KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The preseason discussion of best players in the Big 12 started with the Kansas duo of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. Damion James of Texas was in there, too, along with the Kansas State guard tandem of Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen, and Iowa State's Craig Brackins.
As the season progressed, a player who was not in the initial conversation moved ahead of the rest: Oklahoma State's James Anderson.
Shooting his way past more heralded players in the conference, the unassuming, high-scoring junior was named The Associated Press Big 12 player of the year on Monday.
"I don't know if before the season he was the leading candidate," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. "I thought he should be mentioned. But those other guys are great players, great people, have great reputations. I think it's a true case that he played himself into being player of the year. He earned player of the year."
Anderson received 13 votes from a panel of sports writers and sportscasters who cover the conference to become the second Oklahoma State player to earn the award, joining John Lucas in 2004. Collins received two votes and Aldrich one.
Anderson also was a unanimous selection to the Big 12 first team, joining Collins, Aldrich, Pullen and James. Baylor junior forward Ekpe Udoh, a transfer from Michigan, was named newcomer of the year and Colorado guard Alec Burks is the freshman of the year.
Anderson stood out with consistency and multiplicity.
He led the Big 12 in scoring with 22.9 points per game and bumped it up to 24.1 points in the Big 12, fifth-best in conference history. Anderson scored at least 20 points against every conference opponent and had five 30-point games.
More than the scoring, Anderson led the Cowboys through a difficult Big 12 conference and to a possible NCAA tournament berth by doing whatever it took to win. If it meant scoring 30 points, Anderson could certainly do that, but he was just as willing to defer to his teammates, focus on rebounding or guard the opponent's best player if that's what his team needed.
"He shoots it from the perimeter, he scores off the dribble, he gets to the foul line, he rebounds, he handles the ball, he defends — I don't know what else you can do in a game," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "He impacts a game in a high way. He's elevated Oklahoma State as a program."
Udoh helped take Baylor from a spot in the NIT championship game last year to legitimate contender for an NCAA tournament berth this season.
The athletic, 6-foot-10 junior was a dominating force on defense, setting a Big 12 single-season record with 123 blocked shots, including 57 in conference, another record. Udoh showed an impressive game around the basket, averaging 13.4 points per game, and was second in the Big 12 with 9.8 rebounds per game.
"The impact you see, No. 1, is defense and I think that is attributed to him," Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. "It's contagious to all of those guys. But No. 2, the impact he can have on the game on the offensive end because of his skill and ability to score."
Burks had no trouble making the transition to college ball. The heralded high school player from Grandview, Mo., led Big 12 freshmen in scoring with 16.8 points per game — seventh-best nationally — and led the conference in field goal shooting at 53 percent.
"Coming in, I believe in my heart he was as talented as any high school player coming out," Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "But you never know how he's going to react when the lights are turned on the ball's thrown up. From the opening tip of the first game of the year, Alec embraced those moments."
Anderson took a similar approach to the lack of attention he got before the season. He's quiet by nature and tries to avoid the spotlight whenever he can, sometimes avoiding postgame interviews after he's had a big game. But to not be included in the conversation of best players in the Big 12, well, Anderson wasn't going to stand for that."
"It was a lot of motivation, just to show everybody that I was one of the top players in the Big 12 and the country," Anderson said. "I just tried to do that and help our team win at the same time. I just tried to do whatever I could to make our team better."
The All-Big 12 basketball teams
The Associated Press All-Big 12 basketball teams for 2009-10 s chosen by a panel of media representatives who cover the conference on a full-time basis, with players listed by name, school, class, height, weight and hometown.
Cole Aldrich, Kansas, Jr., 6-11, 245, Bloomington, Minn.
James Anderson, Oklahoma St., Jr., 6-6, 205, Junction City, Ark.
Sherron Collins, Kansas, Sr., 5-11, 205, Chicago
Damion James, Texas, Sr., 6-7, 225, Nacogdoches, Texas
Jacob Pullen, Kansas St., Jr., 6-0, 200, Maywood, Ill.
Tweety Carter, Baylor, Sr., 5-11, 185, Reserve, La.
Denis Clemente, Kansas St., Sr., 6-1, 175, Bayamon, Puerto Rico
LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor, Jr., 6-4, 205, Monroe, La.
Donald Sloan, Texas A&M, Sr., 6-3, 205, Dallas
Ekpe Udoh, Baylor, Jr., 6-10, 240, Edmond, Okla.
Craig Brackins, Iowa St.; Alec Burks, Colorado; Bryan Davis, Texas A&M; Kim English, Missouri; Marcus Morris, Kansas.
Big 12 newcomers of the year
Past winners of the Associated Press Big 12 newcomer of the year award:
1997 — Corey Brewer, Oklahoma.
1998 — Doug Gottlieb, Oklahoma State.
1999 — Clifton Cook, Texas A&M.
2000 — Jamaal Tinsley, Iowa State.
2001 — Maurice Baker, Oklahoma State.
2002 — Ebi Ere, Oklahoma.
2003 — Tony Allen, Oklahoma State.
2004 — Jeremiah Massey, Kansas State.
2005 — Taj Gray, Oklahoma.
2006 — Michael Neal, Oklahoma.
2007 — Stefhon Hannah, Missouri.
2008 — DeMarre Carroll, Missouri.
2009 — Denis Clemente, Kansas St.
2010 — Ekpe Udoh, Baylor.
Iowa State gives McDermott vote of confidence
AMES, Iowa — Despite a disappointing season, Iowa State basketball coach Greg McDermott is receiving a vote of confidence from athletic director Jamie Pollard.
Pollard and McDermott held a news conference Monday where they discussed the Cyclones' frustrating season and the program's future. The athletic director says McDermott is part of that future. McDermott has five years left on his contract.
Iowa State finished the regular season 15-16 with four Big 12 wins. One of those came Saturday with a surprising road win at then-No. 5 Kansas State.
The Cyclones open the Big 12 tournament Wednesday against Texas.
North Texas tops Denver 63-56 in Sun Belt semis
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Tristan Thompson scored 19 points, and North Texas defeated Denver 63-56 in the Sun Belt Conference semifinals Monday night.
George Odufuwa added 16 points and Josh White had 14 for the Mean Green (23-8), who will face top-seeded Troy in the title game Tuesday.
"The goal is to get to the NCAA tournament," said Odufuwa, who also had 13 rebounds and three blocks. "We can't celebrate yet."
Nate Rohnert led the Pioneers (19-13) with 16 points. Chase Hallam scored 13, and Brian Stafford had 12.
After trailing by eight at halftime and by 10 early in the second half, Denver cut the margin to 45-42 with 8:20 left and 46-45 with 6:48 to play. Both times the Pioneers missed shots that would have tied the score or given them the lead.
"Their good was a little better than our good. I would say we missed 10 to 12 layups tonight. You just can't do that," Denver coach Joe Scott said.
White then scored seven points during a 9-1 run by North Texas.
"Josh has done that a lot for us. Down the stretch he did play strong," Mean Green coach Johnny Jones said.
Denver led 13-6 early but went cold at the 13:41 mark of the first half. The Pioneers did not score for seven minutes as the Mean Green built a 20-16 lead. North Texas was up 31-23 at halftime and never lost the lead.
Texas in Coaches vs. Cancer field
PRINCETON, N.J. — Ranked teams Pittsburgh and Maryland, as well as former No. 1 Texas highlight the field of the 2010 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Illinois and Rhode Island are also among the field along with College of Charleston, Illinois-Chicago, Louisiana Tech, Navy, Seattle, Toledo and UC-Irvine.
The brackets for the 16th annual tournament will be announced later. The semifinals and finals are at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 18-19.
No. 16 Pittsburgh, No. 19 Maryland, Texas and Illinois will host regional round games from Nov. 8-12. The four hosts advance to the semifinals, while the remainder of the field will participate in subregionals held at campus sites.
Southland Conference names players, coach of year
Lamar junior guard Jenna Plumley has been named the Southland Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year.
University of Central Arkansas forward Megan Herbert is Freshman of the Year and UCA's Matt Daniel was voted coach of the year.
Plumley transferred to Lamar from Oklahoma and led the Lady Cardinals to the conference co-championship. She set a conference record with 97 made 3-pointers and lead the league in assists.
UCA's Herbert lead the SLC in both scoring and rebounding while Daniel coached UCA to a 15-win improvement over last season.
The conference Defensive Player of the Year is Shalyn Martin of Texas-Arlington.
Big 12 Women
Alaskan named Big 12 women's player of year
LINCOLN, Neb. — Kelsey Griffin's strong play for undefeated Nebraska earned her the Big 12's player of the year award.
Conference officials announced the award on Monday. The Eagle River, Alaska, native has averaged 20.4 points a game this year and led the Big 12 with her average of 10.4 rebounds per game.
Griffin leads the Big 12 with 17 double-doubles this year. Griffin's play is a large part of why Nebraska is 29-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country. Griffin says she could not have won the award without the help of her teammates who got her the ball in great positions all year.
Nebraska coach Connie Yori says Griffin is the best offensive player she has ever coached, and she has worked hard to make herself the best.
Nebraska coach Yori named Big 12 coach of the year
LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska women's basketball coach Connie Yori has been named the Big 12 Conference coach of the year by her peers.
Big 12 officials announced the honor Monday.
Yori credits her players, saying they've "given everything they can to make this program great."
The 29-0 Huskers have managed a record-setting season this year. On Saturday, Nebraska rallied to beat Kansas State 82-72, becoming the first team in Big 12 history to complete an unbeaten regular season.
Over the last eight years, Yori has led Nebraska from a largely undistinguished team to the No. 3 team in the nation. The only other women's college basketball team to remain undefeated this season is top-ranked Connecticut (31-0).