Point/counterpoint: Who should be college hoops’ Player of the Year?

BY DI STAFF | APRIL 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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Kemba Walker, Connecticut

Kemba Walker should have been chosen as the 2010-11 Naismith Player of the Year.

Walker, the 6-0 lightning-quick junior point guard from the Bronx, has a much more impressive résumé than BYU guard Jimmer Fredette.

On Monday night, this historic run ended in glory with Walker and the Huskies winning the national title.

This completed a historic stretch of 11-consecutive wins in less than a month, including five victories in five days to claim the Big East Tournament title — a feat never accomplished previously.

While most casual fans cannot name another player on UConn, Walker has taken a young team to new heights.

After an up-and-down sophomore year, Walker emerged as a dominant force in November while leading his team to a Maui Invitational championship.

Scoring 31, 30, and 29 points in three-straight days to win the tournament was the start of an incredible season for Walker.

Everyone saw Fredette become exposed during the regular season and especially in the Sweet 16. He is his team’s only legitimate threat, but he doesn’t trust his teammates in times of need. Instead, he plays like he’s on a playground and continually throws up contested shots from deep behind the 3-point line.

Walker, however, thrives when the pressure is the highest. He averaged almost 38 minutes per game this past season, while scoring 23.5 points per contest along with 4.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds.

He trusts his teammates and is able to put the ball in their hands to get them involved.

In crunch time, no one can guard Walker; that was demonstrated in the Big East Tournament.

Playing on fumes, he single-handedly carried the Huskies to five wins in five days in Madison Square Garden, including an ankle breaking, cross-over, buzzer-beater against Pittsburgh in the quarterfinal.

Walker has been the most consistent player in college basketball this season, stepping up when his team needs him despite playing nearly the entirety of each game. To put up the all-around numbers he did while leading his team to the national title makes him deserve this honor.

— by Ben Wolfson

Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young

Jimmer Fredette doesn’t play in the Big East. Kemba Walker does. Jimmer didn’t just lead his team to the national championship. Kemba did.

But no, the argument for NCAA Player of the Year doesn’t end there.

For all of Walker’s flash and for all his team’s impressive accomplishments this tournament season, there is more substance to Fredette’s game.

Their assist totals are nearly identical, and neither is known as a respectable defender. So the debate between the two essentially boils down to the thing each does best: scoring. And there’s a clear winner there.

Basic points per game is one measure, and Fredette scored 29 per game to Walker’s 23.5. But look even closer, and the case gets stronger. Jimmer shot better from the field, better from the line, and better from behind the 3-point arc.

Effective field-goal percentage, a stat that includes free throws and accounts for the extra value of 3s, shows the gap in efficiency between the two. Fredette is at 53.5 percent for the season, while Walker was 43rd in the Big East with a pretty terrible 48.5 percent.

Most impressive about Fredette’s season is the way he carried the offense of a BYU team that had only two other players averaging double figures — neither one scoring more than 13 points per game.

Forward Brandon Davies, one of the two non-Jimmer double-figure scorers, was suspended before the team’s March 2 game for violating BYU’s honor code. Fredette hauled the Cougars to within a point of the Elite Eight anyway by averaging more than 34 points per game after the suspension.

Don’t anoint Walker the nation’s best player because his team won the title. Several UConn players would’ve been BYU’s second-best player.

Don’t call Kemba the best because he played a tougher schedule. Fredette put up 33 points in a win over Arizona, 43 in a win over San Diego State, and 32 in the tournament loss to Florida.

When the two leading player of the year candidates are guards who aren’t special at anything but scoring, you give the award to the one who is better at scoring.

That’s Jimmer.

— by Sam Louwagie


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