am Games team. Warrick will excel and will dominate in the Big East this season. You’ve seen his impact on defense – just ask Kansas guard Michael Lee about Warrick’s long wingspan – but with Anthony gone, Warrick will now see the ball more often on the offensive side of the ball. Whether he moves over to small forward or remains at the power forward slot, he will remain a matchup nightmare because of his length and athleticism.


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