With less than a month to go before March Madness, there are still many questions to be answered regarding almost every aspect of this year's college basketball season. One question where the answer appears to be a little bit more clear pertains to the two most prestigious "Player of the Year" awards, the Naismith Trophy and the Wooden Award, where Gonzaga junior forward Adam Morrison and Duke shooting guard JJ Redick have clearly seperated themselves from the rest of the field. The Naismith Trophy, won in it's innaugural season by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in 1969, is presented by Cingular Wireless and is chosen from a list of candidates nominated by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The ATC's Board of Selectors is comprised of leading journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country. ATC selects 50 players as pre-season candidates and that number was recently culled to 30 finalists. Fans can participate in the selection process by text messaging votes which will comprise as 25 percent of the voting.
The Wooden Award was founded in 1976 in honor of legendary UCLA Bruin coach, John Wooden. UCLA's Marques Johnson was the first of 29 winners that have included Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, David Robinson, and Tim Duncan. The process is similar to the Naismith where a National Committe picks a 50 man pre-season All-American team which is reduced to 30 and includes new additions at mid-season. Three of the last seven winners have come from Duke so it would appear that Redick has a leg up here.
A 6-8 205 pounder from Spokane, Morrison quickly developed into one of the West Coast Conference's leading players by averaging 19.1 points per game and grabing 5.5 rebounds per outing. His long range shooting and distinct Beatles haircut brought the charismatic sophomore to national attention in the Zag's second round loss in last year's NCAA tournament. This year, Morrison got off quickly scoring a career high 43 in Gonzaga's now classic overtime victory over Michigan State in Hawaii. Morrison equaled his 43 point outburst in a five point loss to rival Washington and has hit the 40 mark on two other occasions.
Morrison is averaging 28.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, and 1.8 assist through February 15th. Morrison often "wills" Gonzaga out of dire predicaments as he did last Saturday as the Zags came from seven down in the final five minutes to down Stanford.
JJ Redick is a rare four-year starter at Duke and is averaging 28.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, and 2.8 apg. The 6-4 sharpshooter from Roanoke, Virginia recently broke the NCAA record for career 3-pointers (653 at this writing) and has legendary shooting range.
As a sophomore, Redick led the NCAA's in free-throe percentage at .953 and is a career .923 performer from the charity stripe.
A sometimes streaky but pure shooter, Redick is noted for his near perfect shooting machanics. Redick has hit the 40 mark on three occasions including a season high 41 in the Blue Devils 97-66 route over then number one Texas and then duplicated that production in Duke's lone loss at Georgetown. Both players have excellent supporting casts which will make things all the more interesting come voting time. Besides Morrison, Gonzaga has 6-10 Brazilian C/PF JP Battista who averages 20.0 ppg and 9.
1 boards per game. 6-3 Derek Raivio quarterbacks the Zags from the point averaging 11.0 ppg and also leads the country in foul shooting at .
922 percent. Redick has big man and sure-fire first round pick Sheldon Williams (18.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg) in the paint doing the dirty work while all-purpose senior Sean Dockery (9.0 ppg, 2.
8 rpg, 3.3 apg) joins Redick in the back court. Other players having nice years that will garner token consideration in the balloting for each award are Illinois point guard Dee Brown (14.3 ppg , 3.1 rpg, 5.6 apg), senior Villanova shooting guard Randy Foye (20.
0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.1 apg) and UConn's Mr.
Everything Rudy Gay (16.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg), but when it's all said and done, it'll be Morrison or Redick taking home the hardware.
By: Dennis Macklin