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Walton And Gardner Head Preseason All-America Team
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/12/2002
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Nov. 12, 2002

By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer

Arizona teammates Luke Walton and Jason Gardner were among the five seniors selected to The Associated Press' preseason All-America team.

David West of Xavier was the leading vote-getter on the team announced Tuesday and he was joined by Kirk Hinrich of Kansas and Erwin Dudley of Alabama.

Walton and Gardner became the fourth pair of teammates to be selected to the preseason team, which started before the 1986-87 season. One of the other sets also came from Arizona, Mike Bibby and Miles Simon before the 1997-98 season.

Walton and Gardner are two of the five starters returning to the Wildcats, who were ranked No. 1 in the AP's preseason poll.

"We've had a lot of outstanding leaders," Arizona coach Lute Olson said, "and these two would compare with anybody that we've ever had."

The 6-foot-9 West, the Atlantic 10's player of the year the last two seasons, was named on 43 of the 72 ballots from the national media panel, one more than Walton. Gardner was next with 39 votes, while Hinrich received 35 and Dudley 32.

Western Kentucky senior Chris Marcus was sixth in the voting with 31, while seniors Nick Collison of Kansas (28) and Brandin Knight of Pittsburgh (23) were the only other players to receive more than 20 votes.

The 6-8 Walton led the Pac-10 in assists last season at 6.3 per game, the first forward to do so since the stat became official in 1974. He averaged 15.7 points and 7.3 rebounds, while shooting 47 percent last season.

His family knows something about All-America honors. His father, Bill, was a three-time selection at UCLA from 1972-74 and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The 5-10 Gardner averaged 20.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists last season while playing 38.2 minutes a game. A third-team All-America pick last season, he shot 38.4 percent from 3-point range and his 106 3s were third most in school history.

"He's the guy that has to direct pretty much everything," Olson said of his point guard. "It isn't a case of where he's saying a whole lot, but when he says something, a lot of times it's pretty stern. He's not afraid of getting into somebody's face. He's a tremendous competitor and he expects everyone to compete."

West, a second-team All-America selection last season, averaged 18.3 points and led the conference in rebounding (9.8) and blocks (2.5). The 6-9 forward surprised a lot of people when he decided to return to the Musketeers for another season.

"I thought he was gone," second-year Xavier coach Thad Matta said. "When he announced he was staying, I was shocked."

Hinrich averaged 14.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists for the Jayhawks last season, hitting 47.8 percent from 3-point range. He holds the school record for long range shooting, hitting 50 percent as a junior.

Kansas coach Roy Williams is succinct when talking about his guard.

"I think Kirk Hinrich is the best guard in the country," he said.

Dudley was a third-team All-American last season and was chosen the Southeastern Conference's player of the year. The 6-8 Dudley averaged 15.2 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field.

"He's a throwback guy, kind of old-fashioned," Crimson Tide coach Mark Gottfried said of Dudley. "He's a low-key guy. He's not really interested in all the hype."

Tayshaun Prince of Kentucky was the only senior on last season's preseason All-America team, but the other four - Jason Williams of Duke, Casey Jacobsen of Stanford, Kareem Rush of Missouri and Frank Williams of Illinois - all declared for the NBA draft as underclassmen.

Jason Williams, last season's national player of the year, was the only member of the preseason All-America team to earn the first-team postseason honor as well. Jacobsen was on the second team and Prince the third.

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