Having a couple of freshmen on The Associated Press’ All-America team is nothing new. This year, however, they are from the same school.
Kentucky’s John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were on the All-America team announced Monday. Joining them were Ohio State junior Evan Turner, who received all but one first-team vote, Syracuse junior Wes Johnson and Villanova senior Scottie Reynolds.
In the age of one-and-done players, the All-America team has become a home for freshmen.
Kevin Durant of Texas and Greg Oden of Ohio State were on the 2007 team, while Michael Beasley of Kansas State and Kevin Love of UCLA were on it the next year.
After a year without any freshmen being honored, Wall and Cousins moved in as the ninth set of teammates to be selected and the first since Duke’s J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams in 2006.
“This means a lot to both of us. I’m surprised and glad we both made it,” said the 6-foot-4 Wall, who averaged 16.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists after arriving as one of the most highly touted high school recruits. “We had to learn a lot as freshmen and we were able to help our teammates along the way. This means a lot to both of us.”
The 6-11 Cousins became one of the country’s top big men and was the only player selected to the team who averaged a double-double with 15.3 points and 10.1 rebounds.
“It’s important to me but it wasn’t something I was expecting,” Cousins said. “This means a lot because all we really did was try to come in and help our teammates.”
They helped the Wildcats reach No. 1 for one week in a season they were no lower than fifth in any poll.
“The challenge of it is to get them to reach beyond where they’ve ever reached in their lives,” first-year Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “They’re in the best shape conditioning-wise they’ve ever been in. They are playing for the team more than they’ve ever played for a team. Usually it’s been about them. Yet they got to respect each other.”
Wall said he and Cousins knew they had a chance to be honored this way.
“We talked about it a lot,” he said. “We’ve known each other since we were 14 years old. We came here together and we are like brothers. It was tough for us at the beginning but we stuck together and basically helped each other through the season.”
Turner, the 6-7 point guard considered one of the best all-around players in recent years, received all but one first-team vote from the 65-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25.
Wall received 62 votes, while Johnson had 45, Reynolds 32 and Cousins 26 in voting conducted before the NCAA tournament.
Turner missed six games after breaking bones in his back when he fell after a dunk in December. The Buckeyes went .500 without him and then went on to the Big Ten title when he returned.
“I’m definitely honored to be a part of a team like that and to be recognized. It’s really cool,” said Turner, an honorable mention selection last year who thought about entering the draft as a sophomore. “I think I just grew mentally and the maturity of my game is really elevated. I think I’ve become a way better player. I think I’ve learned a lot in the extra year I’ve been here and I’m just really thankful I made the decision.”
Johnson burst onto the national scene in his first season with the Orange after transferring from Iowa State. The 6-7 forward averaged 16.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in leading Syracuse to its first No. 1 ranking since 1990.
“It’s a shock and it’s an honor,” he said of being selected. “Of all the players in the country that could have been awarded, they awarded me. It’s an honor.”
The 6-2 Reynolds averaged 18.5 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range in becoming the Wildcats’ go-to player with several spectacular second-half efforts.
“You go through a season not expecting to get All-American,” Reynolds said. “You just go out there every day and try and do the best you can, try and play Villanova basketball. It’s in the back of your head, but if you concentrate on that, that stuff will never come.”
Wall and Cousins were Kentucky’s first All-Americans since Ron Mercer in 1997. The other schools have all had players selected in the last five years: Hakim Warrick of Syracuse in 2005, Randy Foye of Villanova in 2006 and Oden in 2007.
James Anderson of Oklahoma State was sixth in the balloting with 27 votes and was joined on the second team by Sherron Collins of Kansas, Greivis Vasquez of Maryland, Jon Scheyer of Duke and Da’Sean Butler of West Virginia.
The third team was Greg Monroe of Georgetown, Cole Aldrich of Kansas, Damion James of Texas, Luke Harangody of Notre Dame and Darington Hobson of New Mexico.