College Basketball: Hansbrough leads AP team
By Jim O’Connell
It’s no surprise Tyler Hansbrough made The Associated Press’ preseason All-America team ó this is his record third straight year as its leading vote-getter. For the first time, however, the North Carolina forward was a unanimous selection.
Joining Hansbrough on the team Monday were UCLA guard Darren Collison, also a repeat from last year’s preseason team, Davidson guard Stephen Curry, Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody and Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin.
Hansbrough, a 6-foot-9 senior and the reigning national player of the year, was placed on all 72 ballots by the same media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Hansbrough missed being a unanimous pick last season by one vote, and he fell seven votes shorts as a sophomore.
The preseason team was first selected before the 1986-87 season. The last unanimous pick was Duke guard Jason Williams in 2001-02, and the last repeat selection was Michigan State guard Mateen Cleaves in 1999-00.
Hansbrough averaged 22.6 points and 10.6 rebounds in leading the Tar Heels to a school-record 36 wins and the Final Four last season. He will miss about two weeks of practice after being diagnosed last week with a stress reaction in his right shin.
“Of course, we are all disappointed for Tyler and our team, but everybody on the roster has a chance to do a little more and play a little better to help make up for the loss of the national player of the year,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
Hansbrough has played in all 108 games in his first three seasons and he did not miss a practice his first two years and only one as a junior.
Hansbrough was a second-team All-America after his sophomore season and was a unanimous pick after last season. He is the first national player of the year to return to school since Shaquille O’Neal at LSU in 1991.
“To no one’s surprise Tyler didn’t rest on his previous accomplishments,” Williams said. “He worked hard in the offseason to become an even better player. He has grown so much as a person and a player throughout his career and it has been a joy to watch.”
Curry, who led Davidson’s surprising run to the regional finals of last season’s NCAA tournament, was second in the voting with 66. Curry averaged 32 points and was 23-of-51 from 3-point range during the tournament run despite seeing defenses aimed at stopping the slender guard. He averaged 25.9 points for the season and his contribution to the team should change some this season with the graduation of point guard Jason Richards, who led the nation in assists.
The 6-8 Harangody, who was named on 58 ballots, was the Big East player of the year last season after averaging 20.4 points and 10.6 rebounds. His inside presence allowed the Fighting Irish to average 79 points, tired for the No. 1 spot in the conference.
Collison, a third-team All-America selection after leading the Bruins to a third straight Final Four appearance last season, received 46 votes. The 6-1 senior averaged 14.5 points and 3.8 assists last season, and he will combine with Josh Shipp to give UCLA one of the nation’s top backcourts this season.
Griffin, who received 45 votes, surprised many when he decided to return to the Sooners for his sophomore season. The 6-10, 250-pound Griffin averaged 14.7 points and 9.1 rebounds last season in leading Oklahoma through a rough Big 12 schedule and into the NCAA tournament.
Arizona State sophomore James Harden, with 25, was the only other player named on more nine ballots.
Last year’s preseason team was Hansbrough, Collison, Roy Hibbert of Georgetown, Chris Lofton of Tennessee and Drew Neitzel of Michigan State. Hibbert was a second-team selection after the season and Lofton was on the third team.