Hansbrough leads college basketball All-Decade team
December 16, 2009
All-Decade Team: College Basketball
By Grant Wahl, SI.com
An explosive scorer who combined long-range shooting, punishing drives and impressive vision, Williams won a national title in 2001 and was the consensus Player of the Year in 2002. A motorcycle accident cut short his NBA career, but that shouldn't obscure Williams's often brilliant college exploits.
It's a shame that Redick never won an NCAA title, because he did almost everything else, winning most of the national Player of the Year awards in 2006, setting an ACC record for career points (later broken by Tyler Hansbrough) and establishing himself as one of the greatest shooters in college basketball history -- both from three-point range and the free-throw line. That Redick did so while facing so much negativity from opposing fans made his achievements all the more impressive.
The brainy Battier had a knack for reinvention, turning from an offensively challenged freshman into a prolific scorer by the time he graduated in 2001 with a national title in hand. Battier also presaged his reputation as an NBA stopper by becoming a lockdown defender with an uncanny knack for drawing charges.
Team: North Carolina
Psycho T is our Player of the Decade, not least because he made the All-America team four straight years, put up remarkable numbers while playing within the team concept, and finally won the national title he deserved in 2009. Hansbrough was rarely the most talented player on the floor, but his undeniable tenacity overshadowed a skill-set that deserved more credit for his success.
We couldn't let the ACC take over the entire All-Decade first team, could we? The Huskies' towering shot-blocker became a scorer as well by 2004, when Okafor led UConn to the national crown and proved you can be an athletic and academic giant at the same time.
A lightly recruited player whose parents both died of AIDS, Dixon developed into a go-to scorer who could also lock down opponents on the defensive end. The 2002 NCAA title game was one of the ugliest in memory, but Dixon's grace under fire is what I'll remember from that night in Atlanta.
Team: Saint Joseph's
The Hawks' undefeated regular season in 2003-04 is one of the decade's most enduring achievements, and no player was more responsible for it than Nelson, the pint-sized point guard who made the team run.
The closest thing to a folk hero in modern-day college hoops, the droopy-mustached Morrison piled up the points on degree-of-difficulty shots that made your head spin. A diabetic who had to give himself insulin during timeouts, Morrison never hid his personality (he was into the teachings of Karl Marx) or his emotions. Who can forget his battle with Redick for the national scoring title or his tearful agony on the court when Gonzaga lost to UCLA in the 2006 NCAAs?
It's hard for one-and-done players to leave a legacy in college basketball, but Anthony came as close as humanly possible in 2003, staging a tour de force in leading the Orange to coach Jim Boeheim's first national title.
Team: North Carolina
The son of a national champion (Indiana's Scott May) overcame concerns about his fitness and injuries to dominate Carolina's 2005 title run. Nobody from Illinois could stop May down low in the championship game, a return to glory for the Tar Heels as coach Roy Williams won his long-awaited first national championship with a post man who fit his system perfectly.
The first freshman to win national Player of the Year honors, Durant floored seasoned college hoops watchers with his versatility and preternatural talents for scoring and rebounding during his lone season in Austin. One shudders to think of the records Durant might have set had he competed for three or four years at the college level.
The most memorable team acts of the decade were Illinois in 2004-05 and Florida in 2005-07, and their all-time chemistry explains why so few of their individuals are making this All-Decade list. But if you're going to pick one guy from these teams, you have to pick Noah, who could do so many things on the court and took over the 2006 NCAA final.
Teams in 2000s: Kansas, North Carolina (2003-present)
Years as head coach: 21
Williams and Florida's Billy Donovan won two championships this decade, a feat that only Duke's Mike Krzyzewski achieved in the 1990s. But if we have to split hairs between Ol' Roy and Billy D., Williams pulled off his twin titles with two different sets of players and reached more Final Fours during the decade (five) than Donovan (three). The scary thing is that if Williams keeps recruiting the same way, he may get more than two rings by early in the next decade.
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