National Player of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough, F, UNC
Quite simply, nobody plays harder than Hansbrough, a junior who has been nothing short of remarkable in his first two seasons. As a freshman, he carried a young Tar Heel squad to 23 wins and last year was the unquestioned leader of a squad that fell just short of Final Four berth, leading the team in scoring and rebounding for the second consecutive year. Hansbrough plays with a fierce determination and will to win that enables him to dominate most opponents. His motor never quits running, and he’s the perfect big man for Roy Williams’ up-tempo offense. He has solid ball-handling and shooting skills for a big man, and he gets to the free throw line more than anyone in recent memory. While his average athleticism may limit his NBA future, there’s no question Hansbrough is one of the best college players in the county.
High-Major* Player of the Year: Eric Maynor, G, VCU
Maynor burst onto the national scene with a game-winning jumper against Duke in the NCAA Tournament last year, but he’s much more than a one-hit wonder. The lithe combo guard averaged 13 points per game last year, to go with over six assists, all while playing terrific defense. Some fans may remember his back-back steals in the final minute against George Mason in the conference tournament as much as his heroics against the Blue Devils. He has become the face of a quickly rising VCU team, fresh off a 28-win season, Maynor represented the USA at the Pan-American games this past summer, and has people talking about the Rams as a sleeper team this year. A heady player who looks to pass first, his versatility is the perfect fit for Coach Anthony Grant’s quick pace, and he has the ability to make his teammates better.
Mid-Major* Player of the Year: Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
Curry, the son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, exploded on the radar last season as a true freshman, averaging better than 20 points per game and showing the same shooting touch that mad his dad famous. He set a Division I freshman record with 122 three-pointers, and averaged just over 26 points per game in the last 12 games. More importantly, he led a Davidson squad that lost four starters to 29 wins and a near-upset of Maryland in the first round of the tournament. Lightly recruited by some of the powerhouses because of his slight stature, Curry dispelled the notion that he couldn’t play with the big boys, dropping 32 on Michigan and later 30 in the loss to the Terps. Not just a shooter, he also averaged over four rebounds and three assists per game as the Wildcats roared to the Southern Conference title. Thanks in large part to Curry, Davidson is appearing in many pre-season polls, and they’re primed for a big year.
Freshman of the Year: O.J. Mayo, G, USC
Had the NBA not instituted the rule that prohibits high-schoolers from jumping to the league, Mayo may very well be a candidate for Rookie of the Year this year. As it is, the 6-foot-5 combo guard will have to settle for Freshman of the Year honors in what is likely his only year on campus. A superior athlete who is comfortable draining long threes as well as attacking the rim, Mayo will fill plenty of highlight reels as he will have the green light to shoot from day one. Although he’s known mostly for his scoring, Mayo has extremely solid fundamentals, and has the ability to play point guard for stretches. His work ethic has also drawn rave reviews over the summer from his coaches. He may not put up Kevin Durant numbers this year, but Mayo will give USC fans plenty to cheer about.
*High-Major denotes A-10, CAA, CUSA (minus Memphis), MVC, MWC, WAC, while Mid-Major denotes all other non-BCS leagues.
Check back tomorrow for the final CHN Player Awards including the top transfers and most underrated players.