Wooden Award candidates … with a twist

August, 14, 2009
Editor's note: Andy Katz will be taking a much-deserved vacation next week. The Daily Word will return on Aug. 24.

Kansas is the consensus No. 1 team in the country.

No individual player, though, can claim such favorite status.

The race for the national player of the year honor is as wide open as it has been this decade.

Sure, even though Texas' Kevin Durant entered his freshman season with plenty of hype, he could hardly be considered a favorite for national player of the year. But picking Durant to be a contender wasn't completely off base, considering Texas coach Rick Barnes was adamant in the preseason that he had the best player in the country. He shocked the Big 12 establishment by bringing Durant with him to the preseason media day, the first time a freshman had come to that event with a head coach. Barnes' instincts proved correct as Durant finished 2007 as the game's most decorated player.

The race for the 2010 honor is hard to predict. The Wooden Award is recognized along with the Oscar Robertson, Naismith and AP awards as the most familiar hardware given out in the spring. Each summer, the Wooden Award asks members of the media to contribute a list of 50 potential contenders to get the project started. The Wooden Award doesn't allow incoming freshmen or transfers to be on its preseason list, but they of course must be considered once the season begins and ultimately can be handed the trophy, as was the case with Durant.

That's why on my preliminary list, you won't find the names of freshmen like Kentucky's John Wall and Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors. Syracuse's Wesley Johnson, the Iowa State transfer whom Orange coach Jim Boeheim says could be a star, also can't make the initial cut.

Here's my best guess at which names could be on the original list of 50 for the Wooden Award:

Solomon Alabi, Florida State
Cole Aldrich, Kansas
Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
Luke Babbitt, Nevada
Talor Battle, Penn State
Trevor Booker, Clemson
Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga
Craig Brackins, Iowa State
Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia
Patrick Christopher, Cal
Denis Clemente, Kansas State
Sherron Collins, Kansas
Ed Davis, North Carolina
Devan Downey, South Carolina
Jerome Dyson, Connecticut
Osiris Eldridge, Illinois State
Corey Fisher, Villanova
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Manny Harris, Michigan
Gordon Hayward, Butler
Robbie Hummel, Purdue
Damion James, Texas
Jerome Jordan, Tulsa
Sylven Landesberg, Virginia
Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
Tasmin Mitchell, LSU
Greg Monroe, Georgetown
E'Twaun Moore, Purdue
Raymar Morgan, Michigan State
A.J. Ogilvy, Vanderbilt
Patrick Patterson, Kentucky
Tajuan Porter, Oregon
Jerome Randle, Cal
Deon Thompson, North Carolina
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Larry Sanders, VCU
Rakim Sanders, Boston College
Kyle Singler, Duke
Tyler Smith, Tennessee
Isaiah Thomas, Washington
Klay Thompson, Washington State
Ryan Thompson, Rider
Evan Turner, Ohio State
Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland
Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati
Michael Washington, Arkansas
Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Terrico White, Ole Miss
Nic Wise, Arizona

A case can be made for countless others, like UTEP's Randy Culpepper or Dayton's Chris Wright.

What we want you to do is give us a flavor for who you think might become the early favorite before the first practice tips off on Oct. 16.

We released a poll today highlighting who I think are the main contenders for national player of the year. But for the purposes of the poll, let's break from the Wooden rulebook and add in Wall because he'll likely be in the mix come February and March.

1. Cole Aldrich, Kansas -- Aldrich has a chance to be a dominant big man on the top team.

2. Craig Brackins, Iowa State -- The Big 12's most potent scorer could keep quite a run going of player of the year candidates from this conference after a three-year stretch of Durant, Michael Beasley and Blake Griffin.

3. Sherron Collins, Kansas -- Collins has the breakout scoring ability to be a title favorite.

4. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame -- Harangody is the favorite for Big East Player of the Year and if he carries the Irish back to the tournament he could be in position to win the award.

5. Robbie Hummel, Purdue -- Hummel is the scrappy player who will do anything for a win. He won't have stunning stats but he'll be involved in nearly every big play. If Purdue were to unseat Michigan State for the Big Ten title, then he would have to be considered.

6. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State -- The Spartans are now Lucas' team and if he can dominate the ball, he might sprint out ahead of the competition.

7. Greg Monroe, Georgetown -- Monroe is arguably the top big man in the country on a team that could be a surprising Big East title champ.

8. Patrick Patterson, Kentucky -- Patterson withdrew from the draft and is poised for a powerful season on the most-watched team in the country.

9. Scottie Reynolds, Villanova -- Reynolds made the shot of the NCAA tournament with a layup against Pitt. If he leads the Wildcats to the Big East title, he'll be in play.

10. Kyle Singler, Duke -- Singler enters the season as the favorite for ACC Player of the Year. Win that award and you're usually in play for the national honor.

11. Deon Thompson, North Carolina -- Thompson hasn't been in the position to be the top option, but he could blossom on a sneaky team that might make another deep run in the NCAA tournament.

12. Evan Turner, Ohio State -- Turner could be a bust-out scorer for a Buckeyes' team that is primed for a deep run in March. If Turner can make the Buckeyes stand out even more, then he's got a shot to receive plenty of accolades.

13. Greivis Vasquez, Maryland -- Vasquez is a lightning rod for the Terps. He's either sensational or a bit erratic. When he's on, and if he were to lead the Terps to the top of the ACC, he'll be in the conversation for the honor.

14. John Wall, Kentucky -- The top freshman has a shot to pull a Durant and be the POY as well as a top-two pick in next year's NBA draft.

15. Willie Warren, Oklahoma -- Warren has reportedly had a sensational summer and he seems ready to assume the leadership of the Sooners after two years of the spotlight being on Griffin.

Why isn't Wake Forest's Al-Farouq Aminu or Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors or Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado on this list? All are legit contenders. Aminu hasn't had the standout personality to take over a team yet, Favors is still a frosh and Varnado's offensive stats might not measure up to his defensive stats. I could go on with reasons for why someone else might not make the cut and we are open to plenty of changes. This will be a fluid race throughout the season. We'll check back after the Daily Word returns on Aug. 24 to view the results.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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