Emeka Okafor has done pretty well on the court and exceptionally
well in the classroom. The Connecticut junior was just as
impressive in garnering votes for The Associated Press' preseason
Okafor was one vote short of being a unanimous selection
Wednesday and was joined on the team by seniors Jameer Nelson of
Saint Joseph's and Rickey Paulding of Missouri and sophomores Ike
Diogu of Arizona State and Raymond Felton of North Carolina.
The 6-foot-9 Okafor averaged 15.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.5
blocked shots last season for the Huskies, and is on pace to
graduate with a degree in finance in just three years. He's also on
pace to become the leading shot blocker in college basketball
history, having already shattered the Big East record set by
Georgetown's Patrick Ewing almost 20 years ago.
"He came equipped with one of the most unique packages that any
teacher would love to have," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said of
Okafor. "And that's the ability to take a task, do it fully and
beyond and then put it into a compartment and leave it alone.
"Certainly, he's enriched our teams, our coaching staff. We're
a better university because of him."
Nelson was second in the voting, named on 49 ballots by the
72-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25.
Paulding received 37 votes, Diogu 34 and Felton 24.
Last year's preseason All-American team was comprised of five
seniors and only national player of the year David West of Xavier
was on the postseason first team.
The 5-11 Nelson and teammate Delonte West are considered one of
the best backcourts in the nation. He averaged 19.7 points, 5.1
rebounds and 4.7 assists for the Hawks as a junior.
"In my humble opinion, we have the best player in college
basketball in Jameer Nelson," Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli
said. "I sent him to the registrar to try and be reclassified as a
junior. That's important because you get credit for being a hell of
a coach when you have a player like that."
Paulding, a 6-5 swingman who is a highlight-reel staple, has
started for three years with the Tigers. He averaged 17.4 points
and 5.5 rebounds last season with his best effort a 36-point outing
in a second-round loss to Marquette in the NCAA tournament.
"We have the opportunity to do some special things here," said
Paulding, one of four starters back for the Tigers. "We have goals
we still want to reach."
The 6-8 Diogu was the Pac-10's freshman of the year last season
after averaging 19.0 points and 7.8 rebounds, but he isn't limited
to playing inside.
"If he's not the best player in the country," Sun Devils coach
Rob Evans said, "he's in the top three or four.
"We'll move him outside. He can put the ball on the floor and
he can do some things with it when he does put it on the floor."
Felton averaged 12.9 points and 6.7 assists last season for the
Tar Heels, but he'll start his junior season under new coach Roy
"He brings everything," the 6-foot point guard said of
Williams. "He brings inspiration, pride, confidence. He's a great
coach, he's a great man. I can't wait. This is exciting to me."
The other members of last year's preseason All-American team were
Arizona teammates Luke Walton and Jason Gardner, Kansas' Kirk
Hinrich and Alabama's Erwin Dudley. Gardner was on the postseason
second team and Hinrich was on the third team.