Sophomore big man led Utah to Sweet 16

ST. LOUIS -- Andrew Bogut parleyed an international basketball background into an All-American story.

The 7-footer grew up in Australia with a passion for the game
nurtured by his parents, both natives of Croatia. The desire to
test himself against the best convinced Bogut to attend college in
the United States, a stint at Utah that lasted two years and was
capped Friday by his selection as The Associated Press player of
the year.

Bruce Weber, who led Illinois to its winningest season ever and
a berth in the Final Four, was an overwhelming choice as AP's coach
of the year.

Standing alongside the latest trophy in a growing collection,
Bogut said, "I have been coached by Australian guys, European guys
and American guys and they have all helped me so many ways. They
all tried to make me a better player."

It worked.

Bogut led Division I with 26 double-doubles in 35 games this
season. He was second in rebounding at 12.2 per game and fourth in
field goal percentage at 62 percent. He averaged 20.4 points per
game (15th in the nation) and 2.3 assists while playing 35 minutes.
He was the leading vote-getter on the AP's All-America first team.

The Utes finished 29-6, won the Mountain West Conference regular
season title and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament
before losing to Kentucky.

"He is one of the special, special people I have ever met,"
first-year Utah coach Ray Giacoletti said. "Basketball needs
players, needs people like him."

Bogut announced earlier this week that he would forego his final
two seasons at Utah and apply for the NBA draft. He's expected to
be one of the top picks in June and he knows the work has just

"I have to get ready, get stronger for the physical play that
I'll see there," Bogut said. "I don't have any plan, like being
an all-star in three years or anything like that. I know I want to
get better and I'll show people how hungry I am for that."

The 20-year-old Bogut averaged 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds last
summer in Athens for the Australian Olympic team. Just four years
earlier he was cut from his state team in Victoria.

"He got really angry when he was cut," his father, Michael
Bogut, said. "He said, `Dad, this is the last time I'm last.
Whatever it takes."'

Bogut received 31 votes for player of the year from the
72-member national media panel that selects the AP's weekly Top 25.

J.J. Redick of Duke was second with 15 votes, and Wayne Simien
of Kansas was third with nine.

Bogut is the first player from Utah to win the award and the
first from the West since Arizona's Sean Elliott in 1989.

Weber's selection was the result of Illinois most-accomplished
season ever. The Illini (36-1), who play Louisville in the national
semifinals Saturday, were ranked No. 1 the final 15 weeks of the
season, and were unanimous selections six times.

Weber received 54 votes. Mike Krzyzewski of Duke was the
runner-up with six, followed by Al Skinner of Boston College (5)
and Lorenzo Romar of Washington (4).