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Top 10 players that should have won the Naismith Award but did not

10 players that should have won the Naismith Award and didn’t
By: Mike Cooper the number one Sports Handicapper in the World. Call Now for a Free Pick 1-888-730-2667

Over the years, the Atlanta Tipoff Club has awarded the Naismith Award to the best men’s college basketball player for that given season. The award is given in honor of the man who founded the game of basketball, and it is one of the more prestigious awards a player can earn.

Yet, there are years where the ATC left many of us scratching our heads wondering why they chose who they chose for the award in that given season. So, here’s our list of ten players that didn’t win the award but should have.

10. 2004 – Emeka Okafor of Connecticut instead of Jameer Nelson of St. Joseph – One of the main problems with this award is that it doesn’t seemingly includes how players perform in the NCAA Tournament into the voting. Nelson did lead the Hawks to an undefeated regular season in the A-10 and within a whisker of the Final Four. But Okafor led the country in blocked shots that season, won Big East player of the year, and led the Huskies to a national championship while being named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.

9. 1976 – Kent Benson of Indiana instead of Scott May of Indiana – This is one instance where we are splitting hairs, as they both were vital ingredients in the last team to finish a season undefeated and national champions. But Benson was a dominant force inside, and was named MOP of the 1976 tournament.

8. 1990 – Derrick Coleman of Syracuse instead of Lionel Simmons of LaSalle – Simmons had a nice season for LaSalle. However, this was a year when those voting opted not to choose Simmons’s childhood friend Hank Gathers of Loyola Marymount (who died tragically on-court that year and was the nation’s leading scorer) or the volatile Coleman, who wound up being drafted first overall in the NBA Draft that season. 

7. 1978 – Jack Givens of Kentucky instead of Butch Lee of Marquette – Lee was a great college basketball player, and was a key reason for Marquette winning the title in 1977. But Givens was first team all-SEC and scored 41 points in the title game win for the Wildcats in 1978 against Duke.

6. 1981 – Mark Aguirre of DePaul instead of Ralph Sampson of Virginia – Sampson did burst onto the scene as a shot-blocking and dunking presence in the ACC. But Aguirre led the Blue Demons to the number one ranking at season’s end and was named player of the year by several other publications including the Sporting News. He was a complete player lacking a complimentary player.

5. 2006 – Adam Morrison of Gonzaga instead of JJ Redick of Duke – This is simply a case of a good player from a big-time program getting selected over a more deserving player from a program not considered top-flight. Morrison was dominant in big games for Gonzaga, with thirteen 30-plus-point games and played well in the Maui Invitational and the NCAA Tournament.

4. 1998 – Paul Pierce of Kansas instead of Antwan Jamison of North Carolina – It isn’t that Jamison wasn’t good, because he was. But he was also on a team that included Vince Carter. Pierce was Big 12 Tournament MVP that season and was someone who could take over games by himself because of his inside/outside abilities.

3. 1982 – James Worthy of North Carolina instead of Ralph Sampson of Virginia – We agree on this one. We’re not trying to disrespect Sampson, because he was a great collegiate player. Worthy was worthy for this selection, however, because of what he did in the regular season and the NCAA Tournament. No one could guard him that season, and he was the MOP of the tournament as Dean Smith finally won a national title.

2. 2003 – Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse instead of TJ Ford of Texas – With all due respect to the season Ford had at Texas, Anthony was the ultimate one-hit wonder. In his only season at Syracuse, he averaged a double-double for the season and led the Orange to their first national championship while being named MOP.

1. 1986 – Len Bias of Maryland instead of Johnny Dawkins of Duke – Anyone that saw Bias play understands why, to this day, he is considered by many to be the second best player behind David Thompson in ACC history (yes, that includes Michael Jordan). Bias was an absolute terror at both ends of the floor, and because of his unfortunate death days after being drafted by Boston, we’ll never know how great an NBA player he could have been.

There you have it, a shout out the player’s that were deserving but never claimed the Naismith prize. Much respect to those that did win the award, but let’s not forget those who were as equally, and in some case more deserving of the recognition.

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