Within the next week, Pac-10 coaches will be polled and make their selections for Pac-10 Coach of the Year, Pac-10 Player of the Year, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors. The All-Pac-10 First-Team and All-Pac-10 Freshman Teams will also be selected, along with honorable mentions. Although Cal has struggled down the stretch as a team to post wins, the number one question remaining for most Golden Bear fans is whether or not sophomore standout Ryan Anderson will take home Pac-10 Player of the Year honors.
Right now, the voting is too close to call.
Although there are a host of candidates for Pac-10 Player of the Year, including UCLA freshman Kevin Love, Stanford sophomore Brook Lopez, and Arizona freshman Jerryd Bayless, selecting Anderson makes the most sense. It appears as if a number of coaches might be on the fence in their selections, although some of the statements made by coaches over the course of the season have shown which way they might vote.
"I'd probably say Kevin Love," Oregon head coach Ernie Kent said.
"I've said it all week, Ryan Anderson is one of the most underrated players in the conference," Washington State head coach Tony Bennett said. "He's tremendous. He can score in a variety of ways and he showed that tonight. When people ask me who the best player in the Pac-10 is I tell them Ryan Anderson."
Arizona's interim head coach Kevin O'Neill said that Anderson was the "best I've seen" and Stanford head coach Trent Johnson described him as "the best player in the country".
One would have to think after hearing those statements that the voting will be close – probably as close as the voting was last year, when Arizona's Chase Budinger edged Anderson for Freshman of the Year honors, despite the fact that Anderson was the top freshman scorer and No. 2 freshman rebounder (behind 22-year old Taj Gibson), and actually out-shot Budinger from three-point land. Anderson was also the only player in the conference to place in the Top 5 of all scorers and rebounders.
As a sophomore, No. 34 in Blue and Gold has only upped his game even more. He's one of just a half-dozen players in the nation to place among the Top 25 in both scoring and rebounding, and he leads the Pac-10 in scoring and is currently No. 3 in rebounding. He's shooting 49.6 percent from the floor, 43 percent from three, and 88 percent from the free-throw line. He's the first Cal sophomore to ever score 1,000 points, and the first Golden Bear to ever amass 500 points and 250 rebounds in two different seasons.
Furthermore, his numbers are nearly identical to 2004-05 Pac-10 Player of the Year Ike Diogu, who like Anderson will be on a team that finishes in the bottom half of the Pac-10. Diogu averaged 22.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 57 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 79 percent from the free-throw line for the 18-14 (7-11) Sun Devils.
If there's anything that hurts Anderson and helps Love, it is Cal's overall team record. But the last time we checked, the honor is for Pac-10 Player of the Year – not Pac-10 Player "on the best team" of the Year. If it was, then Love should be a shoe-in for the award. Of course, the initial Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year award – which some fans may not have heard about yet – also might change the wording behind the Player of the Year award. Perhaps coaches will now read it as the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year.
If so, Anderson would have to be the choice. He's the most multi-dimensional scorer in the Conference of Champions, despite being mugged by multiple defenders game in and game out.
Anderson has always stated that individual awards are great, but that his goal in college basketball was to be known as a winner. Perhaps that's why he plays so hard; why he competes with the best nationally, and why he's one of the Pac-10's top NBA Draft prospects.
Fans can check out Anderson's personal Cal website at RyanAnderson34.com.
A.W Prince is the senior writer and publisher of BearTerritory. He pens numerous recruiting features, including "The Weekly Spin", on some of the most talented and highly sought after student-athletes in the country. Along with his recruiting work, Prince has photographed a number of future Div. 1 student-athletes for exclusive Rivals photo segments.