ESPN.com Players of Week
Updated: February 26, 2004, 5:08 PM ETESPN.com
Here is a look at the players who've earned ESPN.com Player of the Week honors during teh 2003-04 season:
Week 14: Feb. 9-15
CHRIS THOMAS G, Notre Dame
Thomas helped lead the Irish to three of their most important wins of the season and put them back in the bubble discussion. Thomas scored 31 points in a win last Monday over Connecticut, 26 in a win over Seton Hall and 25 in the Irish's upset of Syracuse on Monday. Thomas played 40 minutes in each of these games. He also played 40 in the previous game, a loss to Pittsburgh. The junior point guard has been much-maligned in his Notre Dame career. But he has emerged as the leader of this squad, and if the Irish make the tournament, especially without forward Torin Francis, it will be because of Thomas. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said this is his team. Thomas didn't hesitate to take it over this past week.
Week 13: Feb. 2-8
EMEKA OKAFOR F, Connecticut
It's becoming a surprise when Okafor doesn't nearly put up a triple-double. Okafor was dominant against Syracuse last Monday, scoring 25 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking four shots. He put up 23 points, grabbed 10 boards and blocked six shots against West Virginia on Saturday. Okafor's leadership is proving to be invaluable. His offensive presence is now just as much of a force as his shot-blocking. Connecticut can count on Okafor to give it reliable numbers every time out. He's in a tight race for player of the year with Saint Joseph's Jameer Nelson. But he's also moved ahead of high school senior Dwight Howard as the likely overall No. 1 draft pick in June. Okafor continues to improve with each game and shows the value of hard work can pay off. He rarely settles for anything. And his thirst to get better is evident by his increased production.
Week 12: Jan. 26-Feb. 1
STEVE NOVAK F, Marquette
Novak was big in the biggest game to date of the season for Marquette. He scored 30 points, making 8 of 13 three-pointers in a win at Louisville on Saturday. Novak hit 3s from all over the court, including a few that looked like they would push the NBA 3-point line and beyond. The Golden Eagles have been all about Travis Diener this season. But Novak reminded everyone who doesn't watch this team closely that he's just as viable a threat to score. Marquette had been winless in four games against the RPI top 50 prior to the win at Louisville. Marquette's RPI was out of NCAA contention -- for late January -- prior to that game with it above 60. The Eagles needed something positive to happen after losing at Arizona, at Wisconsin, at Charlotte and at home to Cincinnati in their previous four marquee games. Novak's shooting touch helped cure all of the ills on this team for a week.
Week 11: Jan. 19-25
RYAN GOMES F, Providence
Gomes was absolutely sensational last week. He scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Friars' victory at Connecticut on Saturday. And, he was the difference in winning or losing the game. The Waterbury, Ct., native's effort prompted an explosive response from Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun. But that's because Calhoun was upset with his own team. The bottom line is Gomes is one of the great stories of a player who made himself into a potential pro. Earlier in the week, he scored 27 points, making 10 of 14 shots, in a win over Villanova. He started the week with six points in a win over Loyola of Chicago, but his services weren't needed as much. Providence's 3-0 week allowed Gomes to show why he's been such a big part of the Friars' 13-3 start. Still, it was a tough choice. Gomes beat out plenty of deserving candidates like Florida State's Tim Pickett and Mississippi State's Lawrence Roberts.
Week 10: Jan. 12-18
DELONTE WEST G, Saint Joseph's
West was simply perfect, and that's not a writer's embellishment. West, overshadowed all season by his backcourt mate Jameer Nelson, remains the least respected wing in the country for whatever reason. But on Saturday, he tied a school record and set an Atlantic 10 record with a 12-for-12 outing, 3-for-3 on 3s and 6-for-6 at the line for 33 points at Xavier. In two games last week -- wins over Fordham and Xavier -- West averaged 22.5 points, eight rebounds, 4.5 assists and made 17 of 20 shots and all eight of his free throws. West deserves to be recognized more throughout the season. Nelson will continue to get all of the publicity for a perfect St. Joe's squad, and with good reason. But the Hawks would have a harder time being undefeated if Nelson didn't have a wing mate like West. The pair are the best backcourt in the country.
Week 9: Jan. 5-11
JOSH CHILDRESS G, Stanford
Talk about being worth the wait. Childress was magnificent in the Cardinal's two wins at Arizona State and Arizona. Childress provided a putback of a Cardinal miss to clinch the win at Arizona State. That bucket gave him 14 points in a season-high 26 minutes. It was only his third game of the season after sitting out the entire non-conference portion of the schedule with a stress reaction in his foot. He also grabbed 11 boards for his first double-double of the season. Childress then chipped in 19 points and seven boards in the win at Arizona. Childress got to the line against the Wildcats, made 8 of 10 free throws, did commit six turnovers, but to see Childress running the floor with ease had to make the Cardinal feel good about their chances of winning the Pac-10 title. Childress remained patient during his rehab and didn't get too frustrated. He came back at the right time and is immediately an impact player again for the Cardinal.
