Wildcats' lillard named AP All-American
Monday , March 26, 2012 - 2:41 PM
Kansas forward Thomas Robinson has even more in common with Blake Griffin now. Not everything, though.
Robinson, who played through personal tragedy as a sophomore reserve, capped his junior season by being a unanimous selection to The Associated Press' All-America team Monday, a day after leading the Jayhawks to the Final Four.
Meanwhile, Weber State junior guard Damian Lillard was named to the third team. He is the first player ever from Weber State and from the Big Sky Conference to be named to the AP All-America team.
Joining Lillard on the third team is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky, Tyshawn Taylor of Kansas, John Jenkins from Vanderbilt and Kendall Marshall of North Carolina. Lillard received three first-team votes in the voting that included 65 members of the national media.
This is Lillard's second All-American honor this season as last week he was also named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-America third team, also becoming the first player in Big Sky history to earn All-American honors from the NABC.
This season he has been named the Big Sky Conference MVP, the District VIII Player of the Year, and now adds All-American honors to his awards lists for the season. He has also been a finalist for the John Wooden Award, Oscar Robertson Award and Bob Cousy Award.
Lillard had perhaps the greatest individual season in Weber State history in helping lead the Wildcats to a 25-7 overall record and a 14-2 record in Big Sky Conference play.
The 6-foot-3 point guard from Oakland, Calif., led the nation in scoring for most of the season and finished second in the country with an average of 24.5 points per game, the best single-season average in Weber State history. He scored 784 points this season which is the most in Weber State single-season history and ranks as the third most in Big Sky Conference single-season history.
The 6-foot-10 Robinson averaged 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds this season and he was a first-team pick by all 65 members of the national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25.
The last unanimous pick was Griffin in 2009.
"It's a blessing to be named even in the same category as Blake Griffin," Robinson said. "For that to happen, I'm glad all the hard work is paying off."
Robinson did find some similarities between them besides being Big 12 Player of the Year.
"That man jumps out the gym. He looks like a superhero when he takes off," Robinson said. "But we both try to be aggressive. He knows what he does well. I feel the same way. I know what I do well."
Joining Robinson on the first team were Jared Sullinger of Ohio State, the first repeat All-America in three years, freshman Anthony Davis of Kentucky, Draymond Green of Michigan State and Doug McDermott of Creighton.
Davis received 63 first-team votes while Green, the lone senior on the team, got 53. Sullinger had 30, one more than McDermott. The voting was done before the NCAA tournament.
Robinson received nationwide support as a sophomore when he lost his mother, grandmother and grandfather in a three-week period. He not only became a starter this season, he became a star.
"It's an unbelievable honor for a kid that came as a semi-highly recruited guy, played seven minutes as a freshman, 10 minutes as a sophomore, endured the tragedies he's had and then somehow made so many sacrifices, not only for the betterment of himself but the betterment of all of us.," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "To be unanimous, it's just something that blows me away."
Robinson is Kansas' first All-America since Wayne Simien in 2005.
The 6-9 Sullinger, who was selected East Regional as he led the Buckeyes to the Final Four, is the first repeat All-America since North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough in 2009.
"It means a lot when your name is with Tyler Hansbrough, Psycho T. He was a great basketball player," Sullinger said with a big smile as he used Hansbrough's nickname. "It means a lot. I think it's a credit to my teammates."
Sullinger, the first player to repeat as a freshman and sophomore since Chris Jackson of LSU in 1989 and 1990, averaged 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 53.9 percent from the field. He is the fourth Ohio State player to repeat joining Jerry Lucas, Robin Freeman and Garry Bradds. Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said it's no surprise Sullinger has already sealed a place in the history of the program.
"I think that's one of what was important to us when Jared came here," Matta said. "We knew he was going to be a special player. And to see him get these accolades he has received and won at the level he's won at speaks volumes to the player he is and that select category and only being a sophomore let's you know what a great player he is."
Davis burst onto the national scene as part of the Wildcats team that spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the poll and then entered the NCAA tournament as the overall No. 1 seed. The 6-10 Davis was chosen the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 14.3 points, 10 rebounds and 4.6 blocks while shooting 64.2 percent from the field.
The last Wildcats to be first-team selections were freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins in 2010. At least one freshman has been on the first team five of the last six years.
"It means a lot, especially for a freshman," Davis said before admitting he surprised himself this season. "I thought I would just come in here and hit a couple of shots, block a couple of shots, get a couple of dunks. I never thought I would be this successful in college."
He said he has been successful because of opportunities.
"My teammates have been doing a great job of giving me the ball," he said. "And basically, all the teams that were driving inside, giving me a chance to get blocks. We're just out there having fun."
The 6-7 Green averaged 16.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals while doing everything the Spartans needed on the way to sharing the Big Ten regular season title, winning the conference tournament and being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
He is Michigan State's fourth first-team selection joining Magic Johnson, Shawn Respert and Mateen Cleaves.
"It's an honor because those are the guys who I looked up to, paved the way for me, starting with Magic and going to Respert and Cleaves," Green said. "Those guys, every time I walk into the gym I see their names up in the rafters and that's a goal that everyone has who's playing. Just being mentioned in the same sentence with those guys means a lot. All of them are winners, all of them are great players and all of them are successful and great people."
McDermott is Creighton's first All-America and he joins three-time selection Pete Maravich of LSU as All-Americas coached by their fathers.
The 6-7 sophomore was third in Division I in scoring with a 23.2 average. He averaged 8.2 rebounds and shot 61 percent from the field, including 49.5 percent from 3-point range.
"It's really special. It really hasn't hit me yet. Later down the road it will," McDermott said of his selection. "It's something real cool to be in the company of some of those names. Creighton never had one. It's really cool to be able to be the first, especially with all the great players who have been at Creighton over the years."
Coaching a son who is the star of the team did bring about a different problem for Greg McDermott.
"It could be a situation where if your son was a borderline player that your fans get upset if you put him in the game," he said. "Our fans get upset if I take him out."
Junior guard Isaiah Canaan of Murray State was joined on the second team by seniors Marcus Denmon of Missouri, Tyler Zeller of North Carolina, Jae Crowder of Marquette and Kevin Jones of West Virginia.
Sullinger was the only member of the preseason All-America team to make any of the postseason teams. Harrison Barnes of North Carolina, Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut and Jordan Taylor of Wisconsin were honorable mentions. Terrence Jones of Kentucky was the fifth member of the preseason team.
AP sports writers Dave Skretta, John Marshall, Eric Olson and Paul Newberry contributed to this report
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