Butler senior guard A. J. Graves has been named to the Preseason Top 50 Candidates list for the 2007-08 John R. Wooden Award, the nation's most coveted college basketball honor. The list of players was announced by The Los Angeles Athletic Club's Wooden Award Committee. The award is named for the three-time college basketball All-American, 1932 Player of the Year and ten-time national championship coach at UCLA.
"The committee had a tough time deciding on just 50 candidates, with so many returning talented players across the country," said Duke Llewellyn, Wooden Aware chairman. "Some teams even had several worthy candidates. Our team at the John R. Wooden Award is excited to see the best players in the nation compete against each other all season, as they vie to be named college basketball's player of the year."
Graves was named to the Wooden Award Midseason All-America team, featuring the Top 30 candidates for the Wooden Award, a year ago. He finished the season as Butler's leading scorer, while helping the Bulldogs to a school-record 29-7 campaign, a championship in the NIT Season Tip-Off, a co-championship in the Horizon League and a berth in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.
The 6-1 guard averaged 16.9 points in 2006-07 and finished second in the NCAA Division I in free throw shooting (.948). He was named MVP of the NIT Season Tip-Off, after leading Butler to consecutive victories over Notre Dame, Indiana, #22 Tennessee and #23 Gonzaga, and he earned honorable mention All-America recognition. He also was named a first team Academic All-American.
Earlier this month, Graves was named Horizon League preseason Player of the Year.
This year's Top 50 list for the Wooden Award includes 2006-07 Wooden All-Americans Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina and Brandon Rush of Kansas, plus four players from last year's NCAA Final Four - Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace of Georgetown and Darren Collison and Josh Shipp of UCLA. D. J. White of Indiana also made the list.
The preseason candidates, based on last year's individual performance and team records, are the early frontrunners for the Wooden Award. Transfers, freshmen and medical redshirts were not eligible for the preseason list, but will be evaluated and considered for the Midseason Top 30 group. Players not on the Top 50 list are eligible for the midseason Top 30. Last year, Kevin Durant of Texas was the first freshman to win the Wooden Award.