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Duke, Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett And Award Season

Duke has a long history with NPOY Awards

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NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Practice Day
Apr 5, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson accepts the Oscar Robertson Trophy during a press conference for the 2019 men’s Final Four at US Bank Stadium.
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

With the announcement of the Wooden Awards last Friday, college basketball’s awards season is over.

Duke’s Zion Williamson dominated that season as much as he dominated the on-court portion, capturing every major national player of the year award.

Williamson became the 11th Duke player to win a major national-player-of-the-year-award, the sixth to run the table, the latter with some caveats.

What constitutes a “major” award? There is no college-basketball-analog to football’s Heisman Trophy, baseball’s Golden Spikes Award, ice hockey’s Hobey Baker Award or lacrosse’s Tewaaraton Award, one widely-accepted award honoring the best player in the sport.

Instead we have a half-dozen awards recognized as major by the people who decide that sort of thing. We have the Associated Press Award, which dates back to 1961. The Atlanta Tipoff Club presents the Naismith Award, the Los Angeles Athletic Club the John Wooden Award. The United States Basketball Writers Association presents the Oscar Robertson award. The National Association of Basketball Coaches somehow hasn’t come up with a catchier name.

The Sporting News award is considered major but Basketball Times magazine is on the periphery despite the fact that the latter is a real magazine, while the former publishes only a preseason edition. But Duke considers Basketball Times as major, so I’ll go with that. USA Today also gives its view of things.

Confused? Well, the Helms Foundation gave a NPOY award until the late 1970s. The Rupp Award was around for decades before giving up the ghost. And don’t forget United Press International, AP’s once rival. They had a NPOY award through 1996.

Dick Groat is considered Duke’s first NPOY. He won the UPI and Helms awards back in 1952.

Groat is still around. Helms and UPI are not.

Neither are Look magazine and Collier’s magazine, which also had All-America teams in 1952.

In fact, most of these organizations also name All-American teams, making the term “consensus” All-American a bit of a slippery concept.

Which brings us back to Williamson. And his teammate R.J. Barrett. You may recall that USA Today named Barrett NPOY. Williamson won all the rest.

If we accept conventional wisdom that the USA Today award falls just outside the “major” category, then Williamson joins Art Heyman (1963), Christian Laettner (1992), Elton Brand (1999), Jason Williams (2002) and J.J. Redick (2006) as Duke players to win all the major NPOY awards. Williams shared the 2002 NABC award with Kansas’ Drew Gooden, while Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison shared the 2006 Robertson and NABC awards with Redick.

Speaking of Jason Williams, he also won the 2001 NABC award, keeping teammate Shane Battier from winning all the awards.

Williams and Redick are the only Duke players to win NPOY awards in two different seasons. Redick won the 2005 Rupp Award in addition to his 2006 awards. Utah’s Andrew Bogut won most of the rest.

The others? Johnny Dawkins won the Naismith in 1986 and Danny Ferry won the 1989 Naismith and Robertson awards. Marvin Bagley was named Basketball Times NPOY last season.

Dawkins and Williams won national honors without winning local honors. Dawkins was runner-up to Maryland’s Len Bias for the 1986 ACC Player of the Year award despite the fact that Duke went 12-2 in the ACC, Maryland 6-8.

Maryland’s Juan Dixon edged Williams for the 2002 ACC Player of the Year award, with 41 votes to Williams’ 38. For some reason four media members voted for Duke’s Mike Dunleavy.

Thirty-eight plus four. You can do the math.

Back to Williamson. He joins Texas’ Kevin Durant (2007) and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis (2012) as the only freshmen to be consensus NPOY.

Williamson and Barrett became the 18th teammates to be consensus first-team All-Americans. Battier and Jason Williams in 2001 and Redick and Shelden Williams were among the first 17.

Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins both made AP first-team All-America as freshmen in 2010. But Cousins was second-team A-A everywhere else, making Williamson and Barrett the first freshmen teammates to be consensus first-team All-American.

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