The inevitable finally came to fruition this afternoon, as Texas super phenom Kevin Durant won the AP National Player of the Year award overwhelmingly, earning 70 of the 72 overall votes, with the other two votes going to Wisconsin's Alando Tucker. Durant is now the first freshman to ever win the prestigious honor, and as the voting reflected, there was no question about it.
Durant probably had the most eye-popping statistical season ever for a freshman, with his 25.8 scoring average and 11.1 rebound average. Not just averaging a double-double, but doing so comfortably. And he came up big in Texas's most important games, upping his scoring average in 5 postseason games (Big 12 Tournament, NCAAs) to 28.5 per game.
Certainly it helped his case that he was by far the most talented player on the Longhorns, (a team that probably would have been a #7-#10 seed in the NCAA Tournament without him), meaning he had to carry the load. But that doesn't take away from the fact that he is a spectacular talent who was great all through the season.
The fact that he was recognized as the best player - not just freshman - in the country is what is truly unique about this situation. By the end of the 2003 season, it was plainly obvious that Carmelo Anthony, having just led Syracuse to its first title, was the best player in the country. However, the award went to David West of Xavier that year, likely because of the bias that had prevailed against freshmen. The thinking was, if you're a rookie, you can't be the best player in the country. Why not? Anthony proved the opposite in winning a championship that year, and now Durant has left the voters with no other choice.
Now the question is, will he leave for the NBA or won't he? My guess is yes, and he'll make some lucky team ecstatic with his array of skills and work ethic for the foreseeable future. What's less certain is Greg Oden's status. If the Buckeyes don't win the championship, I could see Oden sticking around another year. Celtics, Grizzlies, TrailBlazers fans, et al - be praying for the #1 overall pick. #2 is no guarantee at this point.