Stepp Named AP Second Team All-America
March 23, 2004
By JIM O'CONNELL
There's no debate when it comes to Emeka Okafor and Jameer Nelson. They're unanimous All-Americans.
The stars at Connecticut and Saint Joseph's led The Associated Press men's college basketball All-America team Tuesday, the first time since 1985 more than one player was chosen by every voter.
Gonzaga senior guard Blake Stepp, an honorable mention AP pick a year ago, was a second-team choice and teammate Ronny Turiaf was an honorable mention pick. It is the first time in school history two Bulldogs have been recognized by AP in the same season. Frank Burgess was a second-team AP pick in 1961 and Dan Dickau became the Bulldogs inaugural AP first-team selection in 2002. Casey Calvary (2001), Matt Santangelo (1999), John Stockton (1984) and Bill Dunlap (1982) have also earned honorable mention AP recognition.
Stepp was a two-time All-West Coast Conference Player of the Year and this season averaged 14.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 6.7 assists/game in leading the Bulldogs to a 28-3 record and a berth in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga was ranked third in the final AP Top 25, the highest ranking ever for the Bulldogs in the AP poll.
Turiaf, a junior, led the Bulldogs in scoring with his 15.5 ppg in earning All-WCC first-team honors. He also averaged 6.4 rpg and 1.5 blocks/game.
"It is hard to express just what it means to be recognized as one of the best players in the country," Okafor said. "Individual recognition like this is really a reflection of the great teammates and coaches that I am fortunate to work with every day."
Okafor, a 6-foot-10 junior center, and Nelson, a 5-11 senior guard, earned a perfect 360 points by being picked on all 72 first-team ballots by the same media panel that votes on the weekly poll.
Each member selected three All-America teams, with players receiving points on a 5-3-1 basis.
Lawrence Roberts of Mississippi State was third with 308 points, while Josh Childress of Stanford had 235, and Ryan Gomes of Providence completed the first team with 208.
In 1985, four players were unanimous choices: Patrick Ewing of Georgetown, Chris Mullin of St. John's, Wayman Tisdale of Oklahoma, and Keith Lee of Memphis State. But only 10 people voted then.
"This is obviously a testament to both players to be unanimous selections," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said. "That is a lot of respect to be shown, and in neither case was it about hype. These two deserved it."
Nelson, the Atlantic 10 player of the year, led the Hawks to a 27-0 record and No. 1 ranking before they lost to Xavier in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. It was the longest such run since UNLV entered the 1991 NCAA tournament undefeated.
"It's as much about my teammates and the coaches as it is about me," Nelson said. "I share the award with them and appreciate everyone who watched Saint Joe's all year."
Nelson is the first All-American for Saint Joseph's, and he leaves as the school's career scoring leader with more than 2,000 points. He averaged 20.6 points, 5.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds, while shooting 49 percent from the field, 39 percent on 3-pointers, and 80 percent on free throws.
He and Delonte West were considered the best backcourt in the nation; their defense was praised as much as their offense.
Nelson is "the greatest player to ever wear a Saint Joe's uniform," Martelli said.
Okafor collected a hat trick of awards in the Big East. He was the player of the year, defensive player of the year, and the league's scholar-athlete for the second year in a row.
He averaged 18.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and a nation-leading 4.3 blocked shots while shooting 60 percent from the field. Okafor, who will graduate in May, missed three games, including two in the Big East tournament, with back spasms related to a small stress fracture.
"He's does so many things that don't appear on a stat sheet," Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. "With his defensive presence, he changes the game more than any player in college basketball.
"Both Jameer's and Emeka's teams are in the 'Sweet 16,' and they have won 59 games between them already. Obviously, Jameer's the best guard in America, and Emeka's the best big guy in America. They are the two best players in America, and this is a terrific honor for both kids."
From 1986-03, there was a total of only seven unanimous selections: Walter Berry of St. John's (1986), David Robinson of Navy (1987), Christian Laettner of Duke (1992), Glenn Robinson of Purdue (1994), Tim Duncan of Wake Forest (1997), Elton Brand of Duke (1999), and Jason Williams of Duke (2002).
Okafor, Connecticut's first All-American since Richard Hamilton in 1999, and Nelson are the only players on the first team still in the NCAA tournament. Mississippi State and Stanford lost in the second round; Providence was upset in the first round.
Roberts, a 6-9 junior who received 49 first-team votes, was the Southeastern Conference's player and newcomer of the year. He transferred this fall from Baylor after that program's problems, which included the murder of a teammate.
"From Day 1, he was never concerned about Lawrence Roberts," Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said recently. "He didn't ask me about playing time. The most important thing to him was winning a championship. That told me a lot about him and about this team. That's what we're all about. He fit in perfectly."
Mississippi State won its first SEC regular-season title since 1991, and Roberts averaged 17.1 points and 10.2 rebounds. He is Mississippi State's first All-American since Bailey Howell in 1959.
Childress, the Pac-10 player of the year and Stanford's first All-American since Casey Jacobson in 2001, missed the first nine games of the season while recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot. The 6-8 junior swingman averaged 15.8 points and 7.5 rebounds, helping the Cardinal get to 26-0 before losing their last game before the conference tournament. He had 34 first-team votes.
Gomes, a 6-7 junior forward, joined Okafor as a unanimous all-Big East selection after averaging 18.6 points and 9.3 rebounds. He is the Friars' first All-American since Marvin Barnes in 1974. He had 24 first-team votes.
This is the fifth straight year at least two players from the same conference were selected to the first team.
Devin Harris, the Big Ten player of the year from Wisconsin, received 180 points and was joined on the second team by Julius Hodge of North Carolina State, Luke Jackson of Oregon, Andre Emmett of Texas Tech, and Stepp.
The third team was Chris Duhon of Duke, John Lucas of Oklahoma State, Hakim Warrick of Syracuse, Rashad McCants of North Carolina, and Wayne Simien of Kansas.
Okafor and Nelson were on the preseason AP All-America team, along with Ike Diogu of Arizona State (an honorable mention pick Tuesday), Rickey Paulding of Missouri, and Raymond Felton of North Carolina.
By The Associated Press
Jameer Nelson, Saint Joseph's, 5-11, 190, senior, Chester, Pa., 20.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 5.2 apg, 2.9 steals (72 first-place votes, 360 points).
Emeka Okafor, Connecticut, 6-9, 252, junior, Houston, 18.1 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 60.1 fg pct, 4.3 blocks (72, 360).
Lawrence Roberts, Mississippi State, 6-9, 230, junior, Houston, 16.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 51.9 fg pct (49, 308).
Josh Childress, Stanford, 6-8, 205, junior, Los Angeles, 15.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 82.1 ft pct, 1.6 blocks (34, 235).
Ryan Gomes, Providence, 6-7, 245, junior, Waterbury, Conn., 18.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 50.7 fg pct, 87.0 ft pct, 1.6 steals (24, 208).
Devin Harris, Wisconsin, 6-3, 185, junior, Milwaukee, 36.3 minutes, 19.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.8 steals (15, 180).
Julius Hodge, North Carolina State, 6-6, 191, junior, New York, 18.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 51.3 fg pct, 82.8 ft pct (15, 174).
Luke Jackson, Oregon, 6-7, 215, senior, Creswell, Ore., 21.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.6 apg, 44.4 3-pt fg pct (16, 159).
Andre Emmett, Texas Tech, 6-5, 225, senior, Dallas, 35.8 minutes, 20.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 52.9 fg pct (10, 142).
Blake Stepp, Gonzaga, 6-4, 192, senior, Eugene, Ore., 14.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.7 apg, 40.7 3-pt fg pct, 83.1 ft pct (9, 140).
Chris Duhon, Duke, 6-1, 185, senior, Slidell, La., 10.1 ppg, 6.1 apg, 2.3 steals (8, 125).
John Lucas, Oklahoma State, 5-11, 152, junior, Houston, 15.3 ppg, 4.6 apg, 40.8 3-pt fg pct, 89.0 ft pct (10, 114).
Hakim Warrick, Syracuse, 6-8, 205, junior, Wynnewood, Pa., 37.2 minutes, 19.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 50.8 fg pct (3, 103).
Rashad McCants, North Carolina, 6-4, 207, sophomore, Asheville, N.C., 20.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 40.8 3-pt fg pct (3, 75).
Wayne Simien, Kansas, 6-9, 250, junior, Leavenworth, Kan., 17.6 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 53.7 fg pct (3, 75).
(In alphabetical order)
Tony Allen, Oklahoma State; Rafael Araujo, BYU; Andre Barrett, Seton Hall; Odell Bradley, IUPUI; Darren Brooks, Southern Illinois.
Dee Brown, Illinois; Antonio Burks, Memphis; Taylor Coppenrath, Vermont; Erik Daniels, Kentucky; Miah Davis, Pacific.
Paul Davis, Michigan State; Greg Davis, Troy State; Luol Deng, Duke; Ike Diogu, Arizona State; B.J. Elder, Georgia Tech.
Gerald Fitch, Kentucky; Luis Flores, Manhattan; Jason Forte, Brown; Matt Freije, Vanderbilt; Francisco Garcia, Louisville.
Danny Gathings, High Point; Ben Gordon, Connecticut; David Harrison, Colorado; David Hawkins, Temple; Kris Humphries, Minnesota.
LeRoy Hurd, Texas-San Antonio; Andre Iguodala, Arizona; Arthur Johnson, Missouri; Domonic Jones, Virginia Commonwealth; Carl Krauser, Pittsburgh.
Jaime Lloreda, LSU; Bryant Matthews, Virginia Tech; Sean May, North Carolina; Attarrius Norwood, Mississippi Valley State; Dylan Page, Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Chris Paul, Wake Forest; Tim Pickett, Florida State; J.J. Redick, Duke; Anthony Roberson, Florida; Ron Robinson, Central Connecticut State.
Austen Rowland, Lehigh; Romain Sato, Xavier; Alvin Snow, Eastern Washington; Kirk Snyder, Nevada; Chris Thomas, Notre Dame.
Ronny Turiaf, Gonzaga; Cuthbert Victor, Murray State; Zakee Wadood, East Tennessee State; Nick Welch, Air Force; Mike Wells, Western Kentucky.
Delonte West, Saint Joseph's; Mike Williams, Western Michigan; Shelden Williams, Duke; Thurman Zimmerman, South Carolina State.
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