Nov. 6, 2001
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
Jason Williams, who led Duke to the national championship last season, was a unanimous selection Tuesday to The Associated Press preseason All-America team, the first player on every ballot since 1996.
The junior guard was joined on the team by Stanford's Casey Jacobsen, like Williams a returning first-team All-American, Missouri's Kareem Rush, Frank Williams of Illinois, and Kentucky's Tayshaun Prince, the lone senior selected.
Jason Williams was on each of the 72 ballots from the national media panel that selects the weekly college basketball poll, becoming the first unanimous preseason pick since Tim Duncan of Wake Forest five years ago.
Williams averaged 21.6 points last season - the first Blue Devil to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring since Danny Ferry in 1989 - 3.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He was the only player to rank in the top 20 nationally in scoring (15th) and assists (19th) as Duke won its third national championship.
The top-ranked Blue Devils lost national player of the year Shane Battier and fifth-year forward Nate James, but Williams, who averaged 25.7 points in the NCAA tournament, will lead the way as they try to become the first team to repeat since Duke did it in 1992.
"We want it just as bad as last year," Williams said. "It's like putting your fingertip in honey and tasting it and never getting a chance to do it again. You say, `I want it again really bad."'
Rush, the preseason Big 12 player of the year, was the second-leading vote-getter with 47, one more than Prince and two more than Jacobsen.
The 6-foot-6 Rush led the conference in scoring last season with a 21.1 average. His run at national postseason honors was hurt when he missed seven games with a thumb injury on his shooting (left) hand.
Rush, an honorable-mention pick last season, scored 29 points in the Tigers' 94-81 loss to Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
"Even though people are talking about him the way they are now, he should still get better. And he can," Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. "There is a lot more there."
Prince, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, withdrew his name from the NBA draft to return for his senior season with the Wildcats. The 6-9 Prince belied his thin frame by playing at power forward last season and wound up a second-team All-American after averaging 16.9 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Jacobsen is going to draw a lot of attention from opposing defenses this season as the only returning starter for the Cardinal. The 6-6 swingman averaged 18.1 points in a balanced offense as he became Stanford's first-ever All-American. He'll look for his shot more and that's not a bad thing considering he hit 51 percent from the field, including 47 percent from 3-point range.
Frank Williams returns to the Fighting Illini after being selected Big Ten player of the year and a third-team All-American. The 6-3 guard, who averaged 14.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists, already has said he will enter the NBA draft after this season. Last season ended on a sour note when he went 3-for-15 from the field in the 87-81 loss to Arizona in the regional final.
Three members of last year's preseason team - Battier, Troy Murphy of
Dame and Joseph Forte of North Carolina - went on to be first-team
All-Americans, while Jamaal Tinsley of Iowa State was picked for the
team and Loren Woods of Arizona was an honorable mention selection.