Okafor edges former UConn teammate Gordon

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte forward Emeka Okafor has won
the NBA's Rookie of the Year award, narrowly beating best friend
Ben Gordon of Chicago Bulls, a Bobcats source told The Associated Press.

The award will be announced on Wednesday. The Bobcats have
called a news conference for what they have only called "a major
Okafor, the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft, led all rookies
in scoring (15.9 points per game) and rebounding (10.9 rpg) and was
second in his class behind Atlanta's Josh Smith in blocks (1.71).
He also ranked second in the NBA with 3.8 offensive rebounds per
He ended his season with 47 games in double figures in both
points and rebounds.
But Okafor spent the final months in a close battle with Gordon,
his best friend and roommate while the two led Connecticut to the
NCAA championship. Both left UConn for the NBA following the 2004
title, and they went Nos. 2 and 3 in the draft.
Gordon became a sparkplug for the Bulls off the bench while
helping them into the postseason for the first time since Michael
Jordan's retirement. He became the first rookie to win the NBA's
Sixth Man of the Year award on Tuesday after averaging 15.1 points,
2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists this season.
Gordon said he had not been told that Okafor had edged him for
the award.
"I'll be happy for him," Gordon said. "He had a great season.
So I'll definitely give him a call and congratulate him if he wins
the award."
Okafor played under tremendous pressure the entire season as the
face of the expansion Bobcats. Charlotte traded up in the draft for
a chance to pick him, hoping to make him the cornerstone of their
Even with a limited supporting cast, Okafor was able to help the
Bobcats to 18 wins despite preseason predictions that Charlotte
would be the worst team in NBA history. He helped the Bobcats to
two wins over Detroit, the defending NBA champions, as well as
victories over Miami and Houston.
After the season-ending win over the Pistons, Okafor said he
enjoyed his rookie season.
"With an expansion team, I knew that things would be different,
but I didn't have anything to compare it to," he said. "I've had
a pretty enjoyable experience. I can't complain at all. I've had a
great time in Charlotte this year and its only going to get better.
The future is looking bright."