"With so much player movement in the off season, the Committee had quite a task in nominating these candidates from a wide selection of tremendous players," said Duke Llewellyn, Wooden Award chairman. "This list represents the elite of college basketball, and our entire team at the Wooden Award is excited to see the best players in the nation battle it out in order to prove their case as basketball's player of the year."
Mississippi State's Lawrence Roberts and Providence's Ryan Gomes are the sole Preseason candidates who were honored last year as members of the 2004 Wooden Award All-American Team. In addition to Roberts and Gomes, other Preseason candidates that were mentioned in the running for last year's Wooden Award and were named to the official voting ballot include guards John Lucas Jr. (Oklahoma State), Julius Hodge (N.C. State) and B.J. Elder (Georgia Tech); and forwards Travis Diener (Marquette), Ike Diogu (Arizona State), Francisco Garcia (Louisville), Wayne Simien (Kansas) and Hakim Warrick (Syracuse).
Ten NCAA conferences are represented, including the ACC (12 players), Big East (8 players), Big 12 (6 players), Pac 10 (6 players), Big 10, (5 players), SEC (5 players), Conference USA (5 players), West Coast Conference (1 player), Mountain West Conference (1 player), and the American East Conference (1 player).
Georgia Tech and North Carolina each return with three players nominated, and several teams stand out with two nominations apiece including Illinois, Notre Dame, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Wake Forest, Kansas, Florida, Syracuse, and Duke. Each of last year's Final Four teams boast at least one representative on the Preseason Team including Connecticut (Charlie Villanueva); Georgia Tech (B.J. Elder, Jarrett Jack and Luke Schenscher); Duke (J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams); and Oklahoma State (Joey Graham and John Lucas Jr.).
Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball. It is bestowed upon the nation's best player at an institution of higher education who has proven to his university that he is making progress toward graduation and maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA. Previous winners include such notables as Michael Jordan ('84), Larry Bird ('79), Tim Duncan ('97) and last year's recipient, Jameer Nelson ('04).
In mid-January, the Wooden Award committee will release the Midseason Top 30 on CBS Sports, and on Tuesday, March 29th, the ten player Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced. The 2005 Award ceremony, which will include the presentation of the Men's and Women's Wooden Award, the Wooden Award All-American Teams and the Legends of Coaching Award, will be held at The Los Angeles Athletic Club on April 9, 2005 and will be broadcast live on a national CBS telecast.
The top five male and female finalists will receive a contribution from the John R. Wooden Award Scholarship Fund in their name to their university's general scholarship fund. The Wooden Award scholarship fund was established in 2002 by Applied Materials and corporate partners through the California Community Foundation (CCF) to honor Coach Wooden's dedication as an educator and mentor. Applied Materials distributed $15,000 last year to each university represented by a men's and women's Wooden Award All-American Team finalist (for a total of $150,000). Additional donations to Applied Materials' John R. Wooden Award Scholarship Fund can be made by contacting the scholarship fund through the CCF (www.calfund.org).