Oct. 24, 2002
TUCSON, Ariz. - University of Arizona men's basketball players Jason Gardner and Luke Walton were selected as preseason candidates for the 2002-03 Naismith Player-of-the-Year award by a vote of the award's Board of Selectors.
Gardner and Walton were one of three sets of teammates to make the preseason list of 30 candidates. It is the third consecutive season in which Gardner has been a Naismith preseason player-of-the-year candidate, while Walton's selection is his first. Joining the Wildcat teammates on the list were Kansas' Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich and Florida's matt Bonner and Brett Nelson.
Gardner, a 5-foot-10, 191-pound senior guard from Indianapolis, Ind., averaged a team-leading 20.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, while logging 38.2 minutes per contest. In 34 games in 2001-02 Gardner shot 42.5 percent from the floor, 38.4 percent from three-point range, and his 106 three-point field goals ranked third on the UA single-season list. Gardner scored more points (692) in 2001-02 than any other player in the Pac-10 and was the only league player to be ranked in the top 10 in scoring average, assists and steals.
Gardner, who ranks in the top 10 in 10 different UA career statistical categories, was named to three All-America teams in 2001-02. He was a third team selection by the Associated Press and a second team pick by cnnsi.com and Basketball America. A starter in 103 of 104 career games played, Gardner has scored 1,512 points, knocked down 252 three-point field goals, passed out 464 assists and collected 164 steals. He and the Wildcats have amassed a 79-25 (.760) record over the past three seasons.
Walton, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound senior forward from San Diego, averaged 15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and a Pac-10 Conference-leading 6.3 assists in 31 games last year. He led the Wildcats with nine double-doubles and a triple-double while shooting 47.0 percent from the floor. The Pac-10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Walton scored in double figures 24 times in 2001-02 and had five double-figure assists games to his credit. He was the only Pac-10 player to be ranked in the league's top 15 in scoring and the top 10 in rebounding, assists and steals.
Walton earned All-America kudos from the Wooden Award, Basketball Times (3rd), The Sporting News (2nd) and collegehoopsinsider.com. In 101 career games, Walton has averaged 8.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
Arizona opens the 2002-03 campaign in Tucson against Western Kentucky on Sat., Nov. 23.