Walton And Gardner Head Preseason All-America Team

Nov. 12, 2002

By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer

Arizona teammates Luke Walton and Jason Gardner were among the five seniorsselected to The Associated Press' preseason All-America team.

David West of Xavier was the leading vote-getter on the team announcedTuesday and he was joined by Kirk Hinrich of Kansas and Erwin Dudley ofAlabama.

Walton and Gardner became the fourth pair of teammates to be selected to thepreseason team, which started before the 1986-87 season. One of the othersets also came from Arizona, Mike Bibby and Miles Simon before the 1997-98season.

Walton and Gardner are two of the five starters returning to the Wildcats,who were ranked No. 1 in the AP's preseason poll.

'We've had a lot of outstanding leaders,' Arizona coach Lute Olson said,'and these two would compare with anybody that we've ever had.'

The 6-foot-9 West, the Atlantic 10's player of the year the last twoseasons, was named on 43 of the 72 ballots from the national media panel,one more than Walton. Gardner was next with 39 votes, while Hinrich received35 and Dudley 32.

Western Kentucky senior Chris Marcus was sixth in the voting with 31, whileseniors Nick Collison of Kansas (28) and Brandin Knight of Pittsburgh (23)were the only other players to receive more than 20 votes.

The 6-8 Walton led the Pac-10 in assists last season at 6.3 per game, thefirst forward to do so since the stat became official in 1974. He averaged15.7 points and 7.3 rebounds, while shooting 47 percent last season.

His family knows something about All-America honors. His father, Bill, was athree-time selection at UCLA from 1972-74 and is a member of the BasketballHall of Fame.

The 5-10 Gardner averaged 20.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists lastseason while playing 38.2 minutes a game. A third-team All-America pick lastseason, he shot 38.4 percent from 3-point range and his 106 3s were thirdmost in school history.

'He's the guy that has to direct pretty much everything,' Olson said of hispoint guard. 'It isn't a case of where he's saying a whole lot, but when hesays something, a lot of times it's pretty stern. He's not afraid of gettinginto somebody's face. He's a tremendous competitor and he expects everyoneto compete.'

West, a second-team All-America selection last season, averaged 18.3 pointsand led the conference in rebounding (9.8) and blocks (2.5). The 6-9 forwardsurprised a lot of people when he decided to return to the Musketeers foranother season.

'I thought he was gone,' second-year Xavier coach Thad Matta said. 'When heannounced he was staying, I was shocked.'

Hinrich averaged 14.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists for the Jayhawkslast season, hitting 47.8 percent from 3-point range. He holds the schoolrecord for long range shooting, hitting 50 percent as a junior.

Kansas coach Roy Williams is succinct when talking about his guard.

'I think Kirk Hinrich is the best guard in the country,' he said.

Dudley was a third-team All-American last season and was chosen theSoutheastern Conference's player of the year. The 6-8 Dudley averaged 15.2points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field.

'He's a throwback guy, kind of old-fashioned,' Crimson Tide coach MarkGottfried said of Dudley. 'He's a low-key guy. He's not really interested inall the hype.'

Tayshaun Prince of Kentucky was the only senior on last season's preseasonAll-America team, but the other four - Jason Williams of Duke, CaseyJacobsen of Stanford, Kareem Rush of Missouri and Frank Williams of Illinois- all declared for the NBA draft as underclassmen.

Jason Williams, last season's national player of the year, was the onlymember of the preseason All-America team to earn the first-team postseasonhonor as well. Jacobsen was on the second team and Prince the third.

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