There’s no debate when it comes to Emeka Okafor and Jameer Nelson. They’re unanimous All-Americans.
The stars at Connecticut and Saint Joseph’s led The Associated Press men’s college basketball All-America team Tuesday, the first time since 1985 more than one player was chosen by every voter.
“It is hard to express just what it means to be recognized as one of the best players in the country,” Okafor said. “Individual recognition like this is really a reflection of the great teammates and coaches that I am fortunate to work with every day.”
Okafor, a 6-foot-10 junior center, and Nelson, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, earned a perfect 360 points by being picked on all 72 first-team ballots by the same media panel that votes on the weekly poll.
Each member selected three All-America teams, with players receiving points on a 5-3-1 basis.
Lawrence Roberts of Mississippi State was third with 308 points, while Josh Childress of Stanford had 235, and Ryan Gomes of Providence completed the first team with 208.
In 1985, four players were unanimous choices: Patrick Ewing of Georgetown, Chris Mullin of St. John’s, Wayman Tisdale of Oklahoma and Keith Lee of Memphis State. But only 10 people voted then.
“This is obviously a testament to both players to be unanimous selections,” Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said. “That is a lot of respect to be shown, and in neither case was it about hype. These two deserved it.”
Nelson, the Atlantic 10 player of the year, led the Hawks to a 27-0 record and No. 1 ranking before they lost to Xavier in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. It was the longest such run since UNLV entered the 1991 NCAA tournament undefeated.
“It’s as much about my teammates and the coaches as it is about me,” Nelson said. “I share the award with them and appreciate everyone who watched Saint Joe’s all year.”
Nelson is the first All-American for Saint Joseph’s, and he leaves as the school’s career scoring leader with more than 2,000 points. He averaged 20.6 points, 5.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds, while shooting 49 percent from the field, 39 percent on 3-pointers, and 80 percent on free throws.
He and Delonte West were considered the best backcourt in the nation; their defense was praised as much as their offense.
Nelson is “the greatest player to ever wear a Saint Joe’s uniform,” Martelli said.
Okafor collected a hat trick of awards in the Big East. He was the player of the year, defensive player of the year, and the league’s scholar-athlete for the second year in a row.
He averaged 18.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and a nation-leading 4.3 blocked shots while shooting 60 percent from the field. Okafor, who will graduate in May, missed three games, including two in the Big East tournament, with back spasms related to a small stress fracture.