Paul Tops AP Preseason All-America Team
Nov. 9, 2004
By The Associated Press
Chris Paul is going to hear Tim Duncan's name a lot this season.
Paul, a sophomore guard from Wake Forest, was the leading vote-getter Tuesday on The Associated Press' preseason All-America team, joining Duncan as the only players from the school to earn that `honor.
Paul received 55 votes from a national media panel to make the team along with four seniors: Lawrence Roberts of Mississippi State (50 votes), Wayne Simien of Kansas (50), Julius Hodge of North Carolina State (41), and Hakim Warrick of Syracuse (33).
The Demon Deacons are second in the AP and ESPN/USA Today preseason Top 25 polls, matching the highest ranking in school history. The previous stays at No. 2 came when Duncan played at Wake Forest.
Paul led the Demon Deacons to the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament last season, the first time they got that far since 1997, Duncan's last year. "One of the hardest things for Chris to understand last year was that I trust him completely," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. "I want him to play, not to think."
The 6-foot Paul averaged 14.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists last season while shooting 49.6 percent from the field and 84.3 from the free-throw line. As his freshman season went on he became one of the premier players in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"I just love the way he commands a game," Prosser said. "Despite his angelic appearance, he's extremely competitive. ... He's not without flaws, but I wouldn't trade him for any point guard in the country." Roberts is one of two returning All-Americas from last season. Ryan Gomes of Providence is the other, but he finished sixth in the voting for the preseason team.
The 6-foot-9 Roberts started his college career at Baylor and left there when the program fell into disarray after a player was killed. He averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds for the Bulldogs last season and many people thought he would leave for the NBA.
"Nothing's going to change in a year, unless, God forbid, an injury or something like that happens. Everything's going to work itself out," Roberts said. "Any time I see a person return, I see it as a positive." The other three players also put off a shot at the pros to play as seniors. Simien averaged 17.8 points and 8.3 rebounds as a junior for the Jayhawks, the No. 1 team in the preseason rankings. The 6-9 Simien, who shot 53 percent from the field and 81 percent from the line, battled knee, shoulder and groin injuries over his first three seasons.
"He is the most improved player on our team," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "If he's able to stay healthy, and I believe he will, I think he can play to that level. He's improved a lot."
Hodge was the ACC player of the year last season after averaging 18.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists for the Wolfpack, who finished second in the league. He was second in the conference in scoring and led it in shooting at 51.3 percent.
But the season ended with a loss to Vanderbilt in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, a game Hodge fouled out of with less than 3 minutes to play.
"That was the game we lost and we've gotten better since then," Hodge said. "So we can use that as a learning tool, and it gives us that much more experience and makes us that much better for the upcoming season."
Warrick was a key member of Syracuse's national championship team in 2002 and he'll be part of an inside-outside combination this season with junior guard Gerry McNamara.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself," said Warrick, who flirted with entering the NBA draft after averaging 19.8 points and 8.6 rebounds as a junior. "I came back for a reason, and that was to be the No. 1 player in the country, come back and win a national championship."
Jameer Nelson of Saint Joseph's and Emeka Okafor of Connecticut both were preseason and postseason All-Americas last year. The other players on the 2003-04 preseason team were Ricky Paulding of Missouri, Ike Diogu of Arizona State, and Raymond Felton of North Carolina.
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