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ATLANTA – Kentucky, Ohio State and Syracuse have all won NCAA Men’s Basketball championships in their history, but never has a player from those schools claimed a Naismith Trophy as the men’s college player of the year. The drought could end for one of those programs this year as three of the four finalists vying for the coveted trophy were named finalists for the 2010 Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year Award presented by AT&T, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced today.

Sherron Collins (Kansas), whose school has a distinct connection to the Naismith Trophy as well as a past winner in Danny Manning (1988), is joined by Wes Johnson (Syracuse), Evan Turner (Ohio State) and John Wall (Kentucky) on the final ballot.

The winner will be named at the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Guardians of the Game awards program at the Murat Theatre on Sunday, April 4 in Indianapolis.

“There is a remarkable correlation between individual accomplishments and team success, and these four candidates have all played a key role this season,” said Gary Stokan, Atlanta Tipoff Club president. “That kind of quality is inherent in all of our past winners and we’re excited to see who from this talented group will join the prestigious Naismith Trophy family.”

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 3, 2010. 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.

“For several years now, AT&T has invited fans to weigh in on who they think most deserves to be named the Naismith Trophy winner for the Men’s College Player of the Year,” said Jamie Kerr, senior manager, AT&T National Sponsorships. “We are proud to help recognize the time, dedication and effort each and every one of these finalists has contributed to the game, and we can’t wait to tally up the votes for this year’s winner.”

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
Sherron Collins, Senior Guard: A back-to-back All-Big 12 performer, Collins has been part of the most wins in a four-year span in Kansas basketball history with 129 victories, including 32 regular-season wins this year. Collins led the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game and has seven games with 20 points or more this season. Collins is second in the Big 12 in free throw percentage at 85.1 percent. He will be graduating in four years this May.

Wes Johnson, Junior Forward: Johnson led Syracuse in both scoring (16.0) and rebounding (8.4) this season and helped pace the Orange to 28 regular-season wins, good enough to win the Big East regular-season title and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. For his efforts the coaches selected him as the Big East Player of the Year

Evan Turner, Junior Guard: The Big Ten Player of the Year led Ohio State to a share of the regular season championship and the conference tournament championship. He led the conference in both scoring (20.3) and rebounding (9.2), while also averaging 2.0 steals and 5.9 assists per game. He returned from injury to lead the Buckeyes to 27 regular-season wins and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

John Wall, Freshman Guard: Wall was part of a strong freshmen class that led Kentucky to both the SEC regular season and conference tournament championship. The Wildcats earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Wall averaged 16.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game and was named SEC Player of the year. He ended the regular season as Kentucky’s all-time leading freshman scorer and assist leader, the latter category good enough for fifth nationally.

Other notable men’s college player of the year winners include Ralph Sampson (1981-1983), Larry Bird (1979), Patrick Ewing (1985), Christian Laettner (1992) and last year’s winner, Blake Griffin of Oklahoma.

For more information, visit 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.