Blake Griffin and Tyler Hansbrough spent a lot of time together on the court last weekend and were back together Monday as the top vote-getters on The Associated Press’ All-America team.
Griffin, the sophomore forward from Oklahoma who led the nation in rebounding, was the only unanimous selection for the team. Hansbrough, the consensus player of the year last season as a junior, repeated as a first-teamer the day after his Tar Heels beat the Sooners 72-60 to advance to the Final Four.
Joining them on the team were players from schools with little All-America history, sophomores DeJuan Blair of Pittsburgh, James Harden of Arizona State and junior Stephen Curry of Davidson.
Griffin, who averaged 21 points and 14.3 rebounds while shooting 63.5 percent from the field, became college basketball’s image for toughness when he returned from a concussion only to drive headlong onto the scorer’s table.
He received 71 first-team votes and 335 points from the same national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Balloting was done before the NCAA tournament.
Hansbrough, a unanimous pick last season along with Kansas State’s Michael Beasley, got 50 first-team votes and 304 points. This is the fourth straight season the 6-foot-9 forward received All-America recognition. He was a third-team pick as a freshman and was on the second team after his sophomore season.
Blair is Pittsburgh’s second first-teamer, joining Don Hennon in 1958. Curry, who led the nation in scoring, is Davidson’s second as well. Fred Hetzel was Davidson’s first first-teamer in 1965.
Harden is Arizona State’s first AP All-America.
Griffin, the Big 12 player of the year, is the third Oklahoma player to be selected and the first since Stacey King in 1989. Wayman Tisdale of the Sooners was a three-time All-America from 1983-85.
“When Coach (Jeff) Capel started recruiting me, he talked to me a lot about changing the culture of this program and getting it back to a place where guys like Wayman Tisdale and Stacey King and those guys came to play,” said Griffin, a native of Oklahoma City. “It’s definitely an honor.”
Hansbrough, who is in his second straight Final Four with the Tar Heels, is the third North Carolina player to repeat. He joins Phil Ford (1977-78) and Michael Jordan (1983-84).
“Those are some of my favorite Carolina players. To be up there with them— that’s special,” Hansbrough said. “I never dreamed of that when I came here.”
Blair, who was third in the voting with 294 points, averaged 15.6 points and 12.2 rebounds, was the only postseason All-America player not to be on the preseason team. One of the best offensive rebounders in recent years, Blair became a fan favorite when he was often caught smiling during games.
“That’s pretty big. That’s total,” the 6-7, 265-pound sophomore said when told he made the team. “I worked hard, and the hard work paid off. It’s pretty cool just to be up there with those guys and to be talked about.”
Harden, who received 290 points, was the Pac-10 player of the year after a sophomore season that saw him average 20.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 35.8 minutes. He led the Sun Devils to their first NCAA bid since 2003 as they posted consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in 28 years.
“There have been a lot of great players in this program and to be the first to get this is quite an accomplishment,” Harden said, adding it’s all part of making the Sun Devils a national program. “That’s the reason I came here, to help get the respect and hopefully we can keep it up.”
Curry became an overnight star in Davidson’s run to the round of eight last season, and he backed it up with a junior season that saw him lead the country in scoring while making the transition to point guard.
He averaged 28.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists as the Wildcats won the Southern Conference regular season title but lost in the tournament and didn’t make the NCAA field.
“It was difficult to go from being a scoring threat to someone who creates for others, but my teammates helped me in my transition and made my job easier,” said Curry, who received 288 points. “It was a tough challenge, but I met it head on and worked hard to be the best point guard I could be.”
Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet led the second team with 238 points and was joined by three other juniors, Ty Lawson of North Carolina, Luke Harangody of Notre Dame and Jodie Meeks of Kentucky, along with senior Jerel McNeal of Marquette.
The third team had seniors Terrence Williams of Louisville, Toney Douglas of Florida State and Sam Young of Pittsburgh, along with juniors Sherron Collins of Kansas and Gerald Henderson of Duke.