Week 8: Dec. 29-Jan. 4
BEN REED G, Western Michigan
The junior guard was sensational in leading the Broncos to wins over Winthrop and Arizona State, the second coming in the host Sun Devils' tournament. But Reed saved his best for the MAC, as the Broncos made an early statement by beating Akron in Ohio. Reed scored 23 against Winthrop, put a 36 up on ASU and then welcomed the Zips to the MAC season by laying 30 points on them on their home court. Reed made shots from all over the court, connecting on a 11 3s in the three wins, while sinking 30 of 37 free throws during the week. He also found time to grab 16 rebounds and commit only three turnovers. Western Michigan is the team to beat in the MAC and a lot of it has to do with Reed. He has made himself the man to stop in every game, and so far the only team to do so was Detroit when he scored only two points. Reed suffered an ACL injury at the end of his MAC freshman of the year season and wasn't the same player a year ago when he averaged 7.4 points a game. But he has emerged as the MAC's best go-to player.
Week 7: Dec. 22-Dec. 28
DAVID LEE F, Florida
It's hard to argue with perfection, regardless of the competition. Lee went 12 for 12 from the field against Northeastern and then 4 for 4 against Eastern Kentucky for a run of 17 straight field goals without a miss last week. Lee has gone 62 minutes of game action without missing a shot over three games. Lee, averaging 14.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, is starting to have the breakout season the Gators were hoping for in the preseason. Lee was having some issues dealing with cramping earlier in the season. It got so bad that he couldn't finish the Arizona game and was starting to think that something was wrong. He then turned an ankle to exasperate the overall anxiety of the situation. But Lee has settled into his role as being the Gators' top offensive threat. If Lee can provide this kind of balance, the Gators have a shot to get back to the top of the polls, let alone San Antonio. The week was slow with Christmas, but Lee has had two double-doubles in Florida's last four games, and was one of the few players who were the symbol of consistency before and after the holiday.
Week 6: Dec. 15-Dec. 21
ERIC WILLIAMS F, Wake Forest
The hugging, the crying, the enthusiasm, all of it was tremendous by Williams after the Demon Deacons' thrilling 119-114, triple-overtime victory at North Carolina on Saturday. Williams was a joy to watch play and is as deserving a candidate for player of the week honors since we've been handing out the award. Williams hit a jumper with 36 seconds left in the third overtime and made two late free throws in the win. He finished with 24 points and was an overall man-child in the post, more than holding his own and ultimately outlasting Sean May. Oh, by the way, Williams scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a win earlier in the week at SMU -- a win that is looking better after the Mustangs beat Purdue Sunday.
Week 5: Dec. 8-Dec. 14
FRANCISCO GARCIA F, Louisville
Is there really any other choice? Garcia played two games this week with a heavy heart, leading Louisville to wins over Seton Hall and Florida, after learning that his brother Hector Lopez had been shot and killed in New York on Monday night. Garcia proved to be an exceptional leader for the Cardinals without having to say a word. His play was selfless. He set up his teammates in the right spots for shots, grabbed rebounds and dove on the floor for loose balls. Oh, and he scored 24 points against Seton Hall and then 21 in the 'Ville's victory over Florida. Garcia was a model citizen this week and made the Louisville program, his coaching staff and his family proud with his effort on and off the court.
Week 4: Dec. 1-Dec. 7
SEAN MAY F, North Carolina
May is proving to be the most important player to his team so far this season. May scored 26 points in a win Sunday over George Mason. He scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a win earlier in the week against Illinois in Greensboro, N.C.. In that ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup with the Illini, May made 9 of 10 free throws as well as getting two blocks and two steals. His play around the post has given the Tar Heels a guaranteed presence inside in every game. May is also clearly one of the top two leaders in a locker room gaining confidence with every win.
Week 3: Nov. 24-Nov. 30
MATT WALSH F, Florida
Walsh was the difference in Florida's 78-77 victory over Arizona on Friday night in Springfield, Mass. There were plenty of Player of the Week performances around the country, but Walsh's came in the most evenly-matched game of the week. He lit up the Wildcats with five 3s on his way to 27 points. Walsh showed that he could duplicate what he did to start last season. The difference this season he says, however, is he has the stamina to get through the entire year after admitting that he played last season with a broken foot. If his body doesn't break down, Walsh should be a realistic candidate for SEC player of the year.
Week 2: Nov. 17-Nov. 23
BEN GORDON G, Connecticut
Gordon has been the most impressive player over in the first two weeks of the season. Gordon lit up Nevada for 37 points in the second round of the Preseason NIT. He could have had 50 if he hadn't gotten into foul trouble and/or Jim Calhoun didn't pull back a bit in the final minutes. Saturday, Gordon helped pound Sacred Heart with 27 points, making all four 3s he attempted. He began the week with 13 in the season-opening win over Yale in the first round of the Preseason NIT. Gordon's play against the Wolf Pack, though, was by far his most impressive and not just because he scored a career high. Gordon was more demonstrative then he ever has been in his career. With Emeka Okafor in foul trouble, Gordon took over the game and was playing at an NBA-level. He drove to the basket at will, pulled up from the perimeter, and was playing to the crowd when Connecticut took control of the game.
Week 1: Nov. 13-Nov. 16
JAMEER NELSON G, Saint Joseph's
Friday night's win over Gonzaga in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York was all about Nelson. He made sure nobody will forget about him throughout the season when it comes to first-team All-American honors, not to mention player of the year voting. Nelson was two rebounds shy of a triple-double. He scored 20 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed eight boards. He was simply sensational with the basketball, allowing the Hawks to create tremendous ball movement.
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