Split POY? A coach and two opponents agree

Updated: March 6, 2006, 11:20 AM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Did you happen to notice the only two college players who were invited to try out for the United States Senior National Team on Sunday?

Of course, there are only two who would fit the criteria this season: Duke senior J.J. Redick and Gonzaga junior Adam Morrison.

Even USA Basketball couldn't make a choice. Instead, it invited both of them. There was no need to choose for an honor like this. They were both deserving of the invitation. It didn't matter that one played in the ACC and the other in the WCC. This was a decision based on talent, and talent alone.

National team coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke said Sunday during a teleconference, "They are two different players although they are both great scorers. Both of them are very competitive. I think some collegiate players going into this type of situation would be a little bit intimidated. I don't think either one of these guys will."

Krzyzewski said both collegians define the specialist role on the U.S. team. When you draw from that word its root -- "special" -- you've identified the way to describe these two players this season.

There is no rule that says you have to choose one. So, in deciding on the national player of the year, there is no harm in saying they both deserve the award. This isn't college football and its hype for one award -- the Heisman. Schools equally recognize the Wooden, Naismith, Robertson, Rupp and AP player of the year awards. Utah's Andrew Bogut won all but one of those last season, yet Duke promoted Redick, who won the Rupp, as the returning national player of the year. Even the Web sites, like us at ESPN.com, get a fair mention. And, who knows, Redick and Morrison might end up splitting these without the push for their sharing each one of them.

But it's hard to deny that they deserve to share the awards, with both hovering around a nation's best 28 points per game all season, outdueling each other with 40-point games, shooting at or near 50 percent, above 40 percent on 3s and each averaging just a few minutes under 40 per game. Oh, and of course, their teams are in the top 10 and could be a No. 1 seed (Duke) and a No. 2 seed (Gonzaga).

"I would say co-player of the year," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said Friday. "They've both done so much, but if I have to pick someone, I would pick J.J. because I've seen him more, coached against him and tried to stop him. I haven't had to do that with Adam, but I love watching him play.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with sharing it," Williams said.

Look, you can say I'm on the fence here. That's fine. Williams seems to think sharing it is OK, too.

Need more support for this idea? Memphis senior wing Rodney Carney and Virginia junior guard Sean Singletary played against both players this season, so I feel pretty comfortable in saying their word is pretty strong here.

"I couldn't pick, I'd give it to both of them," said Singletary, whose Cavaliers lost to Gonzaga and Duke this season.

"It's not a bad thing to have them share it since they're both having great years," he said. "Neither should be left out. The best thing to do is give them co-MVP."

Singletary, who said Redick is the deeper shooter while Morrison is the better player off the dribble, added that "it's healthy for the sport. I don't think there's anything wrong with giving it to them both because they're both playing so well."

Keep in mind this is a peer talking here, not the media, not another coach.

"There's so much pressure on them to score that they should be co-players of the year," said Carney.

Carney should know. He defended against Redick in a three-point loss to Duke in New York on Nov. 25, when Redick was held to 4-of-9 shooting and 15 points in 36 minutes.

Carney also took a turn with Morrison in the Tigers' 83-72 win over the Zags on Dec. 27 in Memphis. Morrison hit for 34, going 9-of-20 (4-of-6 on 3s).

"You can't compare them because they're two different players," Carney said. "Morrison is more of a creator who can get his own shot off the dribble and can finish with a dunk. Redick comes off screens. You can bother Redick with your athleticism. Morrison is a little smarter, and he realized that if he couldn't get me off the dribble that he could take me down on the post. He just shot over me. They're both great players and can shoot the lights out. At any given time they can get a basket for their team. I've got a lot of respect for them."

Carney said Redick was actually harder to guard because of his conditioning.

"He continues to run and run and gets his shot off so quick," Carney said. "It's crazy to stay with him. J.J. is constantly running off screens. I guarded them both. Both of them should be player of the year."

So, if you don't buy my argument, or Roy Williams', then at least listen to the players who have dealt with them on the court. They know. And they agree Morrison and Redick should share the award.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com