Hoops: Ford Makes The Cut For Wooden Award

Sophomore point guard <B>T.J. Ford </b>has been named one of the top 30 candidates for the John R. Wooden Award honoring the country's top college basketball player, it was announced Monday. Ford is one of five Big 12 candidates for the award, after the preliminary list of 50 was reduced to 30.

"I've never been around a guy who is more of a basketball junkie," head coach Rick Barnes said. "He has passion for the game. He's always in the gym. T.J. is someone that will continue to develop. The key to his year is hitting the mid-range jumper. He can create a lot of havoc for defenses."

Ford leads No. 3 Texas in scoring (14.8 ppg), assists (7.06 apg), steals (2.41 spg) and minutes (32.4 mpg). He has registered 36 assists against just 13 turnovers, while averaging 18.7 ppg and hitting 47.6% from the field during Big 12 play. In short, the first freshman to ever lead the NCAA in assists (8.27 apg) is keeping the ball in his hands -- much to his coach's delight.

"We've talked with him about being more aggressive offensively and looking for good shots in the right situation," Barnes said. "Early in the year, he was going through the process of changing his mindset and, at times, he struggled with that. When he's open, he needs to take the shot. Not that he thought that he couldn't shoot; it's just that he preferred passing to shooting."

League players nominated for the award are Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich of Kansas, Oklahoma's Hollis Price and Andre Emmett of Texas Tech.

The 2003 Wooden Award will be presented at the John R. Wooden Award ceremony at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Saturday, April 12.

Ford is also is one of 30 preseason candidates for the Naismith Player of the Year Award.

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