Davis, Griner win Wooden Awards
Anthony Davis of national champion Kentucky accepted the John R. Wooden Award on Friday night, and Brittney Griner of undefeated champion Baylor won the women’s award for the nation’s top college basketball player.
Davis received 3,350 points in voting by national media — 333 more than runner-up Thomas Robinson, a junior from Kansas. Senior Draymond Green of Michigan State finished third with 2,825. Sophomore Jared Sullinger of Ohio State, a finalist last year, was fourth.
Davis and Green were the only men’s finalists in attendance.
For the first time in the award’s 35-year history, the men’s winner was announced during the Final Four last weekend in New Orleans instead of at the ceremony.
Davis, a freshman, collected the last in a slew of player of the year awards he earned while helping the Wildcats to their eighth national title. Davis was a popular target for autograph hunters before the event at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, where he was accompanied by coach John Calipari. He received the trophy from Wooden’s son, Jim.
“When he won the first player of the year, he called his teammates together and said, ‘I want to thank you guys.’ They all went over and hugged him,” Calipari said. “I absolutely had a ball coaching this team and this young man.”
Calipari saluted Davis’ family, and offered a hint about the freshman’s immediate plans.
“Their son is going to be the No. 1 pick in the draft if he goes. I’m hoping he stays,” the coach said.
Calipari called Davis “a guard in a big man’s body. I said, ‘If you come back next year, you can start at point guard.’”
Davis, the first Kentucky player to win the Wooden award, had an eventful visit to the West Coast, with one of his suitcases getting lost on his way from Lexington, Ky., and meeting with Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant earlier Friday.
Davis told the audience how he grew from 6-foot-2 to 6-10 in a year’s time.
“I had no growing pains whatsoever,” he said, recalling how his parents needed to buy him new clothes every two or three weeks. “They spent a lot of money.”
Davis has a twin sister who is 5-8 and doesn’t play any sports.
“I love her to death. She is my best friend,” he said. “We do everything together.”
Griner received 1,424 points in voting — 308 more than runner-up Elena Della Donne, a junior at Delaware. Junior Skylar Diggins of national runner-up Notre Dame was third with 1,073. Senior Nnemkadi Ogumike, who played in four Final Fours with Stanford, was fourth. Senior Julie Wojta of Wisconsin Green Bay was fifth.
Griner and Ogwumike were finalists last year, when Connecticut’s Maya Moore won for the second time.
Griner, a junior who led the Lady Bears to a No. 1 ranking and 40-0 record, wasn’t present. Organizers said she had to attend classes this week and then went to Houston to be with her ill mother.
“I need to focus on finishing the semester strong in the classroom after spending the last month on the road with my team and playing in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments,” she said in a statement.
Baylor assistant Damion McKinney accepted on Griner’s behalf.
“We all know Brittney’s talents and attributes as far as being a great basketball player, but Brittney’s most unique quality is her unselfishness,” he said. “She’s an excellent teammate and friend. She’s the type of person if maybe the ninth, 10th player is maybe having a bad day, she recognizes that and goes and puts her arm around her.”
Wooden’s daughter, Nan Muehlhausen, announced the women’s winner.
UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma received the Legends of Coaching award from Wooden’s grandson, Greg Wooden. Huskies men’s coach Jim Calhoun earned it in 2005.
Wooden’s daughter and son attended for the second straight year since a falling out between their family and the award organizers several years ago.