Augustus, last year's winner, headlines list

LOS ANGELES -- Thirty of the top NCAA Division I women's basketball players were named preseason candidates for the John R. Wooden Award on Thursday.

Three of this season's preseason candidates were honored last year as members of the 2005 Women's Wooden Award All-American Team, including Wooden Award Winner Seimone Augustus (LSU), Monique Currie (Duke) and Jessica Davenport (Ohio State). In addition, six other preseason nominees were in the running for last year's Wooden Award and named to the official voting ballot, including Lindsay Bowen (Michigan State), Tiffany Jackson (Texas), Cappie Pondexter (Rutgers), Khara Smith (DePaul), Candice Wiggins (Stanford) and Sophia Young (Baylor).

Augustus, Pondexter and Smith all carry the distinction of being two-time Wooden Award national ballot finalists.

The list is composed of 30 student athletes who, based on last year's individual performance and team records, are the early frontrunners for one of college basketball's most coveted trophies. These top 30 candidates are comprised of returning players, although transfers, freshmen and other players who excel throughout the season will be evaluated and considered for both the Midseason top 20 list and the National Ballot.

"The committee had an incredibly difficult task in narrowing down the nation's top 30 women's players," said Mike Solum, director of the Wooden Award. "This list represents the elite of college basketball, and our entire team at the Wooden Award is excited to see the best players in the nation prove their case as basketball's player of the year."

Several schools had two players nominated, including Connecticut (Ann Strother and Barbara Turner), LSU (Augustus and Sylvia Fowles), UCLA (Nikki Blue and Noelle Quinn), Duke (Currie and Mistie Williams), Maryland (Shay Doron and Crystal Langhorne) and North Carolina (Erlana Larkins and Ivory Latta).

Nine conferences are represented, including the ACC (seven players), Big East (six players), Pac-10 (four players), SEC (four players), Big Ten (three players), Big 12 (three players), Mountain West (one player), Western Athletic (one player) and Atlantic 10 (one player). Three of last year's Final Four teams boast at least one representative on the preseason team.

In mid-January, the Wooden Award Committee will release the Midseason Top 20 List, followed in March by the official voting ballot, consisting of approximately 15 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA.

The 2006 Award ceremony, which will include the presentation of the Men's and Women's Wooden Award, the Wooden Award All-American Teams and the Legends of Coaching Award, will be held at The Los Angeles Athletic Club on April 8, 2006, and will be broadcast live on CBS. The top five male and female finalists will be invited to Los Angeles for the awards ceremony and will receive a contribution from the John R. Wooden Award Scholarship Fund in their name to their university's general scholarship fund.

The Wooden Award Scholarship Fund was established in 2002 by Applied Materials and corporate partners through the California Community Foundation (CCF) to honor coach Wooden's dedication as an educator and mentor. The Scholarship Fund distributed $10,000 last year to each university represented by a men's and women's Wooden Award All-American Team finalist (for a total of $100,000).

Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award has gone to such notables as Michael Jordan ('84), Larry Bird ('79), Tim Duncan ('97) and last year's recipient, Seimone Augustus ('05).