ST. LOUIS - J.J. Redick
exuded thankfulness at the opportunity to be asked to visit St. Louis.
But he cant be blamed for wishing the circumstances were a tad different.
The 6-foot-4 junior guard at Duke was honored Thursday as the 2005 winner of the Adolph Rupp Trophy as the national Player of the Year.
"Its quite an honor." he said, making his way out
of the Renaissance Grand Hotel lobby after the ceremony, in which Bruce Weber of
Illinois was announced as the Coach of the Year.
"I didnt expect this at all."
Actually, though, he was told by the Lexington, Ky., Commonwealth Athletic Club (which sponsors and presents the awards in the name of the legendary Kentucky coach) of the honor "about 10 to 12 days ago," he said.
He told his girl friend and his parents, and no one else (including his teammates) and they managed to keep the cat in the bag.
But, of course, Reddick would gladly swap his Rupp hardware if he was in town right now with all of his Duke coaches and teammates, preparing for a game Saturday night with Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina.
The Blue Devils were bounced in the Austin regional on March 25 by Michigan State, which edged Kentucky two days later in overtime to earn that Saturday pop with the Tar Heels.
"This does feel a little weird," the ACC Player of the Year said, sighing. "But hopefully well be back (in the Final Four in Indianapolis) next year."
Which means, of course, that hes not going to consider any option to at least test the NBA draft waters.
"Oh," he said, smiling. "Its an option but its not one Im going to take. Im coming back."
He caught the McDonalds All-America game from Notre Dame Wednesday night in which a couple of Duke signees, forward Josh McRoberts (the games MVP) and point guard Greg Paulus led the East to a 115-110 victory.
"Its going to be great to play with (McRoberts), even if its just for one season," he said, shaking his head in genuine admiration.
And there are a whole lot of folks who are going to be quite pleased to see Redick and McRoberts wearing Duke uniforms at the same time.
FINAL FOUR NOTES
The last time the Final Four was played in St. Louis (1973), it produced arguably the most stunning individual performance in championship game history.
That would have been Bill Waltons 44-point (on 21 of 22 field goal attempts), 13-rebound effort in UCLAs 87-66 victory over Memphis State.
Stanford Coach Trent Johnson, spotted in the St. Louis Convention Center Thursday afternoon, seemed in a much more pleasant mood than he was the last time I saw him, which was during his teams loss to Mississippi State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
His team is expected to be the preseason favorite to win the 2006 Pacific 10 Conference championship, with the return of returning all-conference picks Chris Hernandez and Dan Grunfeld, as well as the return of Matt Haryasz, who could be the best post player in the conference.
Grunfeld missed the final six games of conference play after suffering a torn right ACL, but Johnson said his rehabilitation has come along to the point where he is now walking without crutches.
"I keep telling slow down," Johnson said, smiling.
According to media reports Thursday, Maryland junior point guard John Gilchrist will put his name into the NBA draft pool, which had been widely anticipated by the leagues scouts and personnel directors.
Those talent evaluators generally consider him the fourth-best prospect among those college players at his position that they rate almost assuredly (Deron Williams of Illinois and Raymond Felton of North Carolina) to very possibly (Chris Paul of Wake Forest) to be in the draft pool.
Amir Johnson (6-9, Los Angeles Westchester), who signed with Louisville last November, was the only Cardinals recruit to play in the McDonalds All-America East-West game Wednesday night.
But, like a 2004 Louisville McDonalds All-America (guard Sebastian Telfair), Johnson is believed to be leaning heavily toward entering the NBA draft.
Unlike Telfair (now starting for Portland), Johnson isnt expected to be a first-round selection if he does declare, as many in Los Angeles expect him to do.
Many NBA talent evaluators were intrigued by his innate physical skills during practices for the Roundball Classic (in Chicago) and the All-American game. But they also point out how physically weak he is, and how much he is lacking in polish and fundamentals.
Recently elected to the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and also covers college basketball for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Burlison's pieces at FrankHoops.com