Who Will It Be?

The Alabama Sports Writers Association has been in existence for about 35 years. The organization is best known for doing all the polls and all-star selections in football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball at the prep level. But the organization also chooses athletes of the year at the junior college, small college, amateur and professional levels.

Almost everyone expects the winner of the 2004 Amateur Athlete of the Year Award to go to Jason Campbell, who was quarterback of Auburn's football team that went 13-0. Campbell was named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

I try to do the right thing, even if it pains me. I voted for Campbell. I am sure there are some Alabama fans among the sportswriting fraternity who would not vote for an Auburn player, just as I know there are Auburn fans who would not vote for an Alabama athlete.

There are some Crimson Tide athletes worthy of selection.

Wade LeBlanc was named Baseball America National Freshman of the Year as he went 8-4, with a 2.08 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 113 innings. last baseball season. He was also named SEC Freshman of the Year, third-team All-America, and first-team All-SEC.

The ASWA has a slightly unusual calendar for its selection, so that a sport which begins in 2004 can be finished in 2005 and its players eligible for the 2004 award. Thus, Alabama basketball player Kennedy Winston was nominated for his performance in the just-completed season in which he led the SEC in scoring at 17.9 points per game. He was All-SEC, honorable mention All-America, Wooden and Naismith awards finalist, and three times SEC Player of the Week.

One Crimson Tider was nominated even though her career has been over for awhile and one was nominated for accomplishments before her Bama career got started.

Kelly Kretschman, a former Alabama softball player, was a starter in right field for the United States Olympic team that brought home the Gold Medal at last summer's Olympic Games in Athens. She had the eighth-best batting average of all Olympians and was the only player who hit for the cycle (single, double, triple and home run) in the Games.

The American gymnastics star of the Olympics was Terin Humphrey, who won a Silver Medal in uneven parallel bars and was a primary reason the United States team won the team Silver. As a freshman at Alabama she was an All-America in helping Bama to second place in the nation.

Bama didn't have many senior football players last year. One who "made the cut" for the ASWA ballot was Wesley Britt, who was an All-SEC performer in the offensive line.

It's not very likely that a volleyball player would be selected, but there was one nominated who certainly is qualified. Erin Heffner was an honorable mention All-America for Alabama and was a four-time All-SEC performer. She was seventh in the nation and led the SEC in kills. She was also Academic All-SEC.

Erica Moyers is not a member of an interscholastic team at Alabama, but The University student should get the attention of ASWA voters. She lost part of her left leg in an accident in 2001, but continued to play high school basketball. She plays for the UA wheelchair basketball team and was a Bronze Medal winner in volleyball in the 2004 Paralympics. And she has a black belt in karate.

Other nominees include Auburn running backs Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams and defensive back Carlos Rogers, Auburn swimmer Kirsty Coventry (who won three medals for Zimbabwe in the Olympics), Alabama-Birmingham basketball player Donell Taylor, Alabama A&M basketball player Obie Trotter, Troy defensive end DeMarcus Ware, and Alabama-Birmingham wide receiver Roddy White.

Although Mr. Football and Mr. and Miss Basketball awards were made at special awards banquets during championship weeks of those events, the Amateur, Professional, Junior College, Small College Mr. Baseball, and Miss Softball awards will be presented when the ASWA has its annual convention in Tuscaloosa June 13-14.


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