Durant, Bennett win AP honors

Associated Press • Mar 30, 2007 at 9:42 AM

ATLANTA - A couple of rookies swept the national college basketball awards.

Freshman Kevin Durant of Texas and first-year coach Tony Bennett of Washington State were named player and coach of the year Friday by The Associated Press.

Durant, the smooth 6-foot-9 swingman who finished fourth in the country in scoring (25.8) and rebounding (11.1), is the first freshman to win the award since it was created in 1961.

Bennett, who succeeded his father at Washington State for his first head coaching job, led the Cougars to a 26-8 record, matching the most wins in school history, and to their first NCAA tournament bid since 1994.

"I just hope I'm paving the way for other freshmen, to let them know you can compete," Durant said.

Durant was a unanimous pick for the AP All-America team, and he and Ohio State center Greg Oden were just the third and fourth freshmen to be selected first-team.

Durant was jealous of Oden, who will play Saturday against Georgetown.

"This is a great honor, but I'd rather be in the Final Four," Durant said.

Durant, the Big 12 player and freshman of the year, shot 47 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 82 percent from the free-throw line. He averaged 36 minutes per game and also led the Longhorns in steals and blocked shots. He had 20 double-doubles and scored at least 30 points a Big 12-record 11 times.

In Texas' five postseason games, he averaged 28.5 points and 9.6 rebounds.

Durant received all but two votes for player of the year from the 72-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Senior forward Alando Tucker of Wisconsin, the Big Ten player of the year, got the other two votes.

The 37-year-old Bennett laughed when asked what it meant to be selected coach of the year after his first season in that position.

"What do you do from here?" he asked. "Having grown up with a father who was a coach and spending my life in this game, I know how fleeting things can be. So I will enjoy this and remember that it is a privilege to coach."

The Cougars, who were picked ninth or 10th in Pac-10 preseason polls, finished second to UCLA in the conference and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament. It was the fifth tournament appearance in school history.

Bennett, who agreed to a seven-year contract extension earlier this week, received 40 votes. Thad Matta of Ohio State and Billy Gillispie of Texas A&M each got 10 votes and Bo Ryan of Wisconsin seven.

The Cougars reached as high as ninth in the rankings this season and were 13th in the final poll.

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