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.
"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
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.
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
"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 Blake Stepp of Gonzaga.
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