Feb. 19, 2003
ATLANTA - University of Arizona men's basketball players Jason Gardner and Luke Walton were named two of 20 finalists for the Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award in an announcement made Wednesday by Jackie Bradford, president of the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
In addition to Arizona's Gardner and Walton, the list of finalists include Mario Austin, Mississippi State, Keith Bogans, Kentucky, Matt Bonner, Florida, Nick Collison, Kansas, Brian Cook, Illinois, Chris Duhon, Duke, T.J. Ford, Texas, Reese Gaines, Louisville, Jarvis Hayes, Georgia, Kirk Hinrich, Kansas, Josh Howard, Wake Forest, Brandin Knight, Pittsburgh, Kyle Korver, Creighton, Hollis Price, Oklahoma, Mike Sweetney, Georgetown, Chris Thomas, Notre Dame, Dwayne Wade, Marquette, and David West, Xavier. Arizona is one of only two schools to have more than one finalist on the list.
Gardner, a 5-foot-10, 191-pound guard from Indianapolis, Ind., leads Arizona in scoring (14.9 ppg), assists (5.0), steals (1.9), minutes played (741) and three-point field goals (49), while also posting a career-best 4.0 rebounds per game average. He is shooting 41.0 percent from the field, including 36.3 percent from three-point range, and 74.7 percent from the free throw line. He has been a candidate for the Naismith Award in each of the last three seasons and a finalist in the last two.
Walton, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward from San Diego, Calif., currently averages 8.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 18 games this season. He is shooting 40.1 percent from the floor and ranks seventh among Pac-10 players with a 40.9 three-point field goal percentage. One of the most versatile players in the country, Walton has eight double figure games this season to go with 10 games of five or more assists.
Now in its 35th year, the Naismith Award honors the nation's outstanding college basketball player. The 20 finalists were chosen by the Naismith Board of Selectors, which includes some of the country's leading basketball coaches, journalists and administrators. The winner will be honored in Atlanta on Friday, April 11, 2003.
Arizona is next in action on Saturday, Feb. 22, as the top-ranked Wildcats take on Arizona State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. MST and can be seen on Fox Sports Net Arizona.