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ATLANTA, Ga. – With Freshman standout Jared Sullinger looking to follow in the footsteps of 2010 winner Evan Turner, The Ohio State University is hoping to produce the first back-to-back Naismith Men’s College Players of the year since Duke’s Shane Battier and Jason Williams won the award in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

Sullinger, along with Jimmer Fredette (BYU), Nolan Smith (Duke) and Kemba Walker (UConn) were named finalists for the 2011 Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year Award presented by AT&T, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced today.

“The voters have an especially tough choice in selecting the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year this year and have to choose between the best players on the best teams or the players who carried their teams on their backs,” said Atlanta Tipoff Club Executive Director Eric Oberman, “We wish them all luck in the upcoming NCAA tournament and will be looking for the final rallies in their campaign to win the most prestigious award in college basketball – the Naismith Trophy.”

The finalists were voted on by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s National Voting Academy, comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country. The academy based its criteria on player performances this season. The vote was tabulated and certified by the accounting firm of Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, LLP. HA&W is the largest independent accounting firm in Georgia and one of the top 50 firms in the United States.

Today, the Naismith Trophy presented by AT&T is regarded as the most prestigious national basketball award and is given annually to the men’s college basketball player of the year.

As a presenting sponsor since 2005, AT&T has set the standard in fan participation in determining this year’s winner. Through the power and ease of text messaging, fan voting will account for an unprecedented 25 percent of the final results – more than any other national college basketball award.

Beginning today, AT&T wireless customers – and sports fans on other wireless networks – will be able to text their votes for the player of their choice by texting VOTE to 345345. Fans will be eligible to cast their vote for the winner until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Saturday, April 2, 2011. AT&T is making the voting open to other wireless carriers, allowing even more fans to participate. Other wireless carriers must opt-in for their subscribers to participate. Standard messaging rates apply. Fans are allowed one vote per 24-hour period.

“AT&T is once again providing hoops fans a voice in determining the recipient of the Naismith Trophy for Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year,” said Jamie Kerr, senior manager, AT&T Corporate Sponsorships. “As fans of basketball, we’ve witnessed outstanding performances from each of the four nominees. Since 2005, it has been our honor to recognize these exceptional student-athletes and we look forward to seeing who takes home the hardware this year.”

CBS Sports’ “AT&T at the Half” features a weekly Naismith Trophy Watch, highlighting the men’s players in contention for the coveted award who have distinguished themselves throughout the season.

ABOUT THE FINALISTS

Jared Sullinger, Freshman Forward
With a team-leading 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and 17 double-doubles this season, Sullinger led the Buckeyes to a 32-2 record and a No. 1 overall seed in the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. This season, Sullinger won six consecutive and 11 total Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards, four Big 10 Player of the Week awards and won the 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Additionally, he averaged a double-double during the Big 10 Tournament en route to a Buckeye conference championship and earned the 2011 Big 10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player award.

Jimmer Fredette, Senior Guard
Looking to become the first Naismith Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year from Brigham Young, Fredette won the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year this season while averaging an NCAA-best 28.5 points and 4.2 assists per game and winning eight Mountain West Conference Player of the Week awards. Fredette’s 43 points on 14-for-24 shooting against previously unbeaten and then No. 4 San Diego State capped off a three-game, 40+ point performance for Fredette.

Nolan Smith, Senior Guard
Following in the footsteps of seven previous Men’s Naismith Trophy winners, the most from any school, Smith was named the ACC Player of the Year after averaging 21.3 points and 5.2 assists per game. He was one of only three players in the NCAA who averaged over 20 points and five assists this season. In leading the Blue Devils to their third consecutive ACC Tournament Championship, Smith averaged 18.0 points and 6.0 assists, earning him the ACC Tournament MVP.

Kemba Walker, Junior Guard
In his 2010-11 campaign to become the first Naismith Men’s College Basketball Player of the Year from Connecticut, Walker, during which he tallied 23.5 points and 4.3 assists per game against a tough Big East conference en route to a 25-9 conference record. In the 2011 Big East Tournament, Walker became the first player in the Big East to score 130 points in five games and was named the tournament MVP.

Other notable men’s college player of the year winners include Michael Jordan (1984), Ralph Sampson (1981-1983), Larry Bird (1979), Patrick Ewing (1985), Bill Walton (1972-1974) and last year’s winner, Turner.

For more information, visit www.naismithawards.com.

ABOUT THE ATLANTA TIPOFF CLUB
The Atlanta Tipoff Club, an Atlanta Sports Council property, is committed to promoting the game of basketball and recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of those who make the game so exciting. The Atlanta Tipoff Club, founded during the 1956-57 season, has presented the Naismith Trophy every year since UCLA’s Lew Alcindor first won the award in 1969. Old Dominion’s Anne Donovan won the inaugural Women’s Naismith Trophy in 1983.

The Naismith Award has become the most prestigious award in all of college basketball, recognizing the Men’s and Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year, Men’s and Women’s College Basketball Coach of the Year, as well as awards for outstanding achievement in high school basketball, officiating, and contribution to the game.