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The Monday Awards

Football's best fans, a rising broadcaster and more

Posted: Monday June 11, 2007 12:26PM; Updated: Monday June 11, 2007 1:30PM
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Joe Paterno is one popular man in State College. The 21,000-plus allotment of student season tickets to watch his football team sold out in record time.
Joe Paterno is one popular man in State College. The 21,000-plus allotment of student season tickets to watch his football team sold out in record time.
Al Tielemans/SI
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By David Isaacs

Welcome to this week's edition of the Monday Awards, where Gilbert Arenas' decision to opt out is the first step toward finishing up his final two years at Arizona, and Billy Donovan may ask to be let out of his contract with Florida in order to coach at Marshall again.

Gone in 60 Minutes Award

It took 13 days last year, but after its second consecutive season over .500 and a switch to Ticketmaster.com, Penn State sold its 21,000 student season tickets in 59 minutes. The Nittany Lions averaged 107,567 fans last year, second to Michigan (110,026). Rumor has it that upon hearing this story, Tampa Bay Devil Rays ownership blew a gasket, because the team hasn't even sold 21,000 season tickets in its 10-year history.

The Jim Rome Smackdown Award

In last week's edition of the Monday Awards, YouTube Sports correspondent Kige Ramsey's groundbreaking analysis of why college coaches never succeed was highlighted as a possible reason for Billy Donovan's change of heart and decision to return to Florida. Now, Ramsey deserves his own award, because he's still fearlessly breaking down the situation, much like Jim Rome. Ramsey simply cannot believe Donovan was released by the Orlando Magic, and lists off his reasons Donovan should honor his deal. Ramsey is on the fast track to becoming the biggest young phenom since Bob Costas.

NBA Draftees, Five Years Down the Road

Player comparisons are always made before the NBA Draft. For instance, every European player whose height exceeds 6-foot-9 is a near-lock to become Dirk Nowitzki. This week, awards will be handed out in anticipation of what NBA careers will look like down the road, instead of some generalized player comparison. In "where are they now?" fashion, let's fast-forward five years to read some stories about a select few 2007 NBA draftees.

The Sweet Old Age Award

It's been more than two decades, but the Portland Trail Blazers and the Chicago Bulls finally find themselves facing a rematch in the NBA Finals. The blossoming Trail Blazers, led by Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, match up against the Bulls, led by veterans Kevin Garnett and Ben Wallace. The Blazers, making their first Finals appearance since losing to Michael Jordan's Bulls in 1992, are better than ever, and their success can be largely chalked up to the big man in the middle, nicknamed "The Bigger O" by TNT's Shaquille O'Neal.

Oden, the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, has made tremendous strides this year, as he has shed his reputation as just a gritty, defensive player. Under the tutelage of assistant coach Dikembe Mutombo, Oden learned a number of post moves, and was encouraged by coach Larry Brown to shoot at will. The result was a rousing success, as the former Buckeye won his first MVP award and picked up a 10-point boost from his career average. While the joke may still be out there that his birth certificate says 1968 instead of 1988, what's certain is Oden wouldn't mind winning his first NBA championship at 24, 44, or 64, so long as it happens.

The "Double-Double, Animal Style" Award

Aaron Gray signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, marking the third consecutive year the 7-footer has managed to latch on with an NBA team. Gray, who was most recently with the San Jose Crushers of the D-League, was averaging 6.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks a game.

Gray has fallen a long way since being taken 13-overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2007 Draft, as a lack of playing time and underwhelming practice performances irked former 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks. While Gray's height managed to keep him in the league for two seasons, his high body fat percentage and lack of athleticism was the reason he couldn't succeed at the pro level. Gray had 15-percent body fat at the Orlando predraft camp, and then ballooned from 270 to 330 pounds by the start of training camp.

Despite the disappointing play that's unexpected from a first-round draft pick, Gray may still see some playing time for the injury-plagued Lakers.

Team of the Week

Arizona. Down 1-0 in a best-of-three series and facing the best pitcher in softball, Arizona had some serious work to do against Tennessee. After allowing three earned runs, including two solo homers, in a Game 1 loss, Taryne Mowatt went on to pitch two complete game shutouts. In Game 2, Mowatt pitched 10 shutout innings and closed out the series with an 11-strikeout, seven-hit shutout in Game 3 to give the Wildcats the championship. Mowatt was named the WCWS Most Outstanding Player, setting multiple records, including innings pitched, wins, complete games, walks and strikeouts.

Courtney Paris Player of the Week Award

Isaiah Howes, Louisville. Howes helped lead Louisville to the Super Regionals in a 16-6 win over Missouri, going 2-for-3 and scoring three runs. Last Friday, he was selected by the Yankees in the 11th round of the MLB Draft. And then, instead of deciding to report to Tampa, Howes figured he'd stick around campus for a while. His big bat helped the Cardinals advance to Omaha by topping Oklahoma State in a three-game series. Howes went 6-for-15 in the series, scoring five runs, hitting two homers and driving in nine runs.

Is Greg Oden really going to put up Shaquille O'Neal numbers? Is Aaron Gray a double-double or a 4x4 guy? Think a team or player is deserving of an award next week? E-mail mondayawards@gmail.com.

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