Stepp Named Wooden Award Finalist
March 6, 2004
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Gonzaga University senior guard Blake Stepp has been named one of 20 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year.
The award is presented annually to the nation's top collegiate basketball player. The winner will be announced on April 10, when CBS will nationally broadcast the "John R. Wooden Award Show Presented by Allstate" live from The Los Angeles Athletic Club beginning at 10 a.m. PST.
"Each of these 20 players should be commended for a great job in leading his respective team this season," said Richard "Duke" Llewellyn, founder and chairman of the Wooden Award. "This year's race for player of the year is wide open, so it should be interesting to see who ultimately takes home the Wooden Award trophy."
Stepp becomes the third finalist from Gonzaga, joining Casey Calvary who was the Bulldogs inaugural Wooden Top 10 All-American in 2001 and Dan Dickau who became Gonzaga's first Wooden Award Top Five All-American in 2002.
Stepp was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season earlier this week, as well as being named to the College Sports Information Directors of American Academic All-America second team with a 3.24 GPA in business administration. The native of Eugene, Ore., is averaging 14.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 6.9 assists per game, the latter ranking seventh in the country this week. He enters Sunday's 9 p.m. semifinal in the West Coast Conference Tournament at Santa Clara with 1,614 points for sixth all-time at Gonzaga, is first in career 3-point field goals with 283 and is second in career assists with 620.
A panel of more than 1,000 voters comprised of sports media members and college basketball experts from around the nation will have until noon Pacific time on March 29 to cast their votes for both the 10-member All-American team and Wooden Award recipient as the most outstanding collegiate basketball player in the United States. While other player of the year awards are voted upon prior to postseason play, the Wooden Award opts for the later March 29 deadline because it allows voters to evaluate players up until the Final Four teams have been determined.
This year's ballot includes players from nine NCAA conferences, including the Big East (3) Big 12 (3), SEC (3), ACC (3), Pac-10 (3), Conference USA (2), Big 10 (1), Atlantic 10 (1) and West Coast Conference (1). Eleven of the 20 candidates are juniors, including Emeka Okafor, the only 2003 Wooden Award All-American who returns to the ballot for the second consecutive year. Arizona State's Ike Diogu and Louisville's Francisco Garcia are the only two nominated sophomores on the list.
Stepp is one of three players who were not included on the midseason top-30 candidate list were voted onto the official ballot. After suffering a stress reaction in his left foot and missing nine games early in the season, Junior forward Josh Childress rebounded to lead the Cardinal to a perfect record and a Pac-10 championship. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State junior John Lucas has propelled the Cowboys to the top of the Big 12 standings with his spectacular play at the guard position.
Now in its 28th year, the John R. Wooden Award is named for the former University of California at Los Angeles coach who won 10 national championships during a legendary career, while also garnering a reputation for high moral standards. Among national basketball honors, the Wooden Award is unique in that it considers both character and academic standards when naming its recipient. Each athlete must be making progress toward graduation and must be accredited by his school as maintaining a cumulative 2.0 grade point average. All 20 finalists have met the criteria to be considered on the official ballot.
Wooden Award Ballot
Josh Childress, 6-8, Jr., F, Stanford Travis Diener, 6-1, Jr., G, Marquette Ike Diogu, 6-8, So., F/C, Arizona State Chris Duhon, 6-1, Sr., G, Duke B.J. Elder, 6-4, Jr., G/F, Georgia Techg Andre, Emmett, 6-5, Sr., G/F, Texas Tech Gerald Fitch, 6-3, Sr., G, Kentucky Matt Freije, 6-10, Sr,, F, Vanderbilt Francisco Garcia, 6-7, So., F, Louisville Ryan Gomes, 6-7, Jr., F/C, Providence Devin Harris, 6-7, Jr., G, Wisconsin Julius Hodge, 6-7, Jr., G/F, North Carolina State Luke Jackson, 6-7, Sr., G/F, Oregon John Lucas, 5-11, Jr., G, Oklahoma Jameer Nelson, 5-11, Sr., G, St. Joseph's Emeka Okafor, 6-9, Jr., F/C, Connecticut Lawrence Roberts, 6-9, Jr., F/C, Mississippi State Wayne Simien, 6-9, Jr., F, Kansas Blake Stepp, 6-4, Sr., G, Gonzaga Hakim Warrick, 6-9, Jr., F, Syracuse
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