Kansas' Gooden gets at least one vote for Player of the Year

Not playing for team on East or West Coast could cost him award

National notebook

February 15, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Drew Gooden of Kansas has a bit of a geography problem when it comes to being named college basketball's national Player of the Year.

"No doubt," Gooden said yesterday by telephone from Lawrence. "You have your West Coast fans who follow the Pac-10 and your East Coast fans who follow the [Atlantic Coast Conference], so we're kind of stuck in the middle.

"It's kind of put a chip on our shoulder."

The West Coast voting bloc might be leaning toward Stanford's Casey Jacobsen, even though Gooden grew up in the Los Angeles area. The East Coast voting bloc, not to mention Dick "Dukie" Vitale, will be leaning toward Duke's Jason Williams.

Gooden's got my vote.

The 6-foot-9 senior forward is clearly the best player on what has been, for most of the season, the best or second-best team in the country. He's got a strong supporting cast, but even with Nick Collison, he doesn't have anyone as talented as Mike Dunleavy to take some of the scoring load off his shoulders.

But Gooden, who could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft if the team is looking to fill holes in its frontcourt, doesn't really care about taking home the hardware unless it's a trophy that goes to this year's NCAA champion in Atlanta.

"It would be great to win it [player of the year], but I'd rather we win a national championship," said Gooden.

Leading the Big 12 in scoring (20.9) and rebounding (11.2), Gooden is three double doubles shy of tying the single-season school record of 21 by Raef LaFrentz. The latest came when Gooden, on what was considered an off-night, scored 16 points and pulled down 12 rebound in Monday's overtime win at Texas.

Gooden doesn't put up the kind of numbers Jacobsen has lately, and he's not as streaky as Williams. His athleticism in an otherwise blue-collar starting lineup will go a long way in helping the Jayhawks overcome their typical March nemesis - a smaller team with quick guards.

"We have so much talent, we don't need one guy to put up big numbers every game," said Gooden, who sat out yesterday's practice with flu-like symptoms. "When we take the court, we put our individual goals aside. We're Kansas."

Gooden is so focused on these Jayhawks going unbeaten (16-0) through the Big 12 - at 11-0, they're trying to do what the 1970-71 team did in a 14-game conference season - that he is barely paying attention to Sunday's showdown between No. 1 Duke and No. 3 Maryland.

"I might watch it, but right now I'm more concerned with our own game," Gooden said of tomorrow's matchup against Baylor, when the Jayhawks will likely win their 10th straight to raise their record to 23-2.

And the postseason?

"Last year we finally made it past the second round, and we know we have the team to go a lot further [than the Sweet 16]," said Gooden.

The Jayhawks have gained the support of coaches throughout the Big 12.

"They have a relentless quality that's found very rarely in a team," Texas Tech coach Bob Knight said after his Red Raiders were blown out by 27 last week. "They just keep going full tilt."

Trouble follows Fraschilla

Is it any surprise that Fran Fraschilla is in hot water again? Few can mess up their careers as badly as Fraschilla did at St. John's, and you'd have to figure that he'd do better the second time around. Now Fraschilla has state legislators questioning his program at New Mexico.

"Lobo basketball is too important to the entire state of New Mexico and we can't allow those problems to take place without wondering what's happening," said Rep. James Taylor, a Democrat from Albuquerque. "I hope [athletic director] Rudy Davalos evaluates what needs to be done."

Included in the laundry list of complaints has been a poor performance by the Lobos in the classroom (six players had under a 2.0 grade-point average last semester), two players quitting the team (raising the number to nine since Fraschilla arrived three years ago) as well as insubordination and infighting.

Patrick Dennehy, a sophomore center, got into a tiff with teammates during a 47-44 loss to Air Force last week. Earlier in the season, Fraschilla didn't discipline guard Eric Chatfield after Chatfield refused to go into a game against West Virginia.

All those things might be overlooked if the Lobos had a better record. After two National Invitation Tournament appearances under Fraschilla, New Mexico looks as if it will heading there again unless the 14-8 record is vastly improved or the Lobos win the Mountain West tournament.

Planting seeds

From now until the NCAA tournament, The Sun will run its weekly seedings for the top four teams from each regional. The seedings will be made before Thursday night's games.

East

1. Duke

2. Florida

3. Connecticut

4. Okla. State

South

1. Maryland

2. Alabama

3. Gonzaga

4. Miami (Fla.)

West

1. Cincinnati

2. Oklahoma

3. Arizona

4. Utah

Midwest

1. Kansas

2. Georgia

3. Pittsburgh

4. Marquette

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