Sunday, April 13, 2003

Ford beats West for Wooden Award

By Beth Harris
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - T.J. Ford won the John R. Wooden Award on Saturday, the Texas point guard's second major college basketball player of the year honor. The sophomore, who also won the Naismith Award last month, finished with 4,418 points - 846 ahead of Xavier senior David West, who has won the other major player of the year awards.

Senior Hollis Price of Oklahoma was third with 3,311; senior Nick Collison of Kansas was fourth with 3,264; and junior Dwyane Wade of Marquette was fifth with 2,522.

"I was real surprised," Ford said. "The other four guys played so well, so it could have gone either way. I really thought Nick Collison would pull it off. He took his team back to the Final Four, so I figured he had an edge."

Ford accepted the trophy from Wooden in front of his parents, Leo and Mary, and Longhorns coach Rick Barnes at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

"It always pleases me to see the point guards do well," Wooden said.

Ford led Texas to its first Final Four appearance since 1947, and led the Longhorns with averages of 15 points, 7.7 assists and 2.0 steals. He was named to The Associated Press All-America first team, along with Collison, Wade and West.

Ford is the first Texas player to win both the Wooden and Naismith awards.

"I try not to put any pressure on myself at all," he said. "I play the game of basketball because I love playing, it's something that's supposed to relieve your stress."

Wade said he had not decided about whether to return to Marquette next season.

"I'm trying to finish up strong with school, trying to get a 3.0 this semester again," he said. "I'm not thinking about it right now."

Roy Williams of Kansas received the Legends of Coaching award, first won in 1999 by Dean Smith, the former North Carolina coach. Williams spent 10 years as an assistant to Smith.

"I'm extremely honored to have my name on an award with John Wooden," Williams said. "Coach, if I didn't have all this tux on me, you'd see the cold chills on my body."

Williams has won 418 games and been to four Final Fours in his 15 seasons at Kansas, but has never won the national title. The Jayhawks lost to Syracuse 81-78 in the championship game last Monday.

Williams is talking to North Carolina officials about the coaching job there, which opened when Matt Doherty resigned April 1.

Before Williams appeared at a post-award news conference, officials said he would not answer any questions about North Carolina. He planned to play golf Sunday before taking a late flight back to Lawrence, Kan.

"I'm so out of it right now," Williams said.

Williams said he would not talk to any North Carolina official until Monday at the earliest.

"There's so many things that would draw him back," Wooden said. "It isn't a matter of prestige or more money, it's the other things."

Three years ago, Williams turned down a chance to coach his alma mater, and Doherty was hired. Williams sought Wooden's counsel back then.

"I told him he had to think the situation over, it was a family affair and family is most important," Wooden recalled. "If you're happy where you are, I would see no reason for jumping. He's from North Carolina and I believe his wife is from there, too, so there'd be certain ties there. I don't like to see him jump all over the place."

Wooden said he would say the same thing to Williams again.

"Absolutely," he said.

Collison said Williams had been "hiding out" because of the intense media interest, and Barnes noticed the coach wasn't his usual laid-back self Saturday.

"I feel for Roy. It's really, truly a gut-wrenching decision he's going to have to make," Barnes said. "I'm sure he's extremely torn because of his loyalty to the Carolina family and I think he was torn last time he decided to stay. I can tell just being around him, he's under a lot of stress."

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