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Sports

Freshmen Durant, Oden lead All-America team

March 27th, 2007 1:48 am by JIM O'CONNELL



If Kevin Durant and Greg Oden play only one season of college basketball, it will have been as All-Americans.


The freshmen were voted to The Associated Press' All-America team Monday, the first members of their class so honored since 1989.


The 6-foot-9 Durant, who led Texas to the Big 12 title game, was the only unanimous choice of the 72-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25.


Oden, the 7-footer who helped Ohio State to its first No. 1 ranking in 45 years, was joined on the team by seniors Alando Tucker of Wisconsin and Acie Law IV of Texas A&M and junior Arron Afflalo of UCLA. The voting was conducted before the NCAA tournament.


Since freshmen became eligible to play in 1972, the only ones selected to the first team had been Wayman Tisdale of Oklahoma in 1983 and Chris Jackson of LSU in 1989.


Durant, the first Texas All-American since T.J. Ford in 2003, averaged 25.6 points and 11.3 rebounds, but it was his all-around game and penchant for big shots in the clutch that had people ranking him as one of the best freshmen ever.


"There's no question Kevin deserves every individual accolade that he will receive," Texas coach Rick Barnes said, "but the one thing I respect most about Kevin is that he is the ultimate team player. He really doesn't care about the individual numbers and awards. All he cares about is the success of his team. When you're around a guy like that, it makes coaching him a joy."


Durant, the Big 12 Player of the Year, backed up his coach's sentiments.


"I am not very big on individual honors, but I am very humbled to be included on the Associated Press All-America team," he said. "When you look at the other four guys who are on the team, I am honored to be mentioned with them. I have so much respect for how each one of them has led their respective teams and handled themselves, both on and off the court. I look up to each one of them."


Oden, the first Ohio State All-American since Jim Jackson in 1992, missed the first seven games while recovering from offseason surgery on his right wrist. As he rehabilitated from the injury, he learned to shoot free throws left-handed and didn't miss a beat when he returned to the Buckeyes, averaging 15.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks while shooting 61.4 percent from the field.


"I'm very surprised," Oden said of being selected. "Just with how things went, I didn't really play a whole season, and I know there are a lot of other guys with better numbers than me. I'm just surprised, but I'm honored and the best I can do is keep on playing."


His Buckeyes face Georgetown on Saturday in the Final Four.


Oden had a quick answer when asked about the success he and Durant had during their first seasons in college.


"It's just younger guys coming in and just playing basketball, not worried about age or anything," he said.


Both played in college in large part because of the new rule that prohibits the NBA from drafting players until they turn 19 and are out of high school for one year.


"I'm not sold that the rule is right or wrong, but I think it shows you the impact and the influx of how many great players are out there," said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. "I think that's why there's so much parity nowadays in college basketball."


Tucker and Law were the first All-America selections from Wisconsin and Texas A&M, while Afflalo was UCLA's first since Ed O'Bannon in 1995.


The 6-6 Tucker, the Big Ten Player of the Year who helped the Badgers to their first No. 1 ranking, averaged 19.9 points and 5.4 rebounds.


Law led the Aggies' resurgence from an 0-16 Big 12 record in 2003-04 to this season, when they ranked as high as sixth in the country. The 6-3 guard averaged 17.9 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 51 percent from the field.


"It doesn't get any bigger than that as far as individual accolades," Law said. "Your team can do more, but first-team AP All-American? That's unbelievable. I'm very excited and happy."


Afflalo submitted his name to the NBA draft last season after leading the Bruins to the national championship game, but returned and averaged 16.7 points and was selected Pac-10 Player of the Year.


"First and foremost, team goals are always most important, but when it comes to the All-America team it's a positive thing," Afflalo said. "It shows that other people who know the game of basketball understand my contributions and importance to my team."


Durant's 72 first-team votes gave him 360 points. Tucker received 64 first-team votes and 344 points, followed by Law (59, 320 points), Afflalo (52, 304), and Oden (34, 263).


The second team consisted of seniors Nick Fazekas of Nevada and Jared Dudley of Boston College, juniors Chris Lofton of Tennessee and Joakim Noah of Florida, and sophomore Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina.


The third team had seniors Aaron Brooks of Oregon, Al Thornton of Florida State and Aaron Gray of Pittsburgh, and juniors Jeff Green of Georgetown and Al Horford of Florida.


The preseason All-America team was Hansbrough, Noah, Ronald Steele of Alabama, Glen Davis of LSU and Brandon Rush of Kansas.


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