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SPORTSWRITING SEMINAR (MEN'S FINAL FOUR)
While not all of the players represented at the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) State Farm All-America Announcement were playing in the Final Four, each one proved to be a vital difference maker in his team's success all the way from the regular season to the Big Dance.
After being voted on by NABC member coaches, 15 players were announced at a NABC convention luncheon on Saturday for the Division I All-America First, Second and Third teams in response to their outstanding seasonal performances.
Len Elmore, who was a member of the '73-74 Coaches' All-America team, presented each player with the award. Yet, to him, this was more than just about talent in basketball. He hoped that all the players could be leaders in the community, and that they'd use their skills "not just to be the best basketball players [they] can be."
Of the three teams, the All-America First Team consisted of sophomore Texas guard D.J. Augustin, freshman Kansas State forward Michael Beasley, junior Memphis guard/forward Chris Douglas-Roberts, junior North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough and sophomore Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody.
"I'm humble. There's a lot of great players that won this award," said Augustin. He also gave much of the credit to his teammates, saying he "couldn't do it without them."
This was an especially shining moment for Augustin, who just three years before was forced to leave his home in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. When evacuating from his hometown, the thought of being an All-America First Team member wasn't even on his mind.
"You don't think about basketball," said Augustin, explaining that he was "just grateful to be [at the announcement]."
And like most of the players at the luncheon, this was not the only award he had received during his college career. Augustin also fulfilled Elmor's wishes of using his skills beyond the court, as he was named a first-team Academic All-American this season after finishing with a 4.0 GPA in his fall semester.
"Education's always very important to me," said Augustin, whose family believes it to be a high priority as well.
The list of accomplishments goes on and on for each player who was honored. Beasley was a candidate for nearly every National Player of the Year award, and named the Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year by league coaches and the Associated Press.
Roberts led Memphis to three-straight 30 win seasons, a feat only accomplished by two other schools in NCAA Division I history.
Hansbrough has been a three-time first team All-American, the first ACC player to accomplish that since Sam Perkins in 1982-84. He was also named the NCAA East Regional and ACC Tournament MVP.
Harangody was Notre Dame's leading scorer and rebounder with 20.4 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. He was additionally named 2008's Big East Player of the Year.
Harangody said he "never expected this to happen" after being announced as an All-America First Team member. At the same time, he claimed this year to be a "very memorable season."
Whether or not Harangody and the other players will move on to compete beyond college is something that only they can answer, but it's likely that a fair number of these players will take their talent into the NBA.
"Definitely in the future…[if] someone picks me up, I'll be happy," said Harangody, in regards to playing professionally.
However, the move from college to pro won't be as easy as just the click of a pen and a signature.
"I gotta make the best decision for myself and family. I'll always be a part of the Texas family," said Augustin, who has already been projected to be a top 12 NBA lottery pick by several NBA mock drafts.
Along with the NABC All-America First Team, the second and third teams also possessed a great deal of talent. The second group included freshman Indiana guard/forward Eric Gordon, senior Georgetown center Roy Hibbert, senior Tennessee guard Chris Lofton, freshman UCLA forward Kevin Love and senior Indiana forward D.J. White.
The third team consisted of senior Vanderbilt guard/forward Shan Foster, sophomore Stanford forward Brook Lopez, senior Duke guard DeMarcus Nelson, freshman Memphis guard Derrick Rose and junior Kansas guard Brandon Rush.
As displayed by each athlete's performance over the season, being chosen for one of these teams was no easy task. Out of 150 players eligible for an NABC All-America team, only these 15 were selected.
As Harangody said, winning this award as a sophomore meant "being with a group of guys like this; future hall of famers."
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