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Jeff Pendergraph one of Top 50 preseason candidates for Wooden Award

November 08, 2007

Junior forward Jeff Pendergraph has been named as a top 50 preseason candidate for the 2007-08 John R. Wooden Award, the nation's most coveted college basketball award. The Award is named for the three-time college basketball All American, 1932 Player of the Year and ten-time national championship coach at UCLA, and is presented by The Los Angeles Athletic Club's Wooden Award Committee.

ASU opens it season Nov. 19 against Illinois in the Maui Invitational (6:30 p.m. HT on ESPN2). There are two other Wooden Award candidates in the Maui Invitational (Dominic James of Marquette and DeMarcus Nelson of Duke).

"There's no question Jeff has presented himself as a great ambassador, not just for our program, but the university," says ASU second-year head coach Herb Sendek. "I can recall having a conversation with him, probably within the first week that I was on the job, and I asked him to really take ownership of our program beyond just what happened on the court. The one guy that I have great respect for, that I ask him to perhaps model some of his abilities after, would be Tim Duncan. Whether it's in recruiting, whether it's in a marketing video, all the different things that comprise the presentation of our program, I asked Jeff to have a real ownership piece in that, and he's responded wonderfully."

Other ASU opponents on the list include Ryan Anderson (California), Jon Brockman (Washington), Chase Budinger (Arizona), Darren Collison (UCLA), Taj Gibson (USC), Malik Hairston (Oregon), Derrick Low (Washington State), Aleks Maric (Nebraska), Josh Shipp (UCLA) and Kyle Weaver (Washington State).

A total of 16 NCAA conferences are represented. The Pac-10 leads the way with 10 Wooden Award All American team candidates. Other conferences include the 16-team Big East (eight players), the 12-team ACC (seven players), the Big 12 (six players), the 12-team SEC (five players), the 11-team Big Ten (two players), the Sun Belt (two players), Western Athletic (two players), Conference USA (one player), Southern Conference (one player), Missouri Valley (one player), the Horizon League (one player), the Colonial Athletic Association (one player), the Big South (one player), West Coast (one player) and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (one player).

The economics major has established himself as one of the best post players in the Pac-10 the past two seasons as his work ethic both on the court and in the classroom are off the charts. He is on pace to earn his economics degree sometime in 2008. He easily had the best freshman "surprise" season in the Pac-10 in 2005-2006 and then increased his weight by 20 pounds from the fall of his freshman season (210) to last year (230) and improved on his numbers in all categories. Despite missing all of fall conditioning and most of November in his freshman year after fall surgery to remove a benign tumor in his left leg, he notched Pac-10 All-Freshman honors and since Feb. 4 of that season (past 37 games) he is averaging 12.7 points and 8.8 boards per game. He has twice grabbed 19 rebounds in a game and he played for one of the most successful high school programs in the nation, as his Etiwanda (Calif.) teams were 62-5 his final two seasons under coach David Kleckner. Fellow Division I signees on his prep team included Darren Collison (UCLA), Marcus Carter (Portland State) and David Carter (UC Davis). He has 13 career double-doubles (second-most among active Pac-10 players to Jon Brockman's 18) and 11 career double-figure rebounding games and has made 176-of-330 (.533) shots from the field in Pac-10 games.

"The committee had a tough time deciding on just 50 candidates, with so many returning talented players across the country," said Duke Llewellyn, Wooden Award chairman. "Some teams even had several worthy candidates. Our team at the John R. Wooden Award is excited to see the best players in the nation compete against each other all season, as they vie to be named college basketball's player of the year."

The list is composed of 50 student athletes who, based on last year's individual performance and team records, are the early frontrunners for college basketball's most coveted trophy. These top 50 candidates are comprised of returning players. Transfers, freshmen, and medical redshirts are not eligible for this preseason list, but will be evaluated and considered for both the Midseason Top 30 list and the National Ballot. Players not on the preseason list are eligible for the midseason top 30 and ballot. Last year, Kevin Durant of the University of Texas was the first freshman to win the Wooden Award.

In January, the Wooden Award committee will release the Midseason Top 30 list, followed by the distribution of the National Ballot to more than 1,000 voters in early March. The 10-player Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced the Tuesday after the "Elite Eight" round of the NCAA Tournament is completed.

The 2008 Award ceremony, which will include the presentation of the Men's and Women's John R. Wooden Award, the Wooden Award All-American Teams, and the Legends of Coaching Award to recipient Pat Summitt of the University of Tennessee, will be held at The Los Angeles Athletic Club the weekend of April 11-13, 2008. The top five male and female finalists will be invited to Los Angeles for the Award's ceremony and will receive a contribution from The Los Angeles Athletic Club for their university's general scholarship fund. One of these five players will be named the John R. Wooden Award Player of the Year at a live televised announcement from The Club where he is awarded the prestigious five-figured bronze trophy.

Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball. It is bestowed upon the nation's best player at an institution of higher education who has proven to his or her university that he or she is making progress toward graduation and maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA. Previous winners include such notables as Larry Bird ('79), Michael Jordan ('84), Tim Duncan ('97), and last year's recipients, Kevin Durant of Texas and Candace Parker of Tennessee.

Since its inception, the John R. Wooden Award has contributed close to a million dollars to universities' general scholarship fund in the names of the All-American recipients, as well as sent over 1,000 underprivileged children to week-long college basketball camps in the awards name. Additionally, the John R. Wooden Award partners with Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) each year to host the Wooden Award Special Olympics Southern California Basketball Tournament. The day-long tournament, which brings together Special Olympic athletes and the All-American selections, takes place at The Los Angeles Athletic Club on the Friday prior to the John R. Wooden Award Ceremony.