Senior moments lead many to list
Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 4:57 pm
By: By JIM O’CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer
Seniors dominated The Associated Press All-America team for the first time in five years.
Jimmer Fredette of BYU, Nolan Smith of Duke and JaJuan Johnson of Purdue, all seniors, were joined on the team Monday by junior Kemba Walker of Connecticut and freshman Jared Sullinger of Ohio State.
It’s the most seniors since four made the 2006 team.
Fredette led the nation in scoring at 28.5 points per game while shooting 40.4 percent from 3-point range, a number more impressive because of the shots he lets fly from well behind the line.
He received all but one vote from the 65-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. The voting was done before the NCAA tournament.
Fredette became one of the most popular players in recent memory as teams that lost to BYU were “jimmered.”
“I think that it’s a great accomplishment. Unbelievable,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “It shows how good his work ethic is. He’s a player who has worked his way into an All-American. What he’s meant to our program over the last four years — it’s really kind of immeasurable.”
He is BYU’s first All-America since Danny Ainge in 1981.
“If you go out and play your game and have confidence in yourself, you can accomplish great things,” Fredette said. “That’s what I’ve always said in my head, and it’s worked out.”
Smith, who received 61 votes, averaged 21.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists in leading the Blue Devils to the top of the polls for 10 weeks this season. He assumed most of the ball-handling for Duke after star freshman Kyrie Irving went down early in the season with a toe injury and was responsible for defending the other team’s top perimeter player.
“It’s been a long process for me, just getting better each year and improving,” Davis said. “That’s something I hope to share with younger kids coming up. If you put the time in and get better and better and then by the time your senior year hits, you’ll start to accomplish some of those individual goals, and that’s something that I’ve done.”
Smith is the fifth Duke player to be an All-America since 2000; two of them — Jason Williams and J.J. Redick — were selected twice.
Sullinger burst onto to the national scene by averaging 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 53.6 percent. The 6-foot-9 Sullinger, the seventh freshman All-America over the last five years, received 58 votes.
“I felt he was going to have a great impact not just on our program but on college basketball. The productivity he’s had throughout the course of the season has really been incredible,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. “He so much fun to coach. As I’ve said, if I was starting a team, I’d select him to be our first player.”
Walker had a strong start to the season and then capped it with an incredible performance in leading the Huskies to five wins in as many days to win the Big East tournament. He averaged 23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists and was the leader of one of the youngest teams in the country.
“It feels good, especially because I wasn’t a preseason All-American,” said Walker, who received 51 votes. “I just wanted to come into the season and try to win as many games as we could. From winning, it really helped me be a better player and just get more recognition.”
Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said the 6-1 Walker, Connecticut’s first All-America since Emeka Okafor in 2004, was “without a doubt the most important player to his team this season. I can’t imagine where we would be without him.”
The 6-10 Johnson was Purdue’s inside presence, averaging 20.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. He was the first Boilermaker chosen to the first team since Glenn Robinson in 1994. Johnson returned to Purdue after considering leaving for the NBA.
“Your senior year, you don’t want to leave anything out there, and I definitely have no regrets. It worked out,” he said. “The only thing I wanted to do that we didn’t get done was go to the Final Four. Other than that, we got it all done.”
Marcus Morris of Kansas led the second team and was joined by Derrick Williams of Arizona, Ben Hansbrough of Notre Dame, Jordan Taylor of Wisconsin and Kawhi Leonard of San Diego State.
Fredette and Johnson were both on the preseason All-America team, along with Kyle Singler of Duke, Jacob Pullen of Kansas State and Harrison Barnes of North Carolina